This past term I had the pleasure of teaching the Visual Communications for Sustainability course at MCAD. In the past, this had been run as a summer term, 10-week class. I was challenged to stretch it out to 15 weeks, and to incorporate a collaborative project into the curriculum. I hooked up with Diane Gilpin of the Smart Green Shipping Alliance, a group pushing the shipping industry toward carbon-neutral movement of goods. It was fun to see how the students used different lenses to interpret the data about the benefits of the SGSA’s designs to diverse audiences. Read about it here on the MCAD blog!
I interviewed Elisabeth Laville of Utopies for Sustainable Brands a few months back, and the article has just rolled out. Utopies is a sustainable consulting firm based out of Paris, and is focusing on localizing sustainability in an economic sense. Check it out here.
New pen and ink drawing.
I made a short film!
This past July, myself, my husband, and 3 friends traveled by train down to southern Oregon and rode back to Oakridge via the Oregon Timber Trail, a 670 mile route that covers the entire state, south to north. We knocked out about 300 miles of it over 9 days of travel by mountain bike, primarily on single track.
The full length of the film is about 26 minutes, but since YouTube doesn’t like videos over 15 minutes, I cut a short version down to fit the requirements :) Check it out here!
Recently I’ve really gotten into more motion work, including working with film and video. It’s been fun to explore this new medium for me in conjunction with my husband, who helps me with shooting and planning, and is also learning to edit. Our first couple projects were done for a youth mountain bike team that Bill and I help to coach (check us out here). Here is a recap video we made after our team finished up the last race of the season, over in Bend, OR: find it on YouTube.
Next is an ad for group rides that we hold monthly, illustrated simply with a screenprint look. Join us at 9am at West End Bikes to ride!
Finally, I made a head badge for Co-Motion bikes down in Eugene. This will get molded out of brass (or something), and attached to the headtube of bikes.
Here's a quick mockup of how it might look (although the final will be curved around the headtube.
Here's the one I liked better than the option they went with. It might just slightly resemble a tattoo I already have ;-)
I am pretty stoked with the final projects I received for GD 200 (Tech + Production). The assignment involved choosing a national park and creating both a poster and a brochure for it. They were to display some of the skills they had learned during the course in Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Here are a few of the top posters!
I was privileged to be featured by MCAD as both a faculty member and an alumnus! With a focus on building engaging content to better spread the word about the program, MCAD has put together a series of short animated features on different students, alumnus's, and faculty members. Catch my video here.
I am still something of a noob at this teaching thing, but I've found a few helpful tools this past summer and fall that have proven extremely helpful to me in organizing my work, being efficient with planning, and creating effective lessons. I wanted to record these somewhere so that I can find them all later, and thought perhaps right here is as good as any place, because I can also manage to share them at the same time. Hopefully someone else finds these useful as well.
Obviously I'm not the first to discover any of these, but I have had to search around quite a bit (and attend a few orientations and lectures) to find them all. One stop shopping would have been useful... a year ago. I may update this periodically as I discover new things.
1. QuickTime Player screen recording
For hybrid and online classes, we frequently have to record our screens and mouse clicks to show students the steps to complete a project, or use a program. I'm teaching a technology class for designers right now, and will be converting it to online format next year. I've used a couple of random free-software type programs to do this in the past, and they haven't been great. Then I found out that QuickTime Player can do this without the need to install shady software!
Just open the player and click on File>New Screen Recording. It's not even hidden. You can select to record voice from the computer's speakers, or to show mouse clicks. It does this by highlighting each click with a circle around the cursor, making it really easy to follow. When done, just click the stop button and save your file.
2. Stormboard for organizing lesson plans
I have really struggled to figure out how to lay out everything I want done in a term, and break the work out in an order and volume that makes sense and has a regular work cadence. I can store a lot in my brain, but it's tough to keep track of how much I'm piling up each week. Enter Stormboard.
I've used this website in the past to brainstorm with groups on design projects, and or organize big design tasks using something like the Kanban method. Then I rediscovered that the plain old digital post-it is also really helpful when you're moving around tasks and small projects within the context of a course plan. I use a different color "note" for each type of assignment or lecture topic, and just start adding notes with time estimates on each to the board, which I split up by week of the term. Then, once I've got everything on there, I begin to organize the weeks and move from a big mess toward an organized lesson plan. I can also refer back any time, and move things around or delete based on how the class is progressing.
