Philosophy of teaching

Teachers/mentors can't make anyone learn.
Successful teachers can address only the following eight activities:
Provide information or how to access it.
Demonstrate skills and techniques.
Enable and empower students with necessary tools.
Motivate and challenge students to excel.
Inspire with examples and actions.
Encourage the achievement of a standard of excellence.
Model appropriate ethical behavior of problem solving and innovation.
Evaluate and assess performance.
That's all teachers can do - teachers can't make students learn. The responsibility for learning and understanding new information is primarily on the learner. A learner determines what he/she will get out of an experience.

Academic mission
In light of media manipulation, terrorism, technological advances, war, and blind faith; it is important to teach skeptical thinking - to encourage students to think for themselves. Teaching independent thinking may be tough, but it is certainly worthwhile, maybe the most worthwhile activity a teacher can impact. My academic goal is to get students to become better thinkers - to think and reason more clearly, more thoroughly, and more often. I want to help develop intelligent innovators and decision makers who are problem solvers, problem seekers, and clear communicators. It is crucial today to provide design students with a thorough foundation in design history, critical analysis, the problem solving process, creative thinking, and persuasive communication skills (as well as computer proficiency and execution skills).

I encourage professional work attitudes: deadlines are strictly enforced, portfolio quality work is emphasized, and students are expected to do whatever is necessary to solve the given design problem. I do not 'baby' students: I am demanding and have high expectations, but the good students appreciate it and say they learn a great deal in my classes. I expect quality work and a high level of individual initiative from students. I reward effort, innovation, and professional execution skills. There is much questioning of the student to encourage further thinking and reasoning - trying to get beneath the surface of 'pretty pictures' to discover why decisions were made. A student's satisfaction and self-esteem are enhanced when a student discovers an answer instead of being told an answer. Requiring students to justify and rationalize their decisions enhances their skills in reasoning, communication, and persuasion.

Good teachers love what they do - they have passion, they really want to be good teachers. Good teachers take risks, they try new things, they see failure as a positive move forward. Good teachers have a positive attitude. Good teachers strive to keep themselves and their students off balance. Growth and learning occur when comfort, complacency, and self-assurance are threatened. Good teachers push and challenge students.

When lecturing, I organize information into orderly lists to allow easier comprehension and recall. I strive to help students understand the information and theories that speak of great design. I use numerous examples and projected images (I have a library of over 5,000 digital images).

Student projects
Class projects are structured to encourage students to meet client needs (not just client wants), conduct research, clearly state and understand the design problem, and prepare professional comps. To address environmental concerns, Earth-friendly responsibility of specs are encouraged (recycled paper, less metallic inks, and more efficient quantities of printing). Most design projects are assessed in four areas:
Concept: the original idea, creative strategy, and theme.
Communication: how well that idea is conveyed with type, image, and composition.
Craftsmanship: the quality of execution and presentation.
Presentation: the student's appearance, oral communication skills, and persuasive rationale.
Separate grades for each area provide more specific feedback for the student.

Decision making
I realize it may be frustrating, but if a student shows me a bunch of thumbnails, I'm not likely to tell them which ones are working or which ones have merit. Some students respond with, "well, you're no help" (what they mean is - "I'm too stupid and/or lazy to decide and I want you to do it for me"). I believe that I help students by not telling them which ones are the best. It helps them become a more intelligent, assertive, and confident decision-maker. Becoming a better designer is about becoming a better decision maker, and therefore, a better creative problem solver. If I decide which ones are good, I deprive them of the process of understanding, analyzing, debating, and concluding. They have most likely been conditioned to 'please the teacher', but if they ever tell an interviewer or client, "This one works because my teacher said so," they may brand themselves an idiot. The student needs to decide if they wish to be fair, good, or great. To be good is not enough if you dream of being great.

