Empathy Leads to Exceptional Performances: Mark T. Smith in Graphis Journal #372

“The most-used skill set for a teacher to get exceptional performance from a student is empathy: knowing where they are and helping them see the possible pathways for their growth.”

Mark T. Smith has been working at the intersection of creativity, communication, and commerce for his entire career. He has crafted communications for a myriad of Fortune 500 brands, and his fine artwork has been exhibited globally. Smith also has decades of experience teaching at two of the most highly regarded creative schools in the United States, Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute. He has lived in New York City, Washington D.C., Miami, San Diego, and Hawaii, and currently resides in Seattle, where he spends his personal time advancing a creative studio practice, collecting motorcycles and vintage automobiles, and pursuing senseless adventures.

Mark T. Smith excels as an educator and creator, imparting lifelong skills and values onto the next generation of designers. The results of his efforts come through in his students’ dozens of design awards. He is known among students and faculty at the Miami Ad School for his empathy and practicality, meeting students’ individual needs while also preparing them for a future in the professional world. 

Here is a snippet from Mark T. Smith’s interview:

What might be a typical first assignment?

In terms of assignments, I always set up an assignment to be the starting point—the point of departure. I am not concerned with the end point, and I am distinctly not looking for a specific solution. I want the student to take the assignment as far as they possibly can to create great work, period. They have to be able to explain how they got to their final result, but the result is not as important as their process, development, and refinement. When executed properly, the results are solutions that are all unique and ultimately do not look like they came from one source.

Are real clients suggested?

Real clients are, without any doubt, the best projects to work on while learning. This can be a symbiotic relationship—the students get hands-on experience with a real client and the clients get real thinking from their target audience. I championed this type of arrangement at every place that I have worked in the educational sector. The proof of the value of real world learning can be seen in the current wholesale adoption of the apprenticeship models globally.

Might you also ask students to choose a passion of theirs for the assignment?

Rather than letting the students’ passions drive the direction, I prefer that they incorporate those passions into the work that they create for clients.

To read more of Mark T. Smith’s interview and discover other great artists and educators, check out Graphis Journal #372, which can be purchased online at graphis.com.

Author: Graphis