Alongside my professional career as infographer, teaching has nearly always played a part. I seemed to have a natural aptitude and enjoyed it into the bargain. From 1974 to 2014, to a greater or lesser extent, I taught infography and later was also a course-leader. It's difficult to reduce a 40 year career in art & design education into a concise overview. Over such a long time there have been so many, students, colleagues, projects, assignments, assessments, memorable moments, graduation shows, excursions, lectures and so much more that it is impossible to cover them all. So this is a short, history of my varying involvement with art & design education from my first steps in 1974 to my retirement in 2014.
My first encounter with teaching was sometime in September 1974 when I was invited by Colin Rattray, one of my former teachers, to become a part-time lecturer at my old college, Hornsey College of Art. At that time the college was still housed in the former primary school at South Grove in north London. As a beginner I initially achieved rather mixed results with the 2nd year students on the Technical Illustration course, although I did gradually
improve over time. Later I was invited to teach Technical Illustration at Bournemouth & Poole College of Art by the energetic and enthusiastic Stanley Paine from whom I learnt a great deal. I must have done something right during these early endeavours as both he and Romek Marber, Head of Department at Hornsey, gave me good references when I decided to move to the continent in 1978.
When I moved to The Netherlands in 1978 I was offered a position as part-time lecturer at the Akademie voor Kunst & Vormgeving (AKV) in the city of Den Bosch. I had been introduced there by a good Dutch friend, Jelle van der Toorn, and was tasked with covering the basic aspects of drawing, visualising and Information Design to students on the Graphic Design course. I taught drawing from imagination, analytical drawing, perspective construction and the basics of airbrushing. At that time the college was housed in purpose-built accommodation on the Pettelaarseweg and a typical group consisted of 5-8 students, quite a difference to today's numbers. Whilst I started teaching in English, I gradually learned Dutch from the students, particularly during a
departmental trip to London in 1979 where we visited some of my old haunts. I also built up valuable teaching experience which led to me securing official recognition by the Ministry of Education in 1980 together with a welcome pay rise. In 1981 the Graphic Design and Illustration courses were merged to form the first department of Visual Communication in The Netherlands that now also included a new variant, namely Information Design. I helped with some of the early curriculum development and the subsequent implementation when the college moved to new premises on the Oude Dieze. The old Pettelaar building was sadly demolished to make way for a block of flats.
Not long after the move to the Oude Dieze the then course-leader, Karel Beunis, unexpectedly died and I was approached by the Vice Dean who asked if I would be prepared to take over the role. With some trepidation but reassured by the pledge of support from more experienced colleagues I agreed to give it a try. Alongside my regular teaching work I became responsible for timetabling, assessments, student recruitment, staff meetings, budgetary matters, communication and general administrative work. Besides this I monitored and managed the further implementation and development of the new department - VisCom as it had become known - which involved bringing the differing educational methods and ideas together into a more unified whole. During 1984-86, in common with the other course-leaders at AKV, I developed the curriculum for the new 4-year course now
required by the Ministry of Education. They had imposed the hefty reduction of one year, so from five to four years including the foundation year, as part of a cost-cutting operation, known as the STC process, and also stipulated that all higher education institutes should be of a certain minimum size. This meant that our college was obliged to merge with other schools to become part of the new Hogeschool 's-Hertogenbosch. AKV was one of the first colleges to offer a new 4-year course starting in August 1987 and was also a pioneer in the development of an international network under the new European Erasmus programme. As part of this project, together with colleagues, I visited an education trade fair in Toulouse where we established contacts that later led to successful exchange programmes for both students and lecturers.
After several demanding years as VisCom course-leader I resigned my position in June 1987 opting to continue as a regular part-time lecturer. A promising replacement was found who started at the beginning of the new academic year in August. Around this time the Information Design graduation path was discontinued due to lack of interest from students and I taught basic Information Design for the remaining Graphics and Illustration paths. As I noticed that students had little knowledge of design history I developed an overview of major cultural events since 1880 that I often used as input for my assignments. Later I migrated it to HyperCard but of course it was soon superseded by the arrival of the internet.
In 1988 VisCom joined the rest of the art college in the former Remington factory on the Sportlaan where we had much more space and better facilities. As part of an important symposium on the future of newspapers we held there, I helped with the organisation of a talk by Jürgen Müller from IFRA about infographics, including a trip to Frankfurt to discuss possible approaches with him. Besides this I visited the academy in Strasbourg with colleagues to extend our Erasmus network, was a member of the editorial committee for the annual graduation catalogue and successfully completed a course in Adobe Illustrator 88 on a Macintosh SE computer!
