F. Scott Fitzgerald said “What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.” Can value can be measured? Can worth be self-assessed? Are we valuable by our contributions to the greater good? If so, how can I play a role, particularly in my field?
Am I even asking the right questions?
Towards the completion of my MA degree, and after wrestling with those questions for my thesis, the opportunity came around to teach a basic graphic design course and I loved it! Over the last few years I have been teaching different design courses at the New England School of Art & Design at Suffolk University here in Boston.
Teaching design courses complimented my full-time job where I was the only designer much of the time; it gave me the opportunity to interact with other designers and students, work on collaborative projects, and be involved in an academic community. A few of my students even came to intern with us here at Re-nourish! I never realized how much I would learn from my students and how valuable that interaction is for me. Valuable. There’s that word again.
But there was something missing. I noticed that sustainability is hardly ever mentioned in visual design curriculum. Looking back over syllabi and course descriptions, it seems emphasis is placed on creating visually striking and meaningful pieces, of course, but sustainable design doesn’t seem to have a place at the dinner table. Instead it sits at the children’s table with the cousins you only see at Thanksgiving. Usually reserved for an occasional “green” design project, sustainability remains a special and separate concept. Most often these green projects focus on using reclaimed and reduced materials, without whole systems thinking taken into consideration. Interior design and architecture programs are paving the path to sustainable design and systems thinking, integrating LEED certifications and environmental, social, and economic sustainability at its core, but graphic design programs have a lot of growing up to do before graduating to the adult table.
So how I can help this happen? I would like to help create a paradigm shift in visual communication curriculum and thinking. However in my current role as a part-time adjunct professor I feel limited in my departmental power to make influential changes. As someone who wants to be part of this design paradigm shift, I need to focus my career on education and research. I aim to teach and implement sustainable systems thinking in a university-level design program, and introduce sustainability as a core component to the foundations of a design process. To make this dream happen, I have decided to attend the MFA Visual Communications Design program at Purdue University this fall. While this may be a a lot of work, I feel it answers a few questions for me personally. I will try to be an advocate for positive change in design education, where students are shaped intellectually and design habits are created.
Along the way, I will be sharing my experiences here on this blog, asking for your feedback, and connecting with you here through Re-nourish. Wish me luck!