Coleman Fellows

Final Report - Martin Brief

In the 2011 spring semester I taught ART 470 Graphic Design Studio for the first time. This course is our highest level graphic design course. The class consisted of six students four of which were graduating seniors. Two of these students attended the SEA Conference in 2010 and two others attended during this course.

The main goals of the course were to have the classroom function as a working graphic design studio and to have each student simultaneously work on there own individual freelance projects. These two approaches to understanding entrepreneurship in the field of graphic design allowed students to experience the process of operating a business that involves working with other designers as well as running a business as a sole practitioner managing all aspects of the business. All projects (except one) were for real clients and the outcomes ranged from completed projects, printed and used by the client to clients backing out unexpectedly causing the project to come to an abrupt end. In all cases the students shared their experiences and all learned as much from the "successes" as from the "failures"

The design team worked on two long term projects during the semester. The first project was working with our Department of Fine and Performing Arts to develop a visual identity for the program. The team assessed the needs of the department and developed a long list of possible materials that would benefit the client. The list was pared down to fit our available time and the clients resources. In the end, the team designed a logo, a sixteen page view book, a series of sixteen information sheets explaining the requirements of the major and minor courses of study and a web site. The designs for all of these were completed but due to a variety of administrative and bureaucratic complications implementation of the designs is ongoing. Several students have agreed to continue to work on the project to ensure that it is completed. Our second client was Prison Studies Program. This organization teaches college level courses to people in prison. They requested logo, letterhead and business card designs. The design team presented the client with three designs and the process is ongoing. The client has requested changes and despite having graduated one of the students has continued to work on the project.

In addition to the above projects each team member was asked to find two clients of their own. They were also given the option to create something that could be designed, produced and sold but did not involve a client. One student took this option and developed the first twenty five pages of a graphic novel. The other students all did work for outside clients. Some of the projects included: a restaurant menu, a series of awareness posters for the Public Health Department on campus, a logo design for a new business that makes locally produced tofu, promotional materials for a fashion show, the graphic user interface for a new app that provides Muslims the times for daily prayers and has a compass that points toward Mecca, and several other projects.

Much of our classroom time was spent looking at work, critiquing and brainstorming new ideas. We also spent time talking about how to find clients, how to work with them to develop a successful relationship, what to charge, and time management strategies. Many of the designers were paid for their work, some took compensation in the form of barter and others were not paid and felt that the project was an opportunity to add a great piece to their portfolio and to make a professional contact.

Personally I felt like the course was a tremendous success. On the first day of class the students were all nervous about their futures and by the end (although still nervous) they had gained a tremendous amount of confidence and felt comfortable with the idea of presenting themselves as professionals, pursuing clients and especially understanding that what they do has value and they should receive some form of compensation for their work.


Side note: At the end of the semester the faculty meets individually with graduating seniors and sophomores for a portfolio review. Every year we are confronted with digital portfolios that contain horribly produced images of paintings, prints, drawings, etc. I decided after this year's reviews to use some of my fellowship money to purchase photography equipment that will be available to students specifically for photographing their work. Next year I plan to offer a one or two day workshop to teach students simple techniques for photographing their work. It is nearly impossible for an artist to survive professionally without excellent digital reproductions of their work. No matter how good the work is if the images of the work are poor it will be ignored. I think this equipment and the workshop will go a long way to preparing our students to enter the professional world as artist entrepreneurs.