Over a decade of cross-cultural teaching in numerous locations has demonstrated to me the significance of perpetual discovery as a practice and informs my convictions as a teacher. The belief that I can be consistently surprised and fascinated are paramount to my teaching practice, where I act as a guide, artist and evangelist to my students. This collaborative process leads directly to compelling, unexpected idea generation, a waking up of the designer’s inner being. As an artist and designer for twenty years, I have learned the incredible value of drawing upon my surroundings and letting what I find influence my work. Living along the Rhine River in Germany directed my study of intentional, pragmatic design. Teaching in the isolated, Italian alpine village of Bobbio surrounded by the organic graves of the Waldensian’s brought into focus the importance of reflection in design. Curating and instructing in Istanbul guided a season of rhythm, pattern and story, influencing my teaching and work by integrating my host culture into my final product. Design is global. It impacts culture and is guided by culture. 


My students have benefitted from investigating their surroundings, seeking understanding and responding conceptually to their findings. Teaching in Istanbul. I sought to implement a passion for investigation. My course began by sending students to retreat for a day on a remote island with timeworn villages scattered over it’s terrain. On the island, they were immersed in a world new to them with the expectation that they open ancient doors, look around the next corner, investigate and photograph the unexpected. They found patterns, anomalies, beauty and wonder in photography. Manipulating the images and learning to combine them with visual punctuation resulted in profound discovery. A journey into the unexpected allows for a vital paradigm shift in concept.


According to the artist Kandinsky, contrast is the greatest principle of our time. Strength comes in understanding contrasts. To gain understanding is like being on a quest. Guiding my students through symbol design began on a isolated, trash filled, Black Sea beach. Students were to use only the materials they could gather to create a three-dimensional personal statement in response to their surroundings. Their full immersion into the environment with the added community experience forced students to think dynamically and create in innovative, unimagined ways. Moving from the beach to the studio, my students drew upon the thought process, investigation and implementation of their ideas and used the experience to challenge their approach to design. 


Collaboration inspires a richness and depth unseen by solitary identities. I believe integrating collaboration into the stages of development in design allows for pre-existing strengths to be revealed and newly found ideas to develop. Using visual conversations, where students offer suggestions using drawing or design, offers a distinct result that strengthens a final product. I have taught this concept to both artists and designers through exercises that combine music, alternative mark making tools and themes to demonstrate the value we must place on investigation and collaboration. The end results are never what is expected and distinctly informs the final design product. 


There is a growing new direction in graphic design, from strict visual solutions towards idea based solutions that encompass a broad spectrum of output. Teaching discovery, both personal and into the surrounding culture, the value of community, collaboration along with implementation of the core building blocks of design are integral to raising up new designers.