Sumayya Alsenan

teaching philosophy

I quite enjoy teaching design. I am in fact almost obsessed with it.

Maybe because to me, it is the synonymous to being a student, which I also enjoyed –and obsessed over– tremendously. In teaching design I am constantly learning, and not just about typography methods, new theories, different ways to view color, or new technologies in design, but also learning about people, patience, music, new cities, new words, the various ways different people learn, and so much more.

On the other hand, I love and aspire to when a student approaches me and with so many words, mentions that I made a difference in their lives, it is one of the most rewarding feelings I’ve ever experienced, a feeling that I spent years trying to define or put in words, and still can’t.

When I am in the classroom it always seems that time flies. Engaging with the students always seems to come naturally, but since each group differs from the other, I  try to always find ways to get them to engage with each other and myself. Some students are quick to learn, some are slower, some struggle technically,  some  have problems at home, others have problems focussing in class, and some  just struggle in one aspect but shine in another, all this to me is a part of the experience. Working with the class as a group, but also working with each student based on their needs, is important to me. Finding ways to guide someone through something that they are really struggling with is on my mind in class ,but also on the train back home.

I believe that students can succeed in very different ways, goals and milestones are very subjective, so is color, and so is the feeling we get when we look at a word, and to me, planting a solid foundation in design theory, with a drop of design history, a lot of passion, context, and everything that the student learned and went through in their lives, is the best recipe for a successful designer. And below are just some points to elaborate on that and what I think about them:

Passion/Eating, drinking and living with design: 
I still think of, remember and appreciate the professors that shaped my passion and knowledge when I was a student myself and I aspire to do the same for my students. I work on sharing my passion for design with the students, get them as excited and "obsessed" about it as I am, and help them to find their own personal path with it.

I believe in the importance of establishing a good design foundation, understanding the value of design principles, and practicing the fundamental ideas of good visual design. Students should also get used to "talking" about design, to using terms like "unity", "repetition", "dominance" and "balance".  They should be able to critique each other, which will eventually lead to them successfully critiquing themselves, which is one of the hardest tasks of all.

Typography is the visual realization of the most basic element of communication; the word. I care about establishing a solid foundation of typography during class, whether it was in the attention to detail that comes with formatting large amounts of text (brochures, annual reports etc), or the ability to treat type as an image, and think of it as a graphic element rather than just a piece of information. Being able to understand and describe the anatomy of letters, and how small changes in "stems" or "ears" of different characters from different fonts could change the feel of a piece to the observer.

I value the historical importance of graphic design, and I am always trying to think of new ways to make students aware of the many different styles, movements, prominent designers or schools of thought that steered the evolution of graphic design to where it is today. It is to me as important as being aware of today’s new fonts or new technologies.

Wrong & Right/ Right & Wrong
Through good design may technically be subjective, there are several factors that can generally be classified as “wrong” or “right” which are dependent on the context,
goal, audience, time, place and designer to name a few. I work on letting my students make those decisions on their own using those parameters. I avoid making personal judgments as a way of critique or giving feedback which motivates them to find what they need themselves.

I want to do the best I can do with what I have, and to me, teaching is the most amazing way to do that; it simply completes the circle.