Over the last two decades, my teaching and practice can be defined as a pursuit and curation of both creative range and specificity.
A master’s degree in advanced architectural design was just the beginning of a professional and academic exploration of the diversity of ways in which design communicates and engages with the world. My work spans a dozen distinct disciplines including animation, architecture, exhibition design, graphic design, environmental design, industrial design, web design and interactive arts. Each practice offers a unique perspective on the role and manner in which designed objects and elements form genuine connections with humanity. As well, through interdisciplinary practice and teaching, my work examines the overlaps and connections between these areas of design as well as revealing the strengths of each practice area. This focus on rigorous transdisciplinary study and practice is a central focus in my research, teaching and advising.
At the same time, I have developed a long-standing practice with a primary focus on graphic design. Despite my degrees in architecture, my undergraduate and graduate studies were littered with courses in the graphic arts and typography at the onset of the digital revolution in creative practices. My graphic design career began in 1999 as a freelancer, and quickly evolved into positions as an art director and creative director in multiple studios from Boston to New York’s Madison Avenue to my current location in Western Massachusetts. Over these years I have curated a knowledge base of highly specific professional processes and practices that I bring to campus in the classroom and through advising.
My pedagogical approach creates reciprocity between experimental transdisciplinary range (or agility) and the development of finely honed creative skills and practices. I have created a collection of courses that reflect these distinct approaches (range and specificity), as well as higher-level courses that blend these methodologies. Examples of these courses are highlighted below.
This course was recently developed to overlap with my research and manuscript. The course was solely focused on design theory as it pertains to human experience. It was literal experiment to better understand and unpack the statement, all design is an engineered interaction between a body (subject) and an object. In this, students were challenged to look not at objects but subjects. The course compiled a body of readings from many different disciplines with a common theme or statement. It sought to educate students in ways of knowing, a principle found in the Bauhaus, but more broadly realize here. The course focuses on three areas of inquiry that exist at the intersection of the object and body—sensation, time and language. By better understanding how humans learn and use these fundamental elements, they can be better applied in their own design work. Students performed a large body of reading and prepared for discussion, as well as produced exploratory projects (like Moholy-Nagy’s tactile board) to explore and communicate their new ways of knowing.
This course focused on design principles and processes. Over the course of the semester, students were introduced to varying different design principles, from graphic design (surface) to industrial design (object) to architecture (space). Texts, films, writing assignments and projects were used to introduce students to the key overlapping aspects of design in theory and practice. As students worked through concepts from 2D to 3D to 4D, they also began to recognize the key distinguishing characteristics that each form of design holds and how these practices can be differentiated. A variation of this course, known as Mutation in Expression, also explored these key themes but was primarily focused on artistic expression in 2D, 3D and 4D.
This course is structured to introduce students to the practice of graphic design. It provides both in-depth, hands-on technical skill building and a creative, critical studio-based understanding of design concepts. The course uses topics such as image, icon, color, typography and layout to outline design principles as well as introduce industry standard practices with design tools such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. A final project allows students to test their skills as they conceptualize a brand and roll it out in multiple print formats. This course typically draws interest (and is populated by) students from all five campuses (especially UMass) upwards of 75-100 students competing for 16 slots.
This course is a paperless architecture studio that combines theoretical/critical design investigations with the development of technical digital modeling and representation skills. For each iteration of this course the topic and technical skills vary but the overarching principle of using creative projects to teach technical skills is critical. This course has used used both Rhinoceros and Maya as a modeling/rendering tool as well as laser cutting and 3D printing technologies. This style of course could be as easily applied to product design or industrial design courses.
This course demonstrated how experimentation brings both rigor and innovation into an academic environment. We laid out a set of controlled conditions and terms for 12 students to develop an interactive architectural experience. The twelve students in the course represented four of the five colleges, and came from disciplines ranging from computer science to theater. In just 17 days, these students imagined, designed, fabricated, coded and installed a large-scale interactive installation, nicknamed TES, on the ceiling of the Harold F. Johnson Library lobby at Hampshire College. Through the structure of the class and our goals, students demonstrated an exceptional level of collective skill and knowledge sharing, using each other and their faculty as resources. The course was incredibly demanding and required an immense amount of teamwork. The entire class participated throughout, taking full ownership of, and great pride in, the final product. The students continually remarked that it was the most successful and meaningful classroom experience they had at Hampshire. This studio represented not just an interdisciplinary course, but a true disciplinary integration through a course.
In a unique partnership, Kristen Luschen and I dared ask, can design impact social change? If, so, can we teach design to challenged and under-represented youth to empower them to make change in their community? This was the beginning of a course that was created to investigate these questions. Working through established connections within the district, we created a new course at the school that could accommodate 16 Peck students, 8 Hampshire students, 2 professors and one advisor/representative from the Peck. Our objective was two-fold. First, educate Hampshire students on the social justice issues that exist within low income, urban, post-industrial, racially diverse communities through hands-on experiential learning. Second, utilize design as a strategy to empower the youth create change within the school and the community. We taught both our Hampshire and Peck students to look at and investigate their world with a critical eye and identify challenges of power, race and gender that surround them daily. As well, the students were given a safe space to discuss issues of bullying, profiling, danger and economic struggle. Our middle school students used their newly acquired creative skills to lead their peers to make real change to small issues in their school. They reacted to a policy decision that forced them to wear a specific uniform, and they, in turn, designed t-shirts that outlined their principles of respect; had them printed and produced widely; developed videos promoting respect and awareness, met with administrators to lobby for adoption of this “respect” t-shirt to become part of the new uniform; and presented their goals and process to the entire middle school at an assembly. While, contextually, a marginal gain, these students learned how intermingled social justice and perception are, as well as how an understanding of design empowers them to imagine and realize change.
