Teaching Philosophy

I teach as a natural extension of my love of learning — to share enthusiasm, to test myself, and to engage students as partners in learning.

I am an educator who asks students to understand themselves, and who embraces the difficulty and occasional futility of that task as educational tools to be applied both to design and life. I want to cultivate graphic designers who love to ask questions, whose favorite answer is “I don’t know,” and who are not just resilient to uncertainty and failure but understand it as an integral part of the design process.

My students are expected to bring their own goals and desires to the classroom, and to do so consciously by identifying and qualifying their limits. I initiate this by openly discussing the rationale behind everything I bring to the classroom and then creating opportunities for students to practice three key skills: critical thinking, mindfulness, and information literacy.

When I assign a project, my students will often ask “should it be…?” I tell them that the hardest part about my projects is that I want them to make their own decisions. It is fundamental for design students to practice making such determinations on their own and to practice facing uncertainty in the design process. To further enable this goal, I prefer to introduce only the formal and technical requirements that are determined by non-arbitrary constraints, those which can be probed and questioned by the students. This provides space for inventive, novel solutions while challenging students to face uncertainty by uncovering and evaluating their assumptions — and mine.

The software course that I developed for the University of Houston brings my ideals into the classroom. To bridge digital and traditional ways-of-making, I require graphic design students to practice self-learning, to be critical of the information they find, and to examine their creative process, both on and off the computer. Throughout the semester, students are prompted to observe and articulate how their work and ideas develop through a combination of small group exercises, writing, presenting, and guided discussions, and then to distill these into a self-reflexive process book.

Among the supplemental resources I bring to the classroom are readings and videos discussing creativity, design, and ideation from multiple fields and with wide and varied perspectives. To be effective as professional designers, students need to practice information literacy in design classrooms. They must be accustomed to approaching and examining an unfamiliar body of information. This is for two reasons. First, the ideas and information that might be needed for any one project will be locked up inside the language and writing styles of other disciplines. Next, professional designers are expected to work alongside multiple disciplines and to apply their craft to the benefit of any type of information. I bring this into the classroom through my own multi-disciplinary background and by developing lectures and guided discussions that connect other fields to classroom projects and design problems.

Students have used my projects to identify their interests or passions and to express themselves honestly. My students feel that they can be themselves and be designers at the same time. For the professional world, I want them armed with tools and mindsets for making the work they want to make — knowing what that is, how incredibly difficult it can actually be, and how rewarding.