3. Evernote for bookmarking and notetaking
Everyone already knows about Evernote, but I use it religiously for taking notes in meeting, randomly jotting down ideas for things I should mention in class, drawing up lecture notes, and bookmarking or storing articles I want to save that are relevant to a class. I keep a notebook for each course I teach and add notes specific to them, and also keep a generally "teaching ideas" notebook, to record when I want to do something differently next time. It helps that I can also draw these up on my iPhone using their app, and if others are using Evernote, I can share notebooks to learn or brainstorm collaboratively.
4. aText for Mac for scripting frequently typed phrases
Have you ever noticed how, when grading a big assignment, you tend to have similar feedback for multiple students, and end up typing the same damn phrases 45 times? aText allows you to set up shorthand, hashtag-based commands that insert phrases (or even whole paragraphs) automatically. If I type, "Attached is your grading rubric for assignment x" in literally ever student's eval, I could set up a script (#attached). Each time I write #attached, my longer sentence will be inserted in its place. It really speeds up the feedback process, and keeps me from making stupid typos as I start to get tired.
Lynda.com is much more than dry tutorials on how to use a program. In my technology course, I've found it's illustration technique-based lessons to be extremely valuable in helping my students practice with tools without getting bored. I especially like Von Glitschka's Vector Arts Lab lesson series, which focuses mainly on Illustrator (with a little photoshop) and teaches actually drawing technique. I have the students watch for 15 minutes, then go spend a few hours working on their own drawings, honing their hand skills, design eye, and practicing their tools, while coming up with a fun original illustration they can perhaps apply in the future. This is obviously less helpful for upper classmen, but can be ideal for incoming students. And many schools offer free Lynda access to their students.
6. The New York Times student access
It's important to me that my design students stay current on cultural events. I suggest an NYT membership, which they offer to students at reduced or free rates. The public can sponsor a student membership as well, giving access to someone who otherwise won't get it.
7. Online teaching tools Canvas or Blackboard
If you've got access to one of these for an in-person class and you're not using them to store and deliver content to your students, or to present and organize your grades, you're missing out. I use Canvas at my full-time job, and Blackboard at my adjunct online position. Both allow flexibility in presentation to some degree, but the main benefit to the instructor is the organization. Next year, my courses will be totally planned when school starts - all I have to do it copy last year's assignments over to the new section (imported automatically) and do any minor updates based on results.
When I used to do all my organizing in files on my desktop, it was a mess. Online platforms make it easy to see what you've assigned, what you've already corrected, what's left to do, and what your students need from you. I now require my students to check Canvas each Monday for that week's assignments, then answer any question in class, but do not waste valuable in-person time reading assignment and project briefs to them out loud. They become more independent, and I get to spend classtime on more important things.
I'm sure that I have forgotten several tools I use every day within this list. As I remember, or discover more, I'll update this blog with my experience. Do you have an awesome tool? Send it my way!
For my Expressive Typography course this past term, I tried a new project that worked "backwards" from our usual process. Normally, we work with both concept and form at the same time, attempting to marry the two in a way that builds meaning beyond the interpretation of the words themselves. And sometimes, with students, they get stuck on either form or concept, and they struggle to find a way to make both equally strong.
I wondered what would happen if I took away concept completely. What if they had to design only with form, playing with letters in a way that actually ignored the meaning of the words? I had a phrase in mind from the start that would be loaded with meaning in a way that may conflict with their free-form compositions, but I thought those juxtapositions may turn out to be interesting. And I liked the idea of struggling to marry two conflicting sets of meaning (the aesthetic and the semiotic), and accepting that some processes may fail, but the benefit was in the process of struggle itself.
In step one, the students were given "dummy type" of equal word and letter length to work with, and had 5 days to simply explore an aesthetic composition they liked. In step two, they substituted my phrase for their dummy type in a straight exchange. Step three involved reconciling for meaning, making adjustments to refine the composition, and preparing for presentation.
Overall, I was happy with the quality of the compositions in the end. However, there were some drawbacks to this way of working. Some students seemed to fall in love with their original experiments, and were resistant to making changes in step three. Others had such a chasm of meaning to cross that they simply were lost in how to refine, and really find much benefit to the final reconciliation process. I also discovered that my own description of this as a "triptych" left some students feeling restricted in what they could and couldn't do for the third piece. In the future, I believe it would be better to allow the third piece to stand alone as single composition and allow for more changes in the third phase.
