Wednesday May 17th, 2017

SAA Guest Blog: A Graphic Design Instructor's Perspective

Think outside of the box. Go beyond the confines of what is considered correct and break all of the rules. This is what every creative is told from the moment they put pen to paper.

As a Graphic Design Instructor at the School of Advertising Art in Kettering, Ohio, it is my job to teach the fundamentals of design. Before starting any new project, I teach every student the importance of laying out a grid and implementing a set of rules and guidelines to follow. Create margins, gutters and bleed. Determine the number of columns needed. Set up functioning and efficient paragraph styles. From the very beginning, limitations are already being established. While structure is critical to good design, at times the limitations can seem like a hindrance for creativity. More than likely, there is also a book of brand standards the designer must adhere to, depending on the client. One thing I try to teach to every student is that while grids and rules are necessary, it is also important to find creative ways to push through those restrictions.

For young, aspiring designers, this is where we see some of their most creative work blossom. It can be a tricky process learning how much to push the rules and to know the limit of too much versus too little. Time after time, however, I see students breaking through the confines of their grids and structure in the most fantastic of ways. No limitations, no rules, just pure and unfiltered creativity at its best, often evolving in ways my students never even imagined. Without knowing it, they have created something special. It’s these moments that I find truly inspiring. They remind designers, young and old, that it is OK to experiment and think beyond the grid. They encourage us to go outside of our comfort zone and expand our own personal palette. Their creativity and rebellion to the grid generates more inspiration for those around them, for those that have the pleasure to see their work, and especially for those of us who are lucky enough to witness their development.

Young designers are the future of our visual world. Everything from our drive to work, to scrolling through Netflix, to our purchases on Amazon, will be influenced by their work. They are the trendsetters who will decide what is fresh and new, and determine the trends that have run their course. They will pave the way for innovative design solutions that we have yet to even imagine.

As I teach my aspiring design students the importance of a strong foundation and design structure, they remind me of the need to break rules and push boundaries.

Brent Presley is a 2005 graduate of SAA, former graphic designer at Graphica and has over 10 years of experience. His work as a senior designer included art direction, concept development, branding, print design and production, and trend research. Brent teaches Introduction to Applications, Design Basics and Print Production, and Advanced Typography.

Please see our complementary blog post from SAA student Megan Miller here.