teaching statement


An effective designer interprets the world in his or her own unique way and understands how to translate that into a clear message for others. Such a designer must have clarity of vision with an understanding of "self" and the world to get his or her message through.

I teach both online and offline students how to identify what they want to say and how to say it and help develop their eye through critique steeped in visual and critical design theory. Part of my goal is to encourage students to see and experience the world in order to have a larger toolbox of ideas and a better understanding of others so that they may more clearly communicate messages. By finding their visions, using their voices, and mastering techniques, my students are equipped with the skills needed in future classrooms, as well as in their professional careers.

Vision: Helping students find and communicate their vision

I want to help students codify their own creative processes: to understand what their internal tools are so they can begin learning how to use them and expand on them. This fosters more meaningful exploration, greater productivity, and more effective communication.

An important part of each project is the research phase, where the student researches not only the institution or business they are designing for, but also the people that will use their design. They also create thumbnail sketches, concept maps, information architecture, prototypes and several visual comprehensives. Discussions and frequent critique help with this process as students answer questions to discover their own beliefs, ethics, and philosophies; questions that help them discover why they are driven to create. I try to help students reflect on what they are sending into the world with their designs, and why. I believe this helps students analyze their creative processes and clarify their visions.

An instructor must mentor students toward the larger goal of becoming strategic learners. Therefore, I check in with my students periodically about their study and research habits. If students can look at their own patterns, they can better see how their vision permeates all of their habits. I also identify how academic tasks in my courses relate to being an effective designer. I set clear expectations every time we meet, as well as for each exercise and assignment. Using a rubric helps to clearly convey my expectations about coursework.

Voice: Helping students find their voice and their client‘s and audience‘s voice

It seems that design students have to literally find their voice! Effective design requires strong verbal and communication skills which is why my students learn to talk and write about design. On the very first day of each course, I discuss why critique is important and how they are exposed to several, different critique styles throughout the semester. My students routinely practice public speaking in safe, small groups. As a critique session starts, I ask them to jot down their thoughts before they speak, which helps them to feel more confident about sharing. Plus, my students regularly write rationales and discuss readings in class, or on the class blog, which hones writing skills.

After finding their voice, students learn to find their client‘s and users‘ voices. Collaboration is key to framing and solving visual communication and usability problems, which is why my students learn to research target audiences and effectively talk with their clients and users. One method I use to teach students about client-collaboration is to have them write all of their rationales using positive language, focusing on the client‘s intended message while keeping in mind the research they have gathered about their target audience members.

I keep students communicating by having more of a discussion–based lecture, where there is time for conversation about design during every class. Storytelling captives my students, and I share many stories from my years of as a designer. I also encourage them to watch interviews and read reviews of designers on "Design Observer" and "AIGA", learning how successful communicators use their voices.

Keeping students involved in local design events as well as organized field trips helps them feel connected to the larger profession of design. The latest such trip was to AS220 in Rhode Island for a hands-on workshop teaching letterpress, laser cutter and screenprint techniques — concepts that are unavailable to them at our current facilities. I regularly involve students in AIGA functions as ambassadors or volunteers, and have helped several students earn Board of Director memberships onto the regional board of AIGA.

Techniques: Learning to use the tools of the trade

Once students can clearly see their vision, and realize the power of their voice, they need to master design techniques. Learning how to organize information and getting comfortable with industry software programs helps students create beautiful designs with intent. I believe students learn by watching and then doing. I teach software methods and techniques as well as HTML and CSS hand-coding by creating tutorials and demonstrations with visual theory in mind. Students hone their "design eye" through frequent critique sessions and learn about user experience design throughout every project. They see that exercises and assignments relate to real-world situations, which keeps them engaged in learning. Peer learning through small group-work fosters a safe environment, encouraging each student to take chances and dive deeper into challenging software programs. I will often "flip" the classroom and provide or point students to an online lecture and use the class time for discussion and exploration.

In Conclusion

My goal is to help every student become an aware and vested citizen in the design community. Helping each find their vision, use their voice, and master critical design techniques positions them on a path of continual learning and professional growth. I not only teach indispensable industry knowledge, and effective communication skills, but help students learn more about their personal creative path and how that path impacts the world.



on screen

screencast lectures, personal critiques, and software demonstrations

Below find examples of short lectures, demonstrations and critiques. Because I use Black Board to house all of the class content I create many screencasts and demonstration videos.

on paper

syllabi, project summary, and other teaching samples

Tying in a social, political, environmental or human rights topic into course work helps to make projects more thoughtful. I also include real–life, non-profit client work or design for local businesses into at least one project a semester. The classes range from undergraduate to graduate.

student work



digital storytelling and interactive motion

The project below demonstrate a poem or speech as a starting point for motion design as well as motion-based self portrait. Students start with storyboarding the motion concepts, and then produce the work using a range of methods such as stop-motion to motion software (Premiere, After Effects, and Flash).

ebook design

designing and publishing iBooks

Using InDesign, iBook Author, and other software combined with studying the physical book helped students understand the medium of ebook from a historical perspective as well as through affordances and usability. The links are to the PDF versions,offsite, or movie of each iBook.

non-profit web

human rights, animal rights, environmental or charity website

Researching a human rights, animals rights, or environmental cause that engages students exposes them to larger world issues. The project starts with a creative brief to discuss the redesign, then moves to information architecture and then comp creation.

designing local

websites with real, local clients

Students embark on a realistic design process where visiting the location and interviewing employees and customers of local businesses kicks off the process. For the food based website, we discuss current farming and sustainability issues and the farm to table food movement.

audio (band) web

audio players and forms on the web

By finding a local or not as well known bands, students often have access to contacting the members for interviews that inspire their designs. Audio players as well as contact forms are a part of this project. The project starts with a live musician playing "textures and colors" in the classroom in order to spur discussion on how sounds translate to visual images. We also talk about sounds and feedback loops with website usage.

ux samples & mobile app

user scenarios, personas, information architecture, wireframes, and screen visuals for apps

This encompasses graduate and undergraduate examples designing mobile apps. Some of the apps have gone into production, but my main concern is understanding the user experience and how to gather information in order to design something useful and lovable. Students gather information through researching business, persona and scenario creation, concept map, information architecture, wireframes, and paper-prototyping. Students use POP app, Axure, and Balsamiq.

design across mediums

design 4 good conference branding, html email, adverts, and website

The "Design 4 Good" is a project originally developed by Vinicius Lima that I have adjusted over the years. The project has a team of students work to create the branding, print material, html email as well as a conference website for social design. You can find links to the websites as well as supporting material or process books. Being able to adapt a design across different print and screen mediums is explored.

typeographic studies

responsive websites that deal with typeface history or culture

In this project students first design a poster dealing with a period of design history and the typography within that time. They learn to translate poster design to the interactive medium. And create responsive designs experiences.