Thinking that I'd like to teach a design class

When I was in design school 10 years ago, they brought in three design professionals to teach our class in 6-week blocks. This was awesome!! We got a look at how the real world of Industrial Design works, and not just the basics of drawing, methodology, modeling, etc. Not that any of that isn’t worthwhile because it is, but having current design professionals teach us was great.

I’d like to do the same thing for a school that is a newcomer to teaching the profession. I think I could offer a lot and would love to teach their junior and seniors how things work in the real world of design. Everything from exhibit design, injection molding, branding, etc. It’s all stuff I’ve learned a ton about and would like to share my experience.

Granted, I don’t have a masters, so I can’t exactly teach. That’s not what I want to do full-time, but how should I go about suggesting to a school that it would be beneficial to bring in a full-time design professional to teach a class?

for sure, practicing designers are an asset in design education. that being said, experience alone does not equally qualify one for teaching. obviously i don’t know you or your experience so am not commenting directly to your case, but more the question in general… in my design education, we had quite a number of practicing designers teaching various courses. some knew a lot and were great educators, some knew little and were great educators and some knew a lot but were poor educators (not too many knew little and were poor educators, given that they’d probably have little to get them the job).

most schools I know of do have professionals teaching various classes. you don’t necessarily need a masters. actual policies though vary by school, sometimes without a masters you can only do a lecture course, not a studio one, or may be limited to the course credit value.

i’m currently teaching a 4th year minor 0.5 credit course at the school I attended (Carleton University School of Industrial Design B.I.D. - I’m also 10 years out), and it is a great learning experience for both me and the students (so I’ve heard). certainly being able to impart some real world experience helps in communicating the nuts and bolts as well as design thinking.

that being said, while I’ve had lots of experience what I think made it possible for me to teach was also my management and mentorship experience (having managed several teams of juniors, other educational program involvement and also mentorship work here on core and elsewhere). I think without all that it would be hard for me to get an educational gig.

in short, teaching is not only about what you know, but also how you can share that knowledge and help develop, encourage, and be critical of the students while keeping in mind a process that builds and strengthens skills and personalities. if you can make the case that you can do all of that and have a good depth of experience and practical knowledge, teaching may be your thing.

also to consider is what you would bring to the table that any designer out there wouldn’t. schools don’t hire every designer out there for a reason. do you have unique experiences, skills, a specific focus or speciality, experience teaching or mentoring? this is also key making your pitch.

my current teaching job happened out of coincidence, but in the past i’ve directly contacted some local design schools to make such a pitch. results were mixed. some thought what I could bring was valuable but there were no courses available, some had stuff i could do, but it didn’t make sense financially for me or add to my own development, and some weren’t interested without other qualifications. call around, do it early (schools plan their curriculum well in advance and hire professors early). if you don’t ask you won’t get.

best of luck.


PS. even given my experience I have to say it’s a lot harder than it look, and takes at least twice as much time in prep and marking as you’d expect, esp. the first year of a course.

alone, just being awake and attentive for 6+ hours in a crit and needing to give a good 5min comment to 20+ students while taking notes for marking is something I didn’t even think of and appreciate more now (compared to the 10 min you need to be conscious to present as a student). i have a lot more respect for profs now…

hi there, i think teaching is an awesome way to sharpen your skills, rethink old lessons and fundamentals, infuse yourself with new energy and new ideas…and its good for the kids too…
i have been lucky to go back to my old school and teach a few semesters of sophmore, junior studios over the years and i didn’t need a masters. basically i “helped out” by taking sections of a large class that had a lead, full time teacher. I think if you have to start from scratch, i.e. not just call your old professors, like i did, the main thing is trying to relate to them how the prjects and lessons they are already do are valuable and relate to things you do in the real world. rather than trying to sell them on what you can bring in from the outside, sell them on how important what they do is to what you do everyday, and your real world experience will only enhance the lessons and understanding for the students. its a lot of fun and i have to say teaching sophmores is way harder than teaching juniors, going back to fundamentals and visual language ideas is not easy, then trying to teach that to people with no experience of those concepts is even more difficult. its a great lesson for everyone! good luck!