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Teaching Philosophy

As a professor of graphic design, I want future generations of designers to leverage type and image critically; to generate empathy for others and create spaces that allow perspectives outside of their own to be understood. To achieve this, my teaching philosophy is to [a.] foster a non-toxic critique culture, [b.] call on students to make unexpected, enlightened choices, [c.] embolden students to challenge the status quo, and [d.] task students to generate empathy for others.

[a.] In my syllabi, I impart that critique is not about my opinion, but theirs. I urge students to take ownership of the critique,and to create space for collegial disagreement.

[b.] Most importantly, critique is not about identifying winners and losers, or achievers and slackers, but clarifying what choices create successful or rewarding results.  

[c.] I often ask students to articulate the intent of every choice, and I ask the group why a particular choice might seduce the eye or intrigue our intelligence. This line of inquiry pushes the group to consider a designers’ choices independently from execution. I find this is especially useful with novice students. By prioritizing compelling choices, I encourage students to take risks, rather than rely on innate talent or good taste— there are always more compelling choices to be made and unfamiliar processes to explore. I also want my students to approach the field with a conscientious skepticism— what values have been upheld? Should they? If not, how can the student use design to subvert those values instead?

[d.] I believe designers possess immense potential to generate empathy, and as an educator, I am uniquely positioned to ignite this potential in my students. I’m interested in curricula and learning objectives that give students agency to make work from their unique point of view, or to promote narratives of the systemically marginalized. (I have much more to say on this last point; on my website you will find my full Diversity Statement: Pluriversality in Design Education.)

Ultimately, my teaching philosophy is to prepare students to enter the field as critically-engaged, global thinkers. This approach asks students to look at design not as a binary of what works and what doesn’t, but as a spectrum of choices, from expected and subservient, to radical and subversive. In this way, they can leverage type and image to generate empathy for others and generate work in a variety of spaces and disciplines— far beyond my classroom.


nathan dot young at temple dot edu