Today—and for the past 40 years—many of the chairs, desks, and tables designed by Herman Miller are released through the company’s education division, which unites research with manufacturing to produce unique products that are meant to enhance the learning experience. This division grew out of Robert Propst’s Herman Miller Research Corporation, which was focused on the way people worked in the office in the early 1970s. “Consulting with behavioral psychologists, architects, mathematicians, and anthropologists, [Probst] quickly discovered the problem was larger and more exciting than the design of furniture,” according to a background document products by Herman Miller for a design show held earlier this year. “Probst’s research led him to the exploration of how students lived and learned on campus.”
I can’t tell you how many hours I sat in chairs like that in high school and college. Looking at those photos got me all nostalgic for those school days.
A few weeks ago my friend Rory and I were emailing back and forth about what our lives have been like since graduating in May and we both remarked that we missed the process of working on school projects. Obviously both of us have continued in design since graduation but we have since realized that those class design projects provided a unique set of challenges we don’t always get in the professional world.
In short, a class design project provides three things: (1.) a set goal and planned finished product, whether that be a logo system or a poster series, starting the project you know what you are working towards; (2.) chosen content, whether that be content and/or topics chosen up front or those assigned by the professor; and (3.) an open environment and forum for experimentation, growth, and exploration. The first two happen in the professional world, but the third is what makes the project more interesting. We realized you are essentially presented a project much like you would working in a studio but are given complete free reign in style, aesthetics, techniques, and approach and we missed that and wondered if it was possible to work in that process to continue our own personal growth and development as designers.
“The teaching of art is the teaching of all things.”
I’ve been going back and listening to some old episodes of BBC’s wonder In Our Time podcast. I really enjoyed this one on the famous Victorian art critic John Ruskin and this quote from Ruskin’s writing stopped me dead in my tracks.
I took four art history courses in school (two general art, and two design-specific) and found that the best art history courses always teach you more than expected. I think learning about art also teaches you about cultures and people and religion and politics. I’ve found the more I learn about art, the more I want to learn about everything surrounding it.
One of my favorite professors in school was my first design history professor and the reason he was my favorite was because I found the most interesting things I was learning were not the things inside my design text book. He had an uncanny ability to make connections between cultures and images making for a more holistic history course that guided by design movements. Think James Burke or John Berger. Learning about art is learning about the world.
“Some people when they look for a job in journalism ask themselves, What do I like to do and Who can take me there? Who can get me to a war zone? To a ballpark? To Wall Street? To politicians, to movie stars? Who’s got the vehicle? And you send them your resume and you say, “I want a seat in your car.” … And you wait. But there are some people, who don’t wait. I don’t know exactly what going on inside them; but they have this… hunger. It’s almost like an ache. Something inside you says I can’t wait to be asked I just have to jump in and do it.”
If you were around me at anytime over the past two months, you probably already know that for my Advance Typography class I’ve been spending the majority of my time designing a typeface. So I’m proud to show what eventually became the last project I turned in for entire college career: Fuller Display Light.
I couldn’t tell you anything particular about that day. It was late May and the weather outside was similar to the weather today—sunny and warm. A spring day that makes you long for the summer. It was my junior year of high school and I was in Mrs. Zelinski’s English class. I sat second to the back in the second row from the wall next to the large window that looked out over the courtyard where the seniors ate their lunch. I’d get to eat out there next year. Mrs. Zelinski had an array of plants sitting in the window sill on little plant stands and hanging from the drop ceiling. All high schools seem to have those drop ceilings.
The window was opened and there was a breeze blowing in from the courtyard with the sounds of the seniors eating their lunch making Mrs. Zelinski’s plant arrangements rustle and sway. I sat there in the second to the back seat in the second to last row and a feeling of nostalgia came over me, blowing in from the courtyard. I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t a particular memory but it reminded me of what it was like being a kid. Mrs. Zelinski was talking about Ernest Hemingway but I was thinking about something else.
Where had my childhood gone? Wasn’t it just yesterday I was playing in sandboxes and drawing cities on my driveway?
Anyone who knows me knows I am an unashamed super-fan of the hit ABC show LOST. After flying through the first season on DVD three years ago in about three days, I was hooked. I quickly caught up and faithfully watched the final three seasons on television every week. I laughed, I cried, I mourned, and I celebrated with each characters as the story twisted and turned.
One of the final courses I’m taking before I graduate is a Corporate Publications class focusing on information graphics, annual reports, various promotional material. After have some experience in information graphics through my personal annual reports, I wanted to try something a bit different for the class.
I take the opportunity to approach each project as a way to explore another one of my interests and realized this was the perfect time to do a project around LOST.
