by Whitney Porch-Van Heuvelen, Assistant Professor of Design, Southern Nazarene University
Teaching students to be creative in the classroom is easily attainable by setting three main goals:
a) developing an environment where students build a solid graphic design foundation based on the design process and the development of technical and analytical skills;
b) fostering a passion for design and becoming a “lifelong learner;”
c) creating emerging leaders in the design field who are involved in their community through active employment and volunteer service.
Creating an environment where students can express themselves is part of the teaching profession that varies per professor. The main goal is to create a comfortable environment where students feel secure enough to push their current abilities and be open to critical analysis in a group setting and one-on-one with the instructor. This happens when mutual respect is established between professor and students and, as the instructor, managing the many diverse personalities in a classroom.
“Active learning” in the design studio is the only way to help students become independent thinkers who actively use the design process (concept to finished product) to reach their individual learning outcomes. “Active learning” can be defined as learning through “doing”: conceptualizing, creating, critiquing, revising while implementing time management skills and being deadline oriented.
All of these outcomes will be actively applied once entering their field of practice. Studying and pursuing a career in graphic design is one of the most exciting career paths of our current time. Our culture has had an awakening in recent years of the importance of graphic design, and how well designed products and branding can help influence our lifestyles. During their academic career, and upon their upcoming graduation, it is important to press upon students that to be a successful designer, one must live a “creative lifestyle.” Living a “creative lifestyle” and being a “lifelong learner” helps a student embrace design wholeheartedly. Design is every where and as a designer you must take notice: relish the opportunity of a graphic design education, read magazines (design and others), attend galleries and museums, study fashion and interior design, travel, be engaged in your community, embrace technology, pay careful attention to the design details that companies implement to catch the viewers attention when you browse your local retailers. Plus design is always in flux and to not be a “lifelong learner” you will be left behind – creating design solutions that are archaic either conceptually or aesthetically.
Finally, the key component to fostering creativity I one’s students is to instill a desire to be leaders in their community through active employment and volunteer service. Many organizations need educated designers to contribute their knowledge base whether it is graphic design or community service oriented. Encouraging students to join local community service projects that are of interest to them and to actively network in design organizations for internship/employment opportunities that can propel them to reach their potential. The local American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and local Advertising Clubs need strong leaders who are passionate about design and contributing to the design education of clients and overall community. Volunteer service opportunities are plentiful and that doesn’t always have to mean giving your graphic design services pro bono. It can simply mean volunteering your time.
The problem solving and aesthetic skills students learn in the graphic design classroom and developed in their day-to day lives are valuable tools that not everyone has developed. These skills should be celebrated in and outside the classroom and are easily attainable with the relationship that is built between a student and his/her professor during their college career.