After graduating from the dublin institute of technology in ireland with my degree in visual communications, I could not wait to get out there and experience the whole wide world. Back then, if anyone had suggested that I consider a career in teaching, I would have laughed at them. My feet were itchy, and it was time for me to get off the school bus, earn money, meet new people, and maybe even emigrate.
So that’s exactly what I did. I hopped on a plane and gave my dream a chance in america. And what a dream it has been.
There was no better time to be an art director than in the 1990s at arnold worldwide on the volkswagen account. I worked with the absolute best, the cream of the crop as they say. Most of all, I learned from the best. The work was strategic and strong. Creativity was the driving force. The possibilities were endless for growth, and promotion. Who could ask for more? Yet, despite being a very lucky irish colleen, there was something missing. Looking back, one might say I had a calling. I had an innate desire to further my education, learn even more, and possibly even teach! Yes, you heard the word, teach! I realized that my love of books and learning could be combined with my passion for graphic design. They were no longer two separate entities, and I did not have to give up one to do the other. Just like my fellow dubliner, george bernard shaw, I also dreamed things that never were, and thought, “why not become a teacher?”
After I had my two beautiful boys, I made the difficult decision to leave my beloved colleagues and friends to pursue a career in education. Today, I teach graphic design and advertising at blackstone valley tech in upton, massachusetts. This chosen path truly fills my heart. Clearly, there is no more traveling with fresh hot baked cookies from the american airlines first-class cabin crew, or parties at the top of the hub. No more company cars, plush bathrooms playing soft music (not to mention the luxurious toilet rolls), bonus paychecks, and an office view from the 19th floor over-looking boston’s beautiful back bay. My view these days consists of the 24 eager high school students who are starting to follow their dreams. I feel so privileged to be a part of their journey.
As a design and visual instructor at a vocational high school, I teach my trade (the history, technology, science, arts, and crafts of advertising and design) to a much younger audience than one would at the college level. Some of my students will pursue this field after high school and some will not. However, regardless of where my students end up, discovering the creative process, learning about the foundations of design, and just giving that right side of the brain a good old workout will only enhance their future career choices. At an early age, my students will learn to brainstorm, work in teams, problem solve, think out of the box, and, more importantly, realize their innate creative vision. They continuously surprise me in their efforts and there is no doubt that they are already competitive. While I no longer work at some of the top advertising agencies, I still work with the cream of the crop.
Daniel pink’s a whole new mind inspired me to explore opportunities in education. In this small global economy, we all need to stand out from the crowd. Pink believes that the right-brainers are the future in a world where asia, automation and abundance will take over. Information processing skills will be offshored and computerized, and the right-brained people (us creatives) will ascend in importance. Additionally, howard gardener, author of multiple intelligences, advocates for the development of both the right and the left-brain to fully experience the best of what humanity has to offer. Both pink and gardener know the importance of developing empathy, play, dance, movement, art, story, invention, and music in the human mind. They understand the future possibilities in a world where ideas, not just tools, formulas, or standardized tests, have meaning and purpose. During my career, rather than make pretty designs that merely satisfied the client’s needs, my creative directors and partners continuously pushed me to conceptualize and produce award-winning strategic campaigns. This was not always easy, and sometimes I struggled coming up with those big ideas. You see, we were not hired to just fulfill the job description. No, we were expected to go above and beyond. Today, as an educator, I hold my students to this expectation.
Since I worked as an art director on the vw brand, I like to start my advertising and design course by teaching a seminar and studio practice in retro advertising. Why? The concepts are simple, smart and timeless. For instance, use of the grid is evident in all vw ads, and the students connect with the concepts right away. Although my students and I pride ourselves on thinking big, we study bernbach’s think small campaign.
I wrap up my course with an exploration in punk art and design. We look at neville brody’s the face magazine (uk), and david carson’s ray gun magazine (usa). My goal is that my student’s work be raw and original. They must stand out from the clutter. In order to do that, we must look back, explore, and learn from the many amazing creatives who came before us. Thanks to my creative directors, former partners, producers, teachers, friends, and family, my students’ work already does stand out. Clearly, without you, I would not be here. But I must warn you, please hold tight to your jobs. You had better watch out for this next generation of designers and advertisers. Because their work is killer!