Over a five year period I worked with a diverse group of like-minded colleagues to design and implement one of the first Five College Majors—the Five College Architectural Studies Major (FCAS). This process involved planning curriculum, coordinating technology, coordinating course times and event planning across five institutions. As well, it required presentation and defense of the major in three institutions to gain approval. This immense collaboration has grown the course offerings, number of faculty and body of students exponentially over the past five years. This program is highly rigorous, but also very interdisciplinary. It was visioned to create an individualized study of the built environment while engaging with a range of other disciplines, campuses and faculty.
In early 2010, prompted by an invitation from then-acting president, Marlene Gerber Fried, I joined a brainstorming team that developed the framework for a new campus program, The Creativity Center. Throughout 2010-11 I was part of a core group of seven faculty, staff and students that solidified the core messaging, vision and launching initiatives for our first year. With a seed grant of $600,000, The Creativity Center was officially launched in the spring of 2012. The Creativity Center was realized as a new initiative-based program and resource that fosters a campus culture devoted to progressive teaching, learning, projects and programming. Over the last 40 years, Hampshire has established itself as a leader in experimental teaching and experiential learning methodologies, but as we’ve evolved so have the institutional structures necessary for growth and stability. A larger school, fiscal responsibility, and complicated processes can sometimes serve as a challenge for trend-setting students, experimental professors, and innovative staff. The Creativity Center empowers Hampshire community members to transcend those challenges by incentivizing new approaches to the classroom, sponsoring ground-breaking student work, and celebrating the process of creativity across the college. Our mantra—“Create. Connect. Change.”––is activated through our initiatives and practices. The Creativity Center bridges the gaps between academic life and social life; between work and play; between knowledge and imagination. My role in the Creativity Center has a campus-wide reach. I have already participated in staff and faculty meetings, student group meetings and campus-wide events, gaining a tremendous insight into the intricacies, politics and inspirations that make Hampshire so unique. In our first year we have provided over 20 student grants; faculty seminars; new creative programming; new concepts for innovative course formats; fostered new curriculum; and led groups and individuals to explore new approaches to collaborative meetings and work. The program is evolving quickly to be a responsive and transformative agent on the campus, as much of our work emerges from a process of listening, imagining and responding. The initiatives slated for the next academic year are a result of our utilizing public forums and collective feedback to drive innovation and collaboration. The creative sparks developed by this program gained the interest of the Roddenberry Foundation. Our programming and mission was directly in line with theirs as we worked to attain an additional $100,000 grant to support our core programming and additional campus grants. Find out more at creativity.hampshire.edu.
In 2007, I was invited to participate in a new grant proposal for the college through the Sherman Fairchild Foundation for Art + Technology. We worked diligently in the writing of the grant and the interview process, eventually winning a $300,000 grant over three years. In the ensuing years, I worked as a critical part of the program as a board member. My role involved recruiting; awarding grants; acquiring, coordinating and managing technology; writing blog posts; and working with a range of students in an advisory role. The program was highly interdisciplinary, pushing me to engage with students and faculty across the campus in a meaningful way. The new curricular and organizational approaches developed within the very successful DART program became key elements of The Creativity Center. Many of the lessons learned through experimentation and our personal efforts are proving worthwhile.
Academic + Community Program
Riverscaping was a multi-disciplinary, international inquiry into our collective relationships with the river, was born from a $175,000 grant awarded by the European Union to Five Colleges, Inc. The project focused on the river as a medium --rather than just an “object”--that binds together multiple histories, sciences, theories, arts, practices and communities. Conferences, community meetings, a regional design competition and a film series are but a few of the results of this diverse collaboration. Local citizens, artists, community leaders and academics met with their counterparts in Hamburg, Germany in a creative learning exchange. Our regions share many common historical and environmental conditions and our efforts at dialogue and study opened a new and productive exchange of ideas and approaches. Throughout eighteen months, we brought together citizens, policy-makers, artists, practitioners, academics and students from across the region and across the Atlantic. Our energy and attention was focused on exploring and uncovering methods to reconnect with the river (in the case of this project, the Connecticut River) and build better environments and communities--truly capitalizing on the river as an underutilized resource. As a result, during Riverscaping, we attempted to stimulate a more active urban discourse driven by the river’s many potentials and contributions. As a result, our eighteen month project met most of our expectations and exceeded many others. Our primary focus was one education and connection. With a very robust and intense program of activities, we believe we successfully raised awareness of our communities’ need to refocus its attention and capital on the river, while showcasing and broadcasting Hamburg’s (our sister city) progressive and exciting strategies and approaches