003. A Prologue with George Garrastegui: The State of Design Education

Abbreviate Transcript
Recorded 5.17.2019, Aired 6.7.2019

0:00:00 [bumper with sound effects]

0:00:07 [teaser intro]

I think that it’s adaptability. I think that designers in the way we think is a very unique thing. I think that we are positioned to be conduits between a lot of different businesses because we think along many different lines. And I think the fact that we're going away from the idea of production people or people who just do one singular thing — and I'm not talking about branding and design — but more of the production aspect, to where we used to have printing, and somebody would actually be the person who would check the files, and this, right. We’re thinking about, you know, how somebody needs to be able to understand web even though they're not working on the web. Understand RGB vs. CMYK even though they're not necessarily doing that where before you can be a specialist in a in a specific little thing, and I think now more people need to be — and a generalist isn’t a great term — but more generalist in the way that interested in different things.

0:01:03 [music]

0:01:08 [guest bio]

Pete: On this episode of The DESIGNED Podcast George Garrastegui. George earned his BFA from State University of New York Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and this MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). George is a designer educator and a creative Catalyst. He's a native New Yorker who looks to the city's rich history and culture for inspiration in his work. He has an extensive background in publishing, marketing, and strategy which allowed him to craft creative solutions for clients such as Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Cadillac, and Ford. When not teaching strategic thinking and process at the City University of New York, New York City College of Technology, George works to create industry connections and access for emerging designers via his role on the AIGA National diversity and inclusion task force. George focuses on projects that initiate and discuss the creative process and has turned that passion into the podcast Works & Process. George lives by the belief that you are not a designer because it's your job, you are a designer because it's who you are. The passion is evident in this episode as we have a lengthy conversation beyond the typical desired length for the design podcast. Every minute is dedicated to the discussion on creating success in design education and I know you'll find the conversation valuable.

0:02:27 [end music]

0:02:28 [begin interview]

Pete: George, welcome to The DESIGNED Podcast how are ya?

George: I’m doing good, doing good, thanks for having me!

0:02:39 [George Garrastegui’s background]

Pete: So just to let everybody know, give us a little bit of background on you, your path to and through academia, how'd you get interested in it, how do you find passion for it?

George: Okay… Well… I think after graduating college I went to my first job. That was doing an Art Director role for a small little magazine in New York and the AIGA was having a call for mentors for their High School mentoring program, and that was about 2002. And in 2002 I became a mentor with the AIGA New York and they partnered up with the High School of Art and Design in New York and you would be partnered with sophomores in there and beat asked to mentor them all through graduation. So for the next 3 years…

The idea of working with younger people and helping them find their passion and helping them discover the raw talent inside of them was something that really really was interesting to me and even though I was just starting my path… just finishing school and getting into teaching…

0:06:17 [trial by fire]

Pete: Oh WOW! That's a little bit like… what do they call that… test by fire or whatever they call it. What class was that? I mean there is no time to like prepare, like I don't even know how to, like, “what's a grade rubric…?”

George: I had no idea. It was a class called Digital Imaging. Which was basically teaching Photoshop, this was in 2009, so it was basically just trial by fire exactly what you said — but teaching Photoshop and teaching, you know… and the way I approached it was just, you know, you're going to give weird projects but you're allowing yourself to understand how to use all the nuances…

I got teaching that same class on Saturdays, on Saturday mornings for the next 3 semesters, and I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed that but what I knew was that I’m adjunct and an adjunct on a Saturday. There wasn’t a lot of people in the school, so I was kind of running on solo and not getting a lot of support, only because there’s just a couple classes in the school on Saturday. And I really started to realize I wanted to do this long term…

I remember it was in the middle of May and I was walking through Times Square walking home cuz it's a beautiful day, and I get a phone call from the department and they're like, “we saw your resume and application are you in are you still interested and would you like to interview for the position?” …I was like I like hold on. I literally had to walk through a quiet place and I was like what is the time, what is the date, what do I need?

0:20:20 [the state of design education]

Pete: So I think our journey has been kind of along the same timeline and I know that there's been a huge shift in design education. Things aren't the same as they used to be right? We live in such a screen base world now things are changing. So then what are your thoughts, in your own you if you will, the state of design education, so what do you think is the state of design education?

George: I think that it’s adaptability. I think that designers in the way we think is a very unique thing. I think that we are positioned to be conduits between a lot of different businesses because we think along many different lines. And I think the fact that we're going away from the idea of production people or people who just do one singular thing… There's no such thing as designing for everybody…

0:25:15 [are we there]

Pete: Do you think we're there? You know go back to that the state of design education; are we there? Is it time to adjust, are we adjusting, is there something we're forgetting?

George: I depends on who the “we” is. I think we live in a time where, you know, because there’s so many design schools and a lot of places are trying to, you know, commoditize what this skill of design is. They think that you can just be a good Photoshop person and you're a designer. They don't take into consideration that you use your brain, and you're thinking, and that makes you a designer too, you know. All of the institute's, the places that aren't, that are really just trying to chart out and make money off of students, who were trying to just figure out how they fit in the world, and they had an artistic skill, but maybe…

0:27:05 [what's your niche]

Pete: It's defining what your niche is, you know, what is your specialty at your university, at said school, whether it's a SVA, or a state school, or private school, or whatever it might be, but knowing what you're best at and focusing on that. I think I talk a lot about with a lot of Faculty, is, you know, what's the 4-year outcome? What does that look like? And then you kind of got to reverse-engineer that process to know what is it at 3-years, 2- years, 1-year, what are each of those steps.

