Teaching Philosophy

Learning Philosophy

I prefer to think of a philosophy statement as one of learning, not teaching. In my marketing accountability work, I measure success in terms of behavioral responses. (It’s not about what marketers do; it’s about how customers respond.) It seems to me that success in teaching also should be measured in terms of (cognitive) behavioral responses. Thus, I’ll write about learning instead of teaching. I think of learning as building and growing.


Structured learning is about, among other things, building blocks. Students construct their education one block at a time. Each course is a building block, and within each course are many smaller building blocks. A smaller block might be a learned concept, skill, sensitivity, or understanding resulting from an assignment or discussion. I believe that in learning graphic design, it is important for students to build with these smaller blocks in each course in very purposeful and meaningful ways, progressing logically from one phase of construction to another. In this respect, my role is to structure content, the specific building blocks of learning.


Learning is as much about growing as building. All living things grow. Students grow. I believe that in learning graphic design, it is important for students to grow while they learn to build. Students should be inspired to grow, they should be helped and encouraged to grow, they should want to grow. In this respect, my role is to afford students opportunities to grow.

Building and Growing

The courses I’ve taught and describe on this site are examples of how I structure building and encourage growing. You’ll see how each course is structured to progress from one building block to another. You’ll see a wide range of design solutions for assignments that have fostered creativity, and afforded students freedom and opportunities to learn through growing.

Okay, if you’re still looking for a few statements about teaching, please read on.

I believe that change is important. Everything that is built or grows is constantly changing. So it is with learning. It is important to remember that the students we are teaching have learned in ways that are very different from the ways that we learned. Our students have learned and grown up in digital environments. In professional practice, as well as in learning, the impact of changing technologies may perhaps be greater in the area of graphic design than in other areas in the Frostic School of Art.

I believe that design process is important. There are valuable bodies of knowledge about design process. Design process can take many forms. Learning design is learning design process. I find that in graphic design, student discovery research, sketching, and other process work are among the most valuable teaching tools. I review process with students daily. I don’t solve problems for students; I teach them how to find solutions through their own design process.

I believe that design workability is important. A design that looks good is not enough. Good design works. Design must pass the test of use. I teach students how to evaluate the workability of their designs.

I believe that continuity of learning is important. It is all too easy to forget what we learned last week or last month as we move from one task to another. Throughout the semester I continually review and apply the learning from all of the previous assignments to the current work.

I believe that readiness, relevancy, and context are important. One of the most consistent and salient findings in all of my accountability research is that responses occur when a person is ready. Readiness factors vary among students, and are also related to curriculum and course structure. I strive to create topic relevance and provide subject context in all of my teaching, to enhance and leverage readiness.

I believe that connecting the dots is important. When students understand how the building blocks of their education are related, they are more receptive to learning. I relate course content to other courses, to design practice, and to everyday life.

Ultimately, it is important to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t work. My accountability work is all about analyzing multiple variables to determine for clients what is more and less likely to work. The same goes for teaching. And it is important to recognize that what works changes as variables change over time. As technologies, media, and, indeed, the world change, so must we and our teaching.