I enjoy teaching and mentoring students of various age groups, educational backgrounds, and nationalities from all over Los Angeles, United States and across the globe. Having taught over 1,500 students at UCLA Extension, California State University Northridge, Woodbury University and Mount St. Mary's University, has contributed to a diverse education on my part in terms of student demographics and variety of subjects.
Right: Packaging Design from Cristina Alcantar CSUN.
In Anthropology, Agency is defined as being able to act independently in making free choices. I believe a flexible teaching structure that allows for playfulness, fun, curious questioning and mistakes, fosters Personal Agency. For this reason, in most of my courses, I allow students to choose their own project topics. This approach provides an engaging experience in research and experimentation, leading to memorable portfolio pieces that contribute to student success and meaningful change in society.
One of my first teaching experiences at CSU Northridge Senior Project Class was leading the professional portfolio preparation for forty students from the diverse fields of Graphic Design, Illustration, Painting, Sculpture, Photography, Art Education and Animation. I quickly learned that I needed a unified and yet flexible structure with space for individual research and soul search within the timeline tasks. This menagerie of unique creative voices was quite a remarkable collection that spoke to the inseparable role of context in the pursuit of creative professions. Students were working individually and yet this was an involved and engaged collaboration as we shared curiosities, explorations, experiences, failures and iterations. I incorporate aspects of these Design Thinking methods in teaching Graphic Design.
In visual design projects, many of my students struggle in transferring their creative vision to computer designs. In their fascination with the glory of the computer and its exceptional visual design powers, they fail to see the direct connection between their own sketches and the digital realm. I require quick sketches to generate multiple ideas. One sketch is scanned and used as a guiding template to keep the integrity of the designer’s artistic touch. Regardless of designing a Swiss Grid or an organic layout, a book jacket, an information poster, an advertisement, a website, or an app, this is a fast way to achieve control in visual computer design. In finding the balance between one’s vision for the communication of a message and the outcome of its visual properties, the designer becomes a Creator.
As Creator, the Graphic Designer must strive to master both visual and strategic aspects of creating compelling solutions. Thorough understanding and experience in visual layout design, questioning, research, brainstorming, sketching, collaborating, failure and testing are essential. However, the first step in becoming a Creator begins with observation and the confidence in one’s own intuition.
My UCLA Extension online students are generally post-graduates who participate from across the globe. At the UCLA Extension Custom Programs I taught Design Thinking to Australian students from backgrounds in film, engineering, design, psychology and marketing. We invited The People Walker Startup Company as our Challenge Partner for the first project, in which students worked together to develop a walker recruitment visual campaign.
Chinese High School Students
At the UCLA Extension Custom Programs I co-taught workshop with Scott Hutchinson to help Chinese high school students navigate Art and Design college preparation process in the United States. We worked with students on a collaborative design thinking project to create the ideal travel wallet or backpack.
Experimental Workshop: Smart Phone as a Design Research Tool
I conducted an experimental visual storytelling workshop for my UCLA Extension Design History students. We filmed with our smartphones to explore the culture of Venice Beach. Students worked together to edit their footage into a short film. The project was accepted at the AIGA Decipher Education Conference and its Abstract was published.