I didn’t realize these tips were written for professors and faculty until the last one. Each one works just as well for students. One I try to live by:
Keep in touch with smart people and funny people. You’ll need them in your life no matter what they—or you—end up doing. Smart and funny people make even the worst day better. They are the best reward for survival.
And this one is perfect:
Remember that nobody cares how long it took you to complete a piece of work; they only care that the work is completed and that it meets professional standards. Avoid like the chicken-pox anybody who starts a letter of introduction, a query letter, a conversation, or an email with the phrase “I believe I have produced my magnum opus because I’ve been working on it for the past (fill in the blank) years, but I hope you wouldn’t mind reading a draft of it and letting me know what you think. It only really gets going after page (fill in the blank) so you’ll need to get past that point to get its true message.”
Is there a glut of students graduating from graphic design programs in the United States today? A 2004 National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) survey indicates that out of 18,000 graphic design majors in 152 four-year programs conferring B.A. and B.F.A. degrees 3,500 are graduated annually. This figure is strongly disputed, however, by North Carolina State’s Meredith Davis, who claims the comparatively low number does not account for approximately 1,300 two-year associate degree programs (according to the GDEA), other schools that confer fine art degrees with limited design study, and schools that are not NASAD accredited. If there are overall 450 four-year programs, 1,300 two-year programs, and each graduates, on average, 25 students a year, then Davis estimates these schools could be releasing as many as 40,000 students (with and without degrees) into a field supporting around 200,000 (1) practitioners (not including interactive designers). While David Rhodes, President of the School of Visual Arts, supports the NASAD findings, he agrees they do not represent all four-year schools and ignores “Art Institutes” and certificate-granting programs like Gibbs College (formerly Katherine Gibbs, a secretarial program) that “have communication or graphic design programs of two year’s duration which are larger than SVA’s four-year design program.” Although he takes issue with the estimated 40,000, he concedes, “There seem to be more graduates than entry-level positions.”
Even though this article is a little over five years old, I just read it last week and have wanted to write a few of my thoughts on it. The article was of interest to me for a number of reasons, most notably that I am now graduating and in the process of looking for a job. Yet, I’m hesitant to comment on it because I’m not quite sure how to articulate my response to the piece but I’m also afraid what I do write will be misinterpreted. Nevertheless, I’ve had a week or so to think about it and I think I’m ready to take a stab at it. Ok. Ready?
Lots of projects are finishing up this week! This is a small booklet I’ve been working on to showcase and share my manifesto. The manifesto is central to how I approach design and I wanted a printed version of it to compliment the web version.
The book features a tabbed design with each principle getting a little longer and following the same colors from the website. The first page starts with a square and as you progress through, a side is added to the shape until you get to the last page, where the circle has been replaced with a world. It’s a visual metaphor of sorts for the main ideas of the manifesto which boil down to the idea of building a better world. Notable quotes are highlighted and called out to make for an easier read if you desire.
(And, if you are interested, the manifesto is still available in poster form from the shop. I think it would look really nice in that empty area above your desk. Just sayin’…)
I like coffee. A lot. I look forward to drinking it every morning, and on the days I have time, I love the process of making it in the french press, grinding the beans, boiling the water. It can be a religious experience for some people because coffee taps into all our senses. So I made a book about it.
The book goes through how each sense is affected by the process of making coffee and is printed on Canson cream textured stock. The cover is embossed and the last page features a spot varnish over the heart. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am that I get to draw pictures of coffee for my homework.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make another cup…
Hello. I’m graduating in a few months and am starting to look for full-time employment. I’m a curious and capable graphic designer interested in storytelling, information graphics, content creation, and making the world a better place to live through design. I’ve been freelancing for six years, working with established studios and my own clients across the country, as well as spending a summer in Nashville, TN interning at Inpop Records where I worked for one of Christian music’s largest labels producing work that was distributed nationwide. My work centers on promoting content, honoring craft, and building experiences, in whatever form that may take.
I noticed an interesting shift in the projects I worked on this semester. In previous semesters, professors would assign small projects, usually last two weeks up to a month at the most. By the end of the class, I’d have four or five completed projects. This past semester, however, I found each class only assigned one project that lasted the entire semester. By the end of the semester, though I had fewer projects to show, I had larger projects that went deeper and spread farther.
I was thinking about this as I start to prepare for my final semester, and ultimately, look for jobs. I think something profound happens when working on these types of larger projects. We live in an instant society, a now culture. It’s easy to produce a lot of small things quickly. We expect it. Let’s face it: we don’t like waiting for things.