Teaching Philosophy

I work to grow a list of young designers who
leave DCAD's small program to pursue a
Bachelor's degree in communication design,
seek work as an art director's assistant or
gain entry to the field via digital production
work. I find mission, inspiration and validation
in the strong foundation that we provide.
These maintained connections through
the resources of LinkedIn, Facebook
or good old fashioned email speak to continued
and successful efforts of these graduates.


The students in our studio spaces want to craft
successful solutions to communication problems–
as a beginning foundation year major–we have
found that by limiting the specific design brief
criteria, their range of solutions evolve and
manifest to more clear results.


What is always compelling is the broad range
students seek to apply in solving problems.
Some will empathize with the task and form
immediate connections to what is in front of
them. Others will need the details unpacked
with specific examples or verbalized with
alternative metaphors.

The goal is to get the quick-to-the-result artist
to slow down and reconsider things they may
have missed as much as it is to keep prompting
the more deliberative personalities to embrace
that trait and build on it!


A few hope to remain hidden behind their quiet
persona–they want to sort it out in more isolated
learning space. Students that pose questions
after class does not necessarily mean inattention,
it means they are working outside of class! The
lingering query can and does send an alert signal
for additional prompts as needed. Input from
their cohort as help to form answers may be
how their process works… Time in development
is needed and found.


I try to gain everyone’s confidence of the
requirement that questions asked are not only
expected, it benefits the entire cohort. Through
prodding, cajoling, humor and their future
professional obligation, I strive to promote the
studio lab and the critique wall as the one place
they mix all learning types together and gain
insight into what it means to be a creative
in diverse working environments. I ask them
for constructive honesty and mutual respect
for each other’s point of view. With practice
during analytical give and take, we all strive
to evolve the group beyond basic likes and
dislikes. When another student answers with
something that truly enhances the work in
question, a goal has been achieved: inspiration
to the designer who can improve their work and
reinforcement to the other who made the
suggestion. Academic critique is one of the
few places left it seems, where the degree of
understanding by the students is freely on
display at the pedagogical level and at to the
cohort through an open forum of peer review.



Students that attend DCAD now are different
from the first class I worked with as a full time
instructor back in 2003, or even more so as an
adjunct in 1998. They are more demanding,
less prone to close reading, exposed to industry–
standard software before setting foot in the studio;
the students entering our lab's doors today half
expect a continuation of what happened in a
high school design class. Those students my
enjoin a cohort that had only traditional media-
drawing & painting–and no software skills.
Ironically the more software exposed student
may never have had any drawing from
observation in a formalized class.


My approach is to make our studio spaces feel
a little like their first job. I want them to miss the
place even after they are finished with school.
To this end: professional approach, best practices
and industry standards are part of how we begin
the transformation of a graphic design major
into a working professional.


The other part is a lot of honesty and humility on
my part. Also, listening, listening and more listening.
Hearing what they are saying–not to elicit a response
from my ego–to help them transform themselves is
what I find to be a key to their success.


Follow this link to download a PDF from the
AIGA and NASAD's discussion of design
education expectations and outcomes.

Or, paste this link into a browser
to go directly to the AIGA's site:


Thanks for reading,
John Breakey
Area Coordinator,
Graphic Design

Delaware College
of Art and Design

Wilmington, DE



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