22 November 2006

Belief, and the courage to speak up.

When I had the opportunity to lecture I stole a very compelling tool from my friend, and mentor Professor Richard Branham. Richard would frequently charge his students, and me, with one simple question, “What do you believe?” Richard’s point was that action, even wrong, is better than no action. Designers must think, and have convictions.

When I started my second design firm (d3), a groundbreaking effort that pioneered much of what is still being discovered about the web, interaction and design thinking. You won’t read about us like IDEO because we were in the agricultural Midwest, but our work and methods are something I am very proud of.

Our first “official” employee was a young man straight out of college named Tyler Galloway. Tyler worked tirelessly. He produced exceptional work and was always committed to whatever project he was handed… even when he had issues with the some of our clients. Tyler was more conscientious than most designers. Tyler knew what he believed and was not afraid to live, breathe and make personal sacrifices for those beliefs. Tyler eventually left the company because he felt that designing for some corporations was a compromising his beliefs. I admire that. Tyler and I continue to agree to disagree on the virtues of capitalism.

While as a young man I very much wanted to attend the Art Institute of Kansas City. I had aunts and uncles that studied there and it had its appeal. I later learned that, like most art institutes it was a place for rich spoiled kids to ‘not’ study, but attend a school. In ten plus years we never once interviewed a graduate of the art institute worth hiring. So when Tyler announced that he was going to teach there, I had my doubts. I new the school would benefit from Tyler, but worried for him.

What Tyler has done at that school is noting short of amazing. Sure, he teaches many of the expected courses like typography, web design, basic graphic design, but he is forging a new curriculum that only someone with his conviction and courage would pursue. He is teaching the altruistic and powerful potential of design beyond being the hired gun of a company. He is teaching of the political, social impact – and the responsibility one must take in even the smallest contribution to a questionable effort. In typical fashion Tyler credits someone else (Katherine McCoy) for allowing him to teach a class called “Visual Advocacy.” He is currently teaching a class called “persuasive ecology and design.” Tyler is talking about and teaching topics that designers typically do not. Tyler deserves credit and acknowledgment for his ground breaking and courageous approach. Tyler is a person that I greatly admire and seek to be more like.

You can find Tyler’s blog at www.thenewprogramme.net.