The State of the Arts: Follow Up

Clarifications regarding the article The State of the Arts: Graphic Design may provide more insight into the piece.

In my previous article, published in the 10th issue of The Crescent, Senior Lehman Pekkola was quoted: “they teach style and communication arts, not what’s new and upcoming.” Pekkola has since clarified that the “communication arts” referenced in the quote refers to the publication, Communication Arts, which is regarded by many as the TIME Magazine of design. “It’s been around for a long time, but like older publications I feel like it’s lost its relevancy, but they still keep pushing it. It’s old fashioned, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has its pros and cons. It’s important to know what used to be.” Pekkola said.

Sophomore Jordyn Dunseath was on the search committee for the new graphic design professor. The university hired Brandon Waybright to begin teaching starting in the Fall 2017 semester. “He’s awesome. He’s energetic, innovative, and conceptual. There’s going to be a lot of new wonderful classes,” she said.

In the previous article, the class Creative Suite I was mentioned. The class’s structure revolves around professor Bob Bredemeier’s tutorial videos, and Pekkola was quoted as saying “they should be teaching us what you can’t learn in videos.” Pekkola stand by his words, citing Google as an education landscape game-changer in recent times, but adds that “that’s not to discredit all the work he’s put into the videos. But also, in addition to the videos, I think we should be learning more concept.”

“The art department is very technically oriented right now, they’re training us to be technicians and then to think conceptually as we go out,” Pekkola said. He emphasized that this is not a negative, rather a personal preference to start conceptually and move to the technical side. On a similar note, regarding the quote “I’ve had to pave my own path,” Pekkola clarified that the reason for this is “because what I’m interested in is not necessarily what they offer.” Pekkola is interested in print publications, which could be considered more of a niche concentration. “I’m very thankful for all the opportunities the program has given me,” he said.

“The design world is constantly changing. And to keep up with it is very hard, especially for a university,” Pekkola added. However, freshman Allison Spoelhof points out, “they’re doing a good job of understanding what the program needs. With the new jobs coming into the market, especially in the art realm, it’s going to be really cool to see the diversity in the graphic design program.”

 

 

 

 

The State of the Arts: Graphic Design

Change is on the horizon for the graphic design program — and change important for a program whose ethos is rooted in innovation and forward-thinking. The revamp, which will see two new faculty hires in the 2017-18 school year, comes after a steady period growth over the past decade in the Art & Design department.

“The major has grown from only 20 majors 16 years ago, to over 120 this year, so we anticipate there will continue to be growth,” said Professor Jeff Cameron. George Fox University (GFU) will welcome Patrice Brown, an interior design professor, and Brandon Waybright, a graphic design instructor who will also be co-chairing the department.However, growth is not the only factor bringing about changes. Mixed reviews about the program’s curriculum and relevance are also contributing factors to the revamp.

A broader range of courses and a new approach to teaching certain classes could go a long way towards bringing the program up to speed. For example, Creative Suite I is structured for independent work; students watch tutorial videos to learn the course material. Students have consistently decried the class as ineffective. “It’s not a learning environment,” said freshman Sarah Parsons. “There’s not much actual instruction, it’s just videos teaching you.” Pekkola added, “They should be focusing on what you can’t learn in videos.”

Is the graphic design program sufficiently preparing students to enter the ever increasingly evolving market? “Yes and no,” Lehman Pekkola, a Senior design major, said. “The program is heavily geared towards illustration and technical tools with the exception of typography and marketplace branding. I’ve had to pave my own path.”

Pekkola also cited Professor Jillian Sokso, the acting department chair during Mark Terry’s sabbatical, as one of the best things about the department. “She brings a fresh perspective to the department. She and Ashley Lippard are a powerhouse duo,” he said.

Sokso has big plans for the graphic design program, and item number one on her agenda is breathing new life into the program.

“I’m hoping to make sure the program is as contemporary, relevant, and cutting-edge as possible, but re-emphasize the idea of doing good through design,” said Sokso. Cross-disciplinary, product, and industrial design will become new focal points through expanded course offerings. Additionally, Sokso plans to integrate more relationships with community and industry partners through internships, as job placement is a specialty of incoming instructor Waybright. “Web design is not a strength right now, so we are adding two new courses in coding and HTML,” Sokso said.

Sophomore Jordyn Dunseath appreciates the job and internship connections GFU has helped her develop but wishes they would add more assignments that pertain to real world design. “For instance, if there was a class that taught us solely how to brand a company, I think that would be really cool,” said Dunseath. As it turns out, a class like this might be just what Sokso ordered for next year.

Lippard will be expanding her teaching role to branding and ID systems, in addition to owning and operating the local boutique Pulp & Circumstance. “It will be a class where students will take on real clients and she will art direct them,” said Sokso.

There’s a social aspect of graphic design that needs to be addressed as well; a divide exists between the studio art and design branches. “The designers separate themselves a lot,” said Pekkola. “After freshman year, people diverge a lot. Sophomore year I felt that — I didn’t want to associate with the art department. But now I’m like, no, the art department is cool!” Unifying the department socially while individualizing the different branches is a tricky balance to strike, but not completely impossible, as evidenced by the new Art Talk program, which hosts local artists and designers on Monday nights at the Cultural Center.

Students are challenging the graphic design department to think more broadly and consider the design landscape the current generation finds itself in; accordingly, the department will introduce many new changes next year. Only time will tell if the revamp will bring the change that is needed, but if current plans are any indication, the program is on the right track.

Survival Techniques

“I teach because important lessons are learned when you’re wet and cold at 3 a.m. on the second day without food,” said survival techniques instructor Carl Anderson.

Survival Techniques is anything but a traditional class – the course equips students with the necessary skills to survive should they ever get lost in the wilderness.

The class is a mix of lecture, hands-on activities, and narrative, and centers on survival basics such as performing first aid, finding shelter, food, and water, and fire building. However, Anderson notes that “the most valuable tool you have is your mind, so we talk about improvising, problem analysis, and mental framing.”

The culmination of the class is a weekend survival trip where students apply all their knowledge and skills to surviving on their own for 48 hours in
the wilderness.

“When I introduce the weekend trip to my students I like to say that I wish I could take them up to Mt. Hood and drop them off a mile apart. If they are still here in two days, they pass the class,” said Anderson. Risk liability (among other issues) makes that impossible, but the outing is similar, if a bit safer.

“What we do instead is travel into a private wilderness area and set up semi-individual survival situations,” said Anderson. “Each student may bring seven items along with all the clothing they wish to wear; no food, no electronics, and no homework is allowed.”

The students arrive at the private wilderness with about two hours of daylight left, which forces them to immediately answer vital questions such as where to camp, what kind of shelter can be built, and where can food and water be located.

“The weather is always the one unchecked element of the experience. In past years, it has run the gamut between 65 and sunny, to downpours, wind, and even some snow,” said Anderson.

This class has a history and tradition dating back more than 40 years. Anderson took the class as an undergraduate in 1993 from Gary Fawver, who had been teaching the class since the mid 1970’s.

“He thought it would be a popular and practical course for college students,” said Anderson. “It turns out he was right, we have averaged 18-20 students per session for the past thirty years.”

Debriefing after the survival experience is the most exciting part of the class for Anderson.

“We lead such distracted lives that to be alone for 11 hours in the pitch dark with nowhere to go, provides a chance to  pause. Many students have written about how God has shown up during this time.”

Survival skills themselves are key to student success, but Anderson also hopes each student that takes the course will develop a more accurate mental picture of what survival is really like: “It is both not as scary as they may envision and not as easy as they may believe.”