“Dismissal is a context for poor teaching. I look for the incorrigible, the misfit, the sassy, the student who thinks for themself a little bit differently. Then I challenge them, and conversely they challenge me.”
Hank Richardson is the director of design at the M.AD School of Ideas in Atlanta. He is an AIGA fellow and recipient of both the NY Art Directors Club 2010 Grandmaster Teacher’s Award and the 2018 Educator of the Year Award from the Dallas Society of Visual Communicators. He is a director at the Museum of Design Atlanta, and has served on the AIGA National Board and board of the Society of Typographic Aficionados. As an educator, Hank brings strategic design thinking into his teaching, integrating design, business, and technology. Hank advises student leadership teams that translate into design-led business development for startup companies and products.
Here’s a snippet from Hank Richardson’s interview:
What is your process for selecting a student for your class?
What’s important isn’t selecting a student, nor a subject we might be engaging with, nor the amount of work, but all of their projects. I want them to learn—to author their values—to develop a style, a vocabulary, or a form that’s theirs, then go out and share it. Establish a unique identity that makes them stand out in this homogenous world we live in.
What are the qualifications you require?
I expect them to be constantly curious, passionate, genuinely concerned, and highly flammable.
How do you develop and raise your student’s visual and verbal standards?
I push each student with my style of teaching. This doesn’t make them more like me, but a more explored and discovered version of themselves. My classroom experience is a spectacle in itself. In teaching every subject from typography to product design, the focus in the classroom is around integrating design and real-world business scenarios. In a roundabout way, this is unique. I give lectures and answer questions for students with as much information and context as possible while miraculously tying things together in the end. Perhaps my most well-known class, Design History, has, for years, produced chair designs as an exercise in form where students combine a personal narrative and an era of art history. This class has become iconic to the M.AD School of Ideas, and is often considered to be the turning point in students’ lives and their design capabilities. It gives every student a feeling of new possibilities for what can be accomplished or reimagined. A simple mantra: I believe each student has an opportunity to change the world.
Have you ever dismissed a student or students from your class?
No. I try to lead them through a sense of imagination, not obedience. Dismissal is a context for poor teaching. I look for the incorrigible, the misfit, the sassy, the student who thinks for themself a little bit differently. Then I challenge them, and conversely they challenge me. I look for the hell-raiser instinct, someone who pushes. The best kind of student fights to disrupt the status quo—that is the student I make the lieutenant, and inevitably it is that student who becomes not only the general, but the great general. That is the student who will ultimately go out and succeed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
With the semester’s end, what kind of advice do you give to the class?
There are three things I counsel which will grant a student success—perseverance, commitment, and patience.
Read more of Hank Richardson’s interview and discover other great artists and educators in Graphis Journal #374, which you can purchase online at graphis.com.