I have been teaching design for a number of years now at the School of Art at the University of Manitoba. It is an incredible privilege to teach design and, during a pandemic, the work comes with a unique set of challenges as I have adapted my coursework to digital communications, projects and processes.

By popular demand (Twitter), here are my 10 tips for design students returning to class this fall.

  1. Attend every class. Even if all of your meetings are on Zoom, be there. Even if the class stinks, you may meet your future partner, friend, roommate, or colleague. Even if you had a super crap night, attend.
  2. Turn on your camera. As a visual learner, help other visual learners by showing your face. Your instructor will value this more than you can ever know. Your classmates will be like, yes, you are interesting. You know what is not interesting? Your name in white text.
  3. Write a lot. Keep a journal throughout the class. Ask questions of yourself and your material. If the questions don’t get answered, ask others in the class, and then ask your teacher. Write short, write long. Write Medium.
  4. Keep a process book. Draw, doodle, put it down, cut it out, paste it, stick it, paint it, craft it. Take photos of your work along the way. Review your process book every so often. Or never.
  5. Ask for feedback. Don’t allow your instructor let you off with a few words of kind encouragement. If you put in the work, find out what you might do next time to make the design more impactful, more exacting, more defiant.
  6. Find a friend. Try to connect with someone else in the class. Maybe it’s a reading partner. Or a design collaborator. Maybe you will make a zine together. Or a poster. Or a drawing blog. Find someone you can lean on. It could make a huge difference come November. brrrrrrr
  7. Don’t settle. Your class should help you see the bigger picture. Ask hard questions: why is this project, idea, process, framework, approach, methodology, or theory important? How can the class reframe your own work, aspirations, goals, or frames of reference?
  8. Participate. You’re probably kind of introverted. Almost all designers are. It stinks raising your hand. I find raising my hand almost impossible sometimes. But you deserve to be heard. Your voice is all that we have from you.
  9. Skip social. Take a break from stupid social media at least one day per week if you can. Your brain needs to rewire. Meet up with friends. Draw, doodle, collate, clean, cook, create, counsel. Or just go on a long walk. Like two hours.
  10. Be good to yourself. You are talented. You see things differently than others. You know when something is wrong and you know how to fix it. You are a designer, after all! Take the time to solve the problem. Then just breathe.