Advice for Aspiring Designers: Brad Bartlett Featured in Journal #369

When it comes to shaping the next generation of aspiring graphic designers, few professors give great advice like Graphis Master Brad Bartlett. A designer, artist, author, and educator, Bartlett earned a Bachelor’s degree in graphic design from North Carolina State University, and later earned his Masters’s degree in design from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. When he’s not working on design projects, Bartlett passes on his knowledge to students at the ArtCenter College of Design, where he has been teaching since 1999 and was awarded the Great Teacher Award in 2003 and 2014. Even more impressive is that his work has been recognized by the Art Directors Club, the Type Directors Club, Communications Arts, AIGA’s 50 Books/50 Covers, Dezeen, Graphis, I.D., How, and Print, among numerous others. He’s also a four-time winner of the Frances Smyth-Ravenel Grand Prize for Excellence in Design by the American Alliance of Museums.

“One of Brad’s attributes that has impressed me the most is his ability to question and explore the role of the graphic designer and to re-imagine the possibilities of what graphic design can be,” Rudy Manning, the founder and chief creative officer of Pastilla, wrote. “That ability allows him to make connections in other fields such as technology, film, language, and sound. Brad gets influenced by these disciplines and brings them into his design practice to create something new.”

Here’s a couple of questions from his Q&A:

What is your process for selecting a student for your class?

My highest intent is to create the best possible conditions for a student to be successful in our classroom. Although there isn’t a formal process for selecting students, I make sure to meet with each one prior to the enrollment process. This informal conversation is important, as it not only gives me a sense of skills and competencies but insight into deeper motivations. I want to know their story. I want to know who they are, where they come from, and how they interpret the world.

Can you name a few of your past students who have gained success?

I’ve been lucky to have been part of the educational experience of so many great students, and so it’s difficult to list only a few. Paul Hoppe is an associate creative director at 2×4 and was my teaching assistant at ArtCenter many years ago. Daniel Young was also my teaching assistant and now he leads a team at Google. Ben Schwartz was a Walker Art Center Fellow and is a gifted writer and book designer whose work I collect. Yuma Naito leads a team at Apple and was one of our most celebrated recent graduates. Lastly, Roy Tatum was my teaching assistant and also our valedictorian. He’s worked at IDEO and Nike and now teaches with me at ArtCenter.

With the semester’s end, what kind of advice do you give to the class?

Several years ago I was honored with ArtCenter’s prestigious great teacher award and had the opportunity to speak before the graduating class. Here’s the advice I shared with them:
• Meaning is not found in the objects we create or the artifacts we design, but in the relationships we share with each other as humans.
• A career is not something out there that you find. It’s not hidden under a rock in the sculpture garden. It’s not pinned to a bulletin board on Hillside Campus. It’s not posted on a website somewhere. It’s something you actively construct over time.
• Your intellectual curiosity is contagious. Spread it widely. It’s the antidote to conformity and groupthink …
• We all aspire to create change and to make the world a better place, but that can seem like a daunting task – an insurmountable challenge. Simply start small. Then make better. Then inspire others to make better. Small steps towards a larger goal. And that larger goal is to create real change.

To read all of Bartlett’s Q&A, purchase Graphis Journal #369 now!

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