wanjema.com

Teaching Statement

Teaching Statement

 
 

My professional focus is in creating highly compelling user experiences across devices, the desktop environment, and content for all environments and service structures. As a designer with over 24 years experience, I have developed an eye for detail and keeping projects on schedule. I have worked with teams; led some as a supervisor and given presentations on various projects.

 As an instructor I have experience in designing Mobile Apps, Web Communication, Way-finding and Signage, along with Design Research, and Usability Analysis — these are just but a few examples of some of the things I have been able to teach my students’. By enabling an open and collaborative environment, I guide my students on how to explore topics or problems that they encounter every day. I have empowered them with tools to evolve in order to address current situations in a relevant way. Along the way I also help them understand that it is okay to question everything. Many discoveries and creative solutions come through exercising the right to question rigorously. I also want my students to understand how to organize information, to recognize the distinctions and cultural nuances of certain typefaces or shapes and how to appropriately apply them. My belief is that thinking-by-doing encourages students to look at their environment differently. It shifts their focus to look at challenges from multiple perspectives and realize how their perception influences their understanding of any given opportunity. My goal is to help guide students through this learning journey as a full-time professor.

 The classroom experience I foster is one of exploration and reflection, which in turn births creativity. To do this I often share stories from my experiences, highlight stories of other industry leaders and encourage students to share theirs also. As we get to know each other more, I find that the class shares ideas more freely. I find that using humor and getting to know the students’ names and their interests also makes the students know that I am genuinely interested in their progress and ideas. I create a friendly atmosphere, but with a very professional undertone.

 Alongside fostering a space for creativity, I also help the student develop design fundamentals like layout, typography, color, affordances and attention to detail. This helps shape the ideas into a visible form and communicate solutions. There are many ways to produce and learn these skills and I try to expose my class to as many as possible. Avenues like YouTube® or Vimeo® videos, product or service websites, books and other Internet resources. Basically, I want them to learn how to research their own solutions and find those that suit them best. This is one of the skills they will need in an actual job environment and my goal to help them learn it, understand its limitations and deploy it as needed.

 A specific example of my teaching philosophy is in the area of mobile, tablet, desktop and web design. Students need to understand the foundation of user experience. After they have done their research and iterated their solution; they then need to communicate their ideas. To do this, the students need to learn how to present and critique work. One of the ways I guide this activity is by asking my students to reflect on their ideas and processes and talk about that. As they get used to talking about their ideas, they develop a vocabulary of their own. Developing one’s own vocabulary takes time and that is why I incorporate critiquing at every stage of the iterative process in a project.

 To design for the multiple platforms of mobile, tablet, desktop and web, students will have to understand the foundation of user experience. They will have to understand how to work in collaborative environments, conduct usability analysis, and perform design research. They will then use that information to conduct user interviews and demonstrations. And finally, they will synthesis all the data collected and present it to clients and stakeholders.

 Another way to prepare students for what to expect in the work environment is to facilitate dialogue and interactions with practitioners of their specific discipline in the classroom, and set up visits to their various offices. This experiences are beneficial to the students because they can make connections and gathered insights on what to expect from that industry.

 I would like my students to start changing the world right in the classroom and not waiting to get out of college in order to do this. The skills of critical thinking or problem-solving strategies in this digital age are not just classroom skills, they are world survival skills and should be employed every day.

 My experiences specializing in print, digital, interactive and user-centered design, working with various software including Adobe Creative Cloud, Multi-Ad Creator, Microsoft and various Apples products; are incorporated into the learning environment. Drawing on these experiences I encourage innovation and process development while teaching practical concepts of the design industry.

Richard Wanjema MFA