Where’s My Fire Breathing Dragon?
I really enjoyed this little gem from Frank Chimero’s class blog the other day:
When I was in school, my favorite professor was the fire-breathing dragon. Why? Because if you received a compliment, it was meaningful. The feedback was sincere and not sugar-coated, there wasn’t much coddling, but you can guarantee everything was helpful. The Fear of God he put in all of us made us all show up with significant work done between classes. If you came unprepared, or did very little between classes, you got “the speech.”
When I first starting in school, I simultaneously loved and feared critiques. I loved seeing everyone’s work. I loved talking about everyone else’s work and giving them ideas. I loved talking about my work and I loved hearing other people talk about their work. But I always knew the next critique would be the one where I’d get ripped apart. The next one would be the one where the professor would tell me to start over or that I have no future in design or my idea was crap. It was coming. It had to be.
But guess what? It still hasn’t happened. And I haven’t really seen it happen to anyone yet.
As I approach my final year of school, I’ve yet to have a fire-breathing dragon professor. I quickly discovered each critique was too sugar-coated. Everyone was afraid to be honest and hurt everyone else’s feelings. By the end of this year, I have come to dread critiques, no longer out of fear, but out of the boredom of getting nothing but “I like this” and “This is nice” comments. How does that help me improve my work? How does that make me a better designer?
I enjoyed reading this post for two reasons, the first of course from the perspective of a student and seeing the lack of honest, thoughtful criticism in the critiques I’ve had but also as someone who hopes to teach design in the future. I hope I can be the professor that students respect and fear because they not only know I’ll tell them where they are lacking, but also that I know what I’m talking about and that my comments are valuable. At least that’s the goal. Until then, I need to find my own fire-breathing dragon.
(And on a sidenote, I’ve absolutely love reading this blog Mr. Chimero is running for his class at Portland State. It’s great getting this look at how he organized and runs his class and seeing how the students respond and develop. As a student and professor hopeful, this blog has been quite enlightening.)