I believe that design education begins with the two-dimensional study of black and white, form and negative space, and composition. Students who have been given the task to think abstractly without a computer, and with the most simplistic forms—the line and the dot—are challenged to make interesting marks, create their own methodologies and define the design process before a computer has the chance to distract them from their ultimate goal and task—which is to communicate with graphic forms such as photography, painting, drawing, and perhaps most importantly for graphic designers — letterforms and typography.
Armin Hoffmann—the eminent swiss graphic designer and educator— once discussed the ways technology was affecting students’ abilities to think critically about what they produce. More than 50 years ago, in his book entitled Graphic Design Manual, he warned of the threats against collegiate and elementary art education—that new and developing technology at the time ( 1960’s ) was interfering with students ability to learn and effectively implement the design process. Hoffmann states that “the school must vigorously oppose the view that, given proper modern technical equipment, one can live in a perfectly functioning organization requiring no personal effort or input, and automatically enjoy success and financial security. The instruments and aids that are placed in our hands nowadays are far too tricky for us to use them unquestioningly. The more cunningly devised they are, the greater the knowledge that is required before the can be put to wise and responsible use.” ( Hoffmann, 1966 )*
Today, educators in the field of graphic design are faced with this same great ( if not greater ) challenge to extend our skills and our philosophies to the modern college student surrounded with “subscribe” buttons, streaming television shows, and video games. Graphic designers need to be critical thinkers … problem solvers while simultaneously building and maintaining advanced technical skills. Therefore, my courses and assignments must strike a balance between theory and practice. At the heart of this reasoning is that a graphic design student is an art student — an art major. And similarly, a graphic designer is both an artist with many skill sets and also a professional practitioner who provides a service to all types of clients and industry. To ensure success, my assignments, course structure, content, technology, and conversations emphasize a healthy balance between theory and practice.
*Hofmann, Armin. Graphic Design Manual: Principles and Practice. New York: Reinhold, 1966.