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: http://bit.ly/2EFXSKR
Thanks for reading, John Breakey Area Coordinator, Graphic Design
Delaware College of Art and Design
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