Research Statement

I push every facet of my practice towards helping myself and  others to become self-actualized and cogent cultural producers.

I create, design, and teach in order to make the world a better place. My focus is the cultivation of emotional and intellectual metacognition. If I and my viewers learn more about how we process the world around us, we are far better equipped to live overall. This philosophy has imbued my every effort: my teaching, research, art-making, and design.

Beginnings

After I earned my BFA in Printmaking from James Madison University, I went on to Cranbrook Academy of Art where I studied 2D Design under P. Scott and Laurie Haycock Makela. They taught me to use my overriding obsession as a lens to look at the world, which utterly reworked my creative process. After years of trying to get my diaristic studies to catch take off, I developed a whole new body of work wherein I combined my activist urges with a love of typography and package design. This evolved into the Monstress Productions line of conceptual products, which I have continued to create to this day.

These efforts have been the workings of my creative id, wherein I work out issues time and again, only to bring a heightened awareness as to what I have most to offer and to learn at any given time. I wrote a manifesto at Cranbrook (at left) that I have used as my creative moral compass ever since. Over the years, I have worked for clients such as Coca Cola, British Airways, Graco, and the College Board. I spent over five years developing interaction products for Scholastic. I have developed cross-platform branding solutions, long-term transactional education sites, and truck loads of ephemera. Throughout it all, my main resolve has been to first and foremost impart the tools my end user may need to make a better life for herself.

Current Practice

In 2008, I entered the world of college-level instruction, eventually teaching as an adjunct at four different schools at once. This trial by fire allowed me to once again reboot my preconceived notions and see every class as a chance to design for the greater good. In 2011, I was hired as a full-time instructor at the New York City College of Technology, teaching for the Department of Communication Design. I also teach Web 1 classes at Parsons. I have taught all over New York City, which has allowed me to develop a means of reaching diverse groupings of students more readily. I have developed far more adaptability than I ever knew possible. I hope my students find me to be a receptive and accessible instructor as that a primary goal for me in the classroom, regardless of the venue.

My roots as a printmaker and artist have been weaving themselves back into play as I find my students have come into my classes without substantial training in hand skills. They are inured by screens but have no ties to the actual experiences the GUIs and metaphors are based upon.  This is a tremendous disadvantage: my students often have an odd mix of overdeveloped confidence in their ability to design and utter passivity in the face of digital tools. I have developed several compacted, targeted lessons to give my students the essential experiences they need to leap into design thinking with rigor. Although I am myself an interaction designer who works mainly with a computer, I am compelled to teach my students to produce great work with whatever tools and materials they have at hand. As I say over and over in class, use the tools you were born with before the ones you bought.

I have cemented these observations into a body of nascent research, which I am beginning to present to my peers. Last year, I was invited to present a rough draft of my paper, “Reaching Everyone: Using Printmaking to Teach Metacognition to Low-Performing Students“ to the Southern Graphics Council Conference. I have expanded my observations beyond printmaking and am leading a workshop for interested design instructors at this spring’s Ninth International Conference on Design Principles and Practices. It is entitled From the Haptic to the Virtual: Teaching Metacognition to Designers.

I am working hard to use this research to shape classes across the curriculum in my department at City Tech: I am an active member of the Curriculum Committee, and have developed and co-written key courses. I am the Course Leader for both Foundation Drawing and Type & Media, my rewrite of the old Type 1 class. I hope to infuse both with a balance of hand and digital exercises which will firmly support the overall learning objectives of the department. I am also working with the instructors teaching these courses in order to help raise the quality of the student work overall. On the college level, I have become a leader on the General Education Committee in order to shape efforts across schools that could benefit the entire institution. This has been a great way to collaborate with like-minded professors from entirely different disciplines.

Overall, the first four years of my full-time teaching career have been enormously productive: I have developed wholly new approaches to my discipline in order to keep myself ready to serve my students. I have mined every past experience I could to reinvigorate the material and give my students a solid foundation. I have been able to finally fuse my design and art work into stronger pieces such as Here & Now and Ennui Free, getting closer to the sort of life-changing applications I hope to develop in the future. All the while, I have been able to build a keen love of curriculum development, which I see as an enormous opportunity to serve the larger community.

Future Focus

I am now blending my art, design, teaching and service into a pure beam of productive research: I want to pursue significant grants in order to design projects such as the open-source design education course I am in the midst of developing. Using the lessons I have developed so far, I am focusing first on a typography course that would be taken via tablet, taking advantage of the haptic possibilities of that device to give students an experiential foundation no matter their locale.

In order to produce truly credible research, I hope to pursue an advanced degree in Cognitive Psychology so that I may fuse my current expertise to theories and practices I can use to prove my findings in the most academically sound way possible. This would take a while, but as I plan on spending the next 20 years working this vein of knowledge, I am willing to put in the effort. I want most of all to be a resolute resource for my school, discipline, and fellow practitioners.