Unfortunately it did not work out with our new course-leader. When he left in July 1990 I was approached by the Dean to ask if, together with a colleague, I would take over the role once more until a replacement could be found. We agreed and, as part of the ongoing STC process, was responsible for calculating the newly required detailed budgeting of our VisCom courses and later for a comprehensive revision of the VisCom curricula as a whole and the Illustration course in particular. These were turbulent times at college: amid much tumult the Fashion Design course was axed whilst student numbers as a whole were down. To remedy this, together with colleagues, we initiated the production of a special newspaper about AKV to attract new students. However, despite its success the paper was not enough to prevent an unpleasant episode in which the Dean was stood down in May 91, after a motion of no confidence, and replaced by an interim dean in
August. To top it all, there was a major fire at the college in January 1992 in which the entire VisCom wing, and a lot of students' work, was destroyed. Pending a re-allocation of space, VisCom was housed temporarily in studios on the first floor before moving to the ground floor. Fortunately I was also involved in much that went well during this period: we visited a fellow college in Poznan, Poland in a successful exchange project in October 1990 and they visited us in May 91; students produced an illustrated calendar for the Dutch Postal Service (PTT) and, despite the fire, our first cohort of students from the new 4-year course graduated successfully in June 91. Besides this I was invited to give a guest lecture at the St Joost college in Breda and was later invited back for a guest semester. At AKV, happily, a new dean was finally appointed in March 92 and at the end of the year a permanent replacement was found for the post of course-leader for VisCom.
As a part-time lecturer I taught Information Design to the 3rd and 4th year Graphics and Illustration students. Building on my cultural overview ideas I devised, amongst others, assignments about the Pythagoras Theorem, Odysseus, the use of visual analogies, how to operate a simple camera for children, classic Dutch literature, La Bohéme, Chandler's 'Farewell My Lovely', the Catalog of Cool, how to tie a shoelace, modern heraldry, the Pavlov effect and the analysis of a typeface. After writing a short departmental memo about new media I also briefly covered basic aspects of CD-ROM interface design in a couple of assignments. With colleagues I also taught on early experiments with joint projects such as the annual Poetry Festival initiated by Illustration in 1995 and the Siemens calendar competition in 1998. For teaching the graduation groups I developed diagrams explaining the design process and a method for clarifying graduation project aims which came to be known as the 'Easter Tree'. In 1996 together with colleagues I visited Bristol and Cardiff Universities in the UK to assess possibilities for exchanging students and or lecturers as part of the Erasmus programme. Other, more customary VisCom excursions included trips to Gdansk, New York and Barcelona with students and colleagues. From 1997-99 I worked on the design and development of an interactive Placement Database for both Graphics and Illustration students. Unfortunately, as a standalone application, it was overtaken by the rapid spread of the internet which made the same information available via online websites.
In a more general capacity I was a member of the college Library Advisory
Group and made a point of suggesting acquisitions covering the theory and history of Graphics and Illustration, as well as anything related to new media. I was also briefly a member of the Theory Group established to develop ways of finding more time for Design and Illustration history alongside the obligatory History of Art. And in 1999 I became a member of the College Staff Council which was tasked with responding to changes in college policy, organisation and administration. For the first ministry accreditation of the college in 1995 I helped with the preparation of our self assessment and the exhibition of students' work. Later I also worked with others on improving the shortcomings of the VisCom curriculum that had been identified by the accreditation committee.
With major changes regarding international course status and new minimum college size requirements from the Ministry of Education for all Dutch Art & Design schools fast approaching I contributed to the drafting of AKV's profile and positioning document. This subsequently formed part of the process for the envisioned merger of AKV with the St Joost college in Breda in 1998 and led to a pilot workshop project to test the waters featuring the Illustration departments in Den Bosch and Breda in which I participated. With the ramifications of a likely merger in mind I gave a lecture for colleagues entitled 'The Gap' (De Kloof) about the looming discrepancy between developments in the profession and course content. When I learned of a vacancy for course-leader Graphic Design in Breda in May 2000 I applied and, after a successful interview, was appointed and started the following August.
In Breda I was responsible for all the regular organisational and administrative aspects of running the Graphic Design course, as well as the much smaller Fashion Illustration department. I was also part of the so-called core-team that kicked off the necessary upgrade to the Graphic Design curriculum in general and that also began setting out the new system of competence-based education that would be required for all courses under the Ministry's latest edict. In May 2001 I oversaw the development of a new curriculum for the general Illustration course that would be replacing the outdated Fashion department from August. I was also jointly responsible for the selection and appointment of the new lecturers and core-team members, of which I was one. Besides this I was pleased to be invited to teach basic aspects of info/graphics on the new course.
In Den Bosch I was still part-time VisCom lecturer and developed assignments for the new 4th year students that would prepare them for the way of working required during the impending graduation phase. Via a project revolving around annual reports I encouraged them, working in small teams, to do the necessary research, analyse and draw conclusions, develop a personal point of view and finally to give a presentation about their findings. In a more general context I helped with the further revision of the VisCom curricula as a necessary step towards working with competencies at AKV too.
Due to the pressure I was experiencing from working at both locations of the proposed new, merging academy in June 2001, and amid some controversy, I arranged with the Dean of AKV to concentrate my course-leader and lecturing activities in St Joost from the beginning of the new academic year.
As part-time lecturer for the new intake of Illustration students at St Joost I was tasked with covering lettering, the basics of typography and pictography for which I developed presentations and assignments. For the 3rd-years I devised simple informative projects such as creating a portrait of a famous individual via imagined personal possessions. I later organised and participated in the first department excursion to Siena, the Bologna Book Fair and Venice in April 2003 and Antwerp the following September.