George: We have been rethinking that. We’ve been retooling our curriculum at as of last year… We just reordered our whole new, brand new curriculum, which just organizes things in… We know what you're coming in with a certain skill set, so we're trying to build all of that in your foundational years, and then guide you a little bit more in your upper level years, or last two, to what you want to be…

0:29:23 [art and design, or art versus design]

Pete: Art and Design, or Art versus Design?

George: As somebody who grew up as just a lover of art and been drawing since I, like, as far as I can remember, I have to go art and design because I almost think that you can't take away the fact that the ability to see is in both. To be able to understand color and theory, and see beauty on a level that is about how they communicate information, about what is a form of expression and when it is a form of communication. So we know there's a different end result but if you understand how to view the world because you see that there's beautiful things in it and an artistic viewpoint… I think if you understand that then you're able to bring that same level of senseability to design…

0:38:14 [foundations, untouchables, changes]

Pete: Take this into that foundations discussion. We're talking about change, right, you know design education is changing. What do you see as untouchable for design education what should be done differently? What's missing, what could we do for change?

George: I mean untouchables are maybe the things that we use to communicate effectively. Typography is untouchable. The commands of understanding typefaces is something that we all need to be able to use to effectively communicate. Now, I've seen on some Twitter posts and things which we’ve had good conversations about people saying that rules and typography are; or, shouldn't always be, you know, shouldn’t always be focused on. I believe that once you understand how to break them then you can do whatever the hell you want but you understand what it is…

0:46:22 [not just a print designer]

Pete: And that even goes back to what you're talking about earlier. About students having to be able to do more, right. You know? You're not just going to be a print designer in a magazine. It seems to me that there's a lot more video, you know, there's a lot more app designers. You have to know enough that if they have a demand for something, that, you have to be able to be prepared to take that on.

George: And you have to be willing to experiment yourself. You have to be willing to take the risk, and saying you know what, I don't know After Effects or Premiere Pro; but Photoshop and a little bit of video, and I can see if I can make something work. And I see that as somebody having the ability, that is willing to work on their feet, and, thinking on their feet and their skillset…

0:49:01 [print vs digital]

Pete: Print vs. digital, right, so where do we stand there for design education?

George: Oh I mean as a person who grew up, you know, dealing with print I would say I want to say print as a you know; but it's telling me we have to be real. If we’re talking about students never looking at a magazine to design a multi-page book, right, we have to look at how they experience things digital. How do they translate ideas for the digital form? Because in reality you know we talking about…

0:55:22 [the future of design curriculum]

Pete: So where is all this going to put us for the future of design education? What’s going to be most important, 1-year, 5-years, 10-years?

George: We have to be able to still think. Right? I think that the ability for our students and for us to teach people, like you said, to think on their feet and then be resourceful is something that is not going to go away. As you know, you read a job descriptions of what they want entry-level designers to do, and it's everything… You if you're just going to be kind of one type of person in the design world… But if you want to be in the mix of, like, how do you shape design, how do you think about pushing new boundaries, right, you need to know where the limit is and how do you go past it…

1:03:06 [nuggets]

Pete: Any little nuggets that you want to leave for design educators as they continue to teach young designers?

George: I think we ought to continue to learn. I think we even though we're educators we have to be adaptable; to be able to learn all the new stuff that people are going through. Because once we are antiquated we're no longer of value to our students. Even if we're looking at things that are foundation level, if we're not knowing the end results and how that is supposed to translate to what these students, or anybody, is supposed to be doing in their careers then we're not valuable to them anymore…

1:06:35 [what’s next for you]

Pete: So being… constantly learning, constantly doing, constantly moving, is there anything that you want to tell the listeners about, the viewers about, before before we wrap up? What next for you?

George: As I mentioned I have my own podcast that I do, it’s called Works in Process, and It's literally just talkin to creatives to find out how they work and to get inside into their process. What are the steps they’ve taken to get there and then what's next for those creatives… right. Because I think that the same way anybody needs inspiration; and you know that you can do that right. We all need a LeBron and Michael Jordan to know that those people from Akron and from North Carolina and to these [people] can go somewhere right. We need to know designers and artists and writers and letterers and learn how they do these things. And to also realize that I think, I do, the same way… and if I do it the same way that they do, or they messed up and I messed up, and they're still here doing something which I really really respect… I can do the same thing. That alignment for emerging designers, of being like, it's okay to go do it this way… or figure it out… because the end goal… you're going to get there… you have to find out which way works best for you… what is your methodology…

1:13:30 [music and outro]

Thank you for joining me on this episode. The DESIGNED podcast website is located at thedesignpodcast.com, there you can find notes on the episode, links to our guests, links to resources and more regarding the many things discussed during each show. If you find The DESIGNED Podcast interesting and informative please subscribe on Apple podcast or on your favorite podcast service. You can also follow the design podcast on Instagram and Facebook [and Twitter] and subscribe to our video version of the podcast on YouTube. Please join us for the next episode of The DESIGNED Podcast and let's continue to create success in design education.

1:14:34 [bumper and sound effects]

Links of note!

Where to find George Garrategui online

Mentioned during the podcast

Music featured on this Episode

  • Opening and closing track: “Street Background Vlog Hip-Hop.mp3”

Where to find The DESIGNED Podcast

Where to find Pete Bella online

Contact The DESIGNED Podcast