J David Deal | Telling is not Teaching
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Telling is not Teaching

photo by Kaitlyn Roberts

Telling is not Teaching

Continuing my adventure of teaching design to students who hope to, one day, be graphic designers…

My student asked for some help with a magazine layout she was working on. Immediately I saw 3 design issues that were easily solvable. A few years ago, I would have told her how to fix them and congratulate her on her beautiful work. This approach was my go to way of working with junior designers in the professional workplace where time was money and deadlines loomed.

As I have gained experience teaching design classes I have found that there are better ways when working one on one with a student. I have realized that I have started to lead a student to the solution instead of defining it for them. “Lightbulb!” What I do is define the overall problem I am having with the design (such as lack of hierarchy, typographic contrast or visual dynamics) and then let the student themselves verbalize their way to the solutions. Sometimes this can be time intensive and frustrating for both teacher and student but I believe that my design students are getting better faster because of this approach.

On a few occasions, when the frustration peaks, I will set up a similar design problem and, with the student(s) looking over my shoulder, design while verbalizing my thought process, design, brand, typographic and conceptual considerations and talk about about how each decision affects the other aspect of the design. Really fun for me and, I hear that, it’s illuminating for the student.

Now when it comes to correcting issues in craftsmanship that will become production problems I just flat out say “fix this and don’t do it again”. Sometimes there is a cut and dry right and wrong!

I don’t know, maybe everyone teaches this way, but I like it.

Thanks to Kaitlyn Roberts for the photo and Zheng Luo for listening.