Below are a few of the more interesting processes and compositions. The phrase was "Cash rules everything around me," obviously a lyric from the Wu Tang clan's C.R.E.A.M. off 36 Chambers, a song released before any of my students was born.
Above is a gallery of a few of the final pieces in the series. Pieces by Joan Cheung, Genna Mettler, Sydney Wisner, Phoenix Thompson, and Brooklyn Cochran.
As an in-class exercise, I had my Expressive Typography students create their own alphabets out of random items, like office products and food scraps. They had about 45 minutes to create all the letters in an alphabet in groups of 2 or 3. I let each group pick their medium, but they could only use one medium for all the letters. The results were pretty fun!
This past December, we decided to throw caution to the wind and pretty much start our lives over again differently. We put our house on the market, packed up our stuff, I quit my job, and we moved down to Corvallis. We weren't completely working without a net here, as we had family in the area (in fact, we're renting our new house from my in-laws). The plan was that I would teach half-time at OSU in the design department, I'd freelance the rest of the time, and Bill would transfer to OSU's mechanical engineering department to finish his 2nd bachelor's.
Things went well. I had a couple big freelance jobs right off the bat (thanks Brian Vegter and Yakima), and school was challenging but manageable. Bill had a few hiccups getting started at school thanks to admissions messing up some transcripts, but by the time we started out second terms, we were in the groove. I even decided to take on a third course in the spring that looked interesting.
Well, midway through that 3-course term, I found that adding on freelance on top of that course load was more of a challenge than I cared to take. The major reason for our move was to reclaim our freetime and have lives outside our jobs, and taking extra work was definitely ruling that out. The only problem was, teaching pays so little that we found ourselves basically saving nothing and living paycheck to paycheck without the help of design work. We were faced with a decision: how should I structure my time next year to (a) be happiest, and (b) be responsible to our future selves financially?
After a few conversations with the director of my school, and learning about what changes would be afoot next year, I realized that it was definitely coming down to an all-or-nothing scenario with teaching. I could move from adjunct to full time instructor, but I'd have to give up my freelance practice, except for, potentially, summers. We decided to make the leap, and while this will be a challenge in some ways ($$), it's really exciting as well. I have been given the opportunity to invest myself fully in academia, without the necessity of splitting my time.
Additionally, I'll be looking at ways to add to the OSU curriculum in meaningful ways, bringing my own education in Biomimicry and sustainability into some new courses, and maybe even helping to develop a minor. So while my client work will be taking a back seat after this next September, there are some great developments on the horizon.
Since pretty much everything I do these days is bikes (unless it's teaching), here I am again with another bike-related design piece. I'm handling the coordination and promotion for a bikepacking event through my team (West Coast Women's Cycling) and Oakshire Brewing. And since I figured it wouldn't really be worth the effort to make a flier unless it was cool, I decided to spend a little extra time on it and make some sweet illustrations. I am pretty happy with how it turned out, and I also got to use a rad typeface I've been wanting to work in somewhere for a while now (Calista by Lost Type).
And if you're wondering what Bikepacking is, it's a lot like backpacking, except on a bike, which means you can cover longer distances and explore more territory. It's also possible to adventure on the road and on trails by bike, and we'll be talking about both at our event. So if you're in the Eugene area on June 4, come check it out!
A design friend of mine recently contacted me about a job she had accepted but had since found she wouldn't have the time to complete - a jersey for the BikeMS charity ride. Knowing I'm rooted heavily in the bike world, she asked if I'd take it over for her. Normally these type of last minute projects aren't much fun, but I figured this would be no problem - I always keep a file of jersey ideas ready to pull out.
The organization wanted to focus on the stunning locations the ride route passes through, including Ankeny Wildlife Refuge, a covered bridge, hops and wine vineyards, and even a river crossing by ferry. I sent a ridiculous 8 versions to them, and this halftone was what they went with.
Treat people well. Every human knows inside themselves that this is a vital ethic, but we so often forget how vital it is. When we allow spite to creep into our conversations, we slowly chip away at the respect we feel for others, and the respect they feel for us. Trust evaporates. Relationships dwindle and disappear. Treating everyone (whether we like them or not) with respect and positivity can do nothing but improve our lives. Not all people will return the favor, but enough will to make it worth the effort.
Tuolumne Meadows under a fiery sky this past September. It's hard to not be here.