Watsonisms used in class discussions and critiques
Neurobics describes the attitude of experiencing new activities to broaden one's horizon, expand possibilities, and stretch to new boundaries. Students who do neurobics are motivated to participate in life in new ways. More info.
Order:
       1. Legibility
       2. Readability
       3. Comprehension.
Continue to work at integrating type and image. Avoid the 'design-by-committee' look (elements that don't relate) or the look that says, "Oh shoot, I forgot to add the type."
Learning is fun - your brain loves to stretch, grow, and learn.
Remember that to not play is to fail, to play is to win.
Ask the right questions - think a moment and determine what you really want to find out - then ask that.
Do things because they're smart, logical, and appropriate; not just because you've been conditioned to do them.
Desire approval from others but require approval of your thoughts and beliefs from only you.
Accept responsibility for the consequences of your actions.
Continue to strive to grow and become a better thinker and problem solver.
Work at acknowledging and embracing fears that are barriers to your growth.
Explore, experiment, and discover; strive to regain lost childlike attributes of curiosity and wonder.
Product names should be easy to pronounce, easy to remember, appropriate to the product, minimally offensive, translate into other cultures, and convey some essence of the product or company.
Every design decision is a compromise between the familiar and the innovative. Great design has elements of both. Innovative work often requires more education.
In this absolute order, design and critique works of design for:
       1. the target audience
       2. the client (good clients will agree that your solutions are for their customers, not for themselves)
       3. yourself
Its easier to tone down a bizarre concept than it is to jazz up a dull one.
It is better to fail while taking a risk than to succeed while playing it safe.
Affirm to your inner voices and psyche that you are confident, bold, assertive, and firmly believe that you have the talent and ability to craft words and images that can make a difference.
Communicate a specific body of information to a specific group of people to achieve a specific result.
The brain will solve any design problem, provided it has a thorough understanding of the problem, adequate information, strong motivation, and a valid deadline.
Fear is the greatest block to creativity. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Fail forward. Its better to fail while taking a risk than to succeed while playing it safe.
Establish the creative strategy concept: destination, goal, result. Memorize it to stay on track.
Vista vision: get back from your work and see it with fresh eyes, to objectively spot its strengths and weaknesses.
The purpose of advertising and graphic design is to change the target market's attitude about the subject.
Designers don't deal with reality, they deal with the viewer/target's perception of reality.
Figure out what is working in the piece, exploit that and minimize the rest.
Attention to detail separates the good from the great designers.
Determine the options available, then explore and select the most efficient.
Every design decision is a compromise, a balance between the familiar and the innovative.
The computer is a wonderful tool, but it is not a crutch, an excuse, nor a designer.
Persuasive communication is achieved by providing strong rationale; using correct grammar and spelling; and being prepared, rehearsed, and able to think quickly.
If a design decision cannot be justified, it must be deleted - or it becomes clutter.
In presentations, avoid: "I feel" "I chose", etc. Keep personalities to a minimum: discuss the work as a strong solution to the problem, rather than a personal preference.
Interviewers look for intelligence, a pleasant personality, clear communication skills, innovative problem solving, a strong portfolio, and traditional and digital execution skills.
Great designers have a passion for great solutions, courageously take risks, possess integrity and enthusiasm, think innovatively, and truly believe design is fun.

My objective on the first day of class was to learn each student's name (in studio classes of 20, not lecture classes of 50). So I shared that with the class - We're not leaving until I learn everybody's name. That put some of the burden on the student by providing motivation for them to help me learn their names. It then became group effort, involved the students, and helped them learn each other's name.


During 30 years of teaching, the most common excuse for not meeting a project deadline was, "I didn't have time."
I would ask, "Did you sleep last night?" Of course, they did. I then pointed out that they obviously had time. After some disgust on their part, they would admit, they actually did have time. What they really meant was that the project was not a high enough priority among all the options: eating, sleeping, socializing, games, work, laundry, and homework.
We constantly, throughout the day, make decisions and choices on how we spend our time - we prioritize that time since there is rarely enough of it to do everything we want to do. I have time to iron my shirts, I just don't want to. “I'm not going to edit your résumé, because it's not a priority." “I don't go to the doctor because my health is not a priority." If these phrases don't sit well, that's the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice and we can waste it or we can prioritize and use it efficiently.
Changing one's attitude from the lie "I didn't have time" to the more accurate and honest "I chose to do other things that were of a higher priority" is quite liberating. If we don't like how we're spending an hour, we can choose differently.


While purging files and fotos, I found this note from my high school art teacher, Ms. Hudson. She heavily influenced my teaching philosophy, as evidenced by her suggestions - Think and contemplate. Have a reason for everything. Be critical.

My grandfather and one uncle were college professors. My grandfather received this telegrammed job offer: