teaching philosophy

I consider teaching to be an act of design: the design of experience.

This emphasis on experience in my teaching practice draws on my background as an outdoor experiential educator. I hazard that there is a parallel between facilitating a group of college students through graphic design projects and leading a group of youth through the Swiss Alps. In both instances, my role is to guide a collective of individuals through a sequence of experiences by which they can learn and grow. In this way, I see each semester as a journey and each round of education as a series of journeys.

One of the direct influences of experiential education on my pedagogy is the inclusion of a reflective practice. I begin every class in each of my courses with reflection: a five-minute period in which my students think and write quietly in response to a question that I pose. I employ this reflection as a means to segue between class periods, between working in class and outside of class. This self-reflection also serves at times as a precursor to critique, allowing students to identify what type of feedback they need from the group in order to move forward. Furthermore, the continuous and cumulative effect of this series of reflections is for my students to process their direct experiences of making and thereby to synthesize their learning for future understanding and application. This hearkens to John Dewey’s notion of linking doing with knowing.

I value both thinking and making as design practices. Accordingly, my grading policy takes into account conceptual, formal, and technical attributes of projects. I encourage fervent use and development of process books and/or process blogs en route to design products and/or solutions. To foster initiative, I utilize questions strategically: as dialogue, as nonprescriptive forms of feedback, and as a manifestation of the curiosity that I strive to cultivate in my students.

My teaching practice is also grounded in a striving for democratic inclusion. Being aware of multiple learning styles, I present project briefs and in-class exercises in both oral and written forms. Recognizing that students have differing degrees of comfort about speaking up in groups, I ease deliberately into the practice of critique; early on in the semester, I make sure to demonstrate that I value each student’s voice. For example, following the opening reflection, I will go around the room and ask each student to share one thing from his or her writing. In the first full-group and small-group critiques, I employ various structures to suggest specific ways of contributing and participating —thereby ensuring that each student recognizes both the right to speak up and the expectation to do so.

I also begin with scaffolding in the framing of assignments, for I maintain that parameters can expose students to multiple and new ways of working. Seeing parameters as prompts to broaden perspective and approach, rather than as limitations, I encourage creativity within parameters. This necessitates problem-solving. It seems especially important to do so in graphic design, a discipline that I see embracing contrast and combination: word and image, rationality and intuition, ceremony and spontaneity, communication and art.



Current + Recent Courses

Capstone Presentation Design

Design Methodologies

Digital Media Foundations

First Year Symposium

Identity System Design


Information Design

Interactive Design

Publication Design


Visual Communication