As course-leader for both Graphics and Illustration I was responsible not only for the day-to-day running of the departments but also more specific matters such as participation in the new intranet system and preparations for our accreditation in February 2002. With the introduction of nationally agreed Bachelor competencies and professional profiles for all Dutch art & design courses in October 2002, I was responsible, together with the core teams, for the implementation of this new standard for both departments within the framework of the college-wide AHAS Project. I also worked on an increasingly
cross-location basis to harmonise these curricular issues in both Den Bosch and Breda. In this context I also proposed the notion of a professional identity for graduates as an important educational aim, something I had first put forward in my 'De Kloof' presentation.
Specifically for the Graphics course I overhauled the assessment procedure to make it more transparent for students, improved intra-staff communication and organised and participated in a departmental excursion with students and lecturers to Zurich. On the curriculum front, significant progress was booked in the core-team with the development of a matrix of visual rhetoric for graphic design and the notion of an 'independent editorial designer' as an important dimension of the professional profile. Towards the end of 2003 I was asked to become the official bi-location course-leader for Graphic Design at both AKV and St Joost. Whilst I continued as a lecturer for Illustration, I handed over the course-leadership to a colleague as it would have been simply impractical for me to continue in so many functions.
In January 2004 the Hogeschool 's-Hertogenbosch and the Hogeschool West-Brabant officially merged to form Avans Hogeschool. This in turn meant that the art colleges in Den Bosch and Breda now formed one institute that would be known as AKV | St Joost. As the new cross-location Graphic Design course-leader I formed a new core-team with members from both colleges. Together with this team I started work on harmonising teaching and assessment methods, the programming of the curriculum over the three years of the course and, most complicated, the differing educational priorities and philosophies. For this I managed to define a common underlying departmental structure whilst leaving room for nuances and profiling at location level. Besides this I organised and participated in departmental excursions to the KISD art college in Cologne in January 2004 and later to Parsons School of Design in New York in October. During our visit to KISD I learned for the first time of experiential learning and recognised it as a valuable method that we should try to introduce at home. I also attended the Cumulus conference in Oslo in May 2004 to assess whether it might be of use to us in extending our now somewhat depleted international network of Erasmus partners. Finally, together with all course-leaders I prepared and organised the introduction of cross-college minors, the final element required for our new Bachelor of Arts degree status. In conjunction with all
the changes involving competences and professional profiles this moment also marked the change from the traditional more lecturer-centred approach to art & design education to a student-centred approach where the student was more in control of his/her study.
In my capacity as part-time lecturer on the Illustration course at St Joost I continued with my introduction to typography for illustrators, gradually developing presentations to explain the use of the typographic variables. For the more senior students I encouraged research and visualisation of more abstract subjects such as emotional maps of buildings and, with colleagues a joint project to produce a personal illustrated magazine. During this time I also began to experiment with self assessment by students, partly as a result of my enthusiasm for teaching competencies and Kolb's theory of experiential learning. I also tutored the 4th-year group that in June 2004 formed our first successful graduation cohort from the new Illustration course. Finally, I participated in a major cross-departmental discussion early in 2004 as to whether, in the future, Graphics and Illustration should be regarded as separate domains or not. After arguments back and forth it was decided they should proceed as separate disciplines which in turn meant that, regrettably after so many successful years, VisCom would be split into two independent courses.
As the new course-leader, early in 2006 I was tasked with carrying out a thorough revision of the Illustration curriculum intended to give the course a strong, new, updated content and identity for the future. Together with the cross-location core-team I produced a proposal covering an overarching professional identity for the illustrator, the notion of both visual and metaphysical styles for the illustrator, professional roles and contexts, a 3-year programme utilising the Kolb experiential learning cycle, four clear didactic functions, a completely overhauled system for placements, the introduction of self-assessments and student mentoring. The plan was presented in April and successfully introduced in August. In the following years I worked on the further refinement, revision and updating of the curriculum in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013, although much of the original foundation remained intact. Another major step forward was the realisation of integrated project-based education in 2010. The Illustration course was so innovative at one point that I was invited by the Vice Dean to give a presentation about the progress we had made to the rest of the college during a symposium in January 2010.
At other moments I was responsible for overseeing the introduction of a student mentoring system, competence (self)assessments for students, the Blackboard intranet system, a joint, interdisciplinary minor with our Animation department, the supervision of the annual graduation exams and organising and participating in trips with students and colleagues to Rome, Istanbul, London and Barcelona. Together with our theory lecturer I
developed a web-based platform that enabled students to produce and publish their own professional and theoretical research work that we christened the 'ILupedia'. With various groups of students and colleagues I supervised or worked on projects with KLM, Nigh & Van Ditmar Publishers and the Municipal Council of Breda as well as a joint graphic novel project with the Llotja School in Barcelona that was presented during the 2010 FICOMIC expo there. In a more general context I made the necessary and extensive preparations for the accreditation visits in 2007 and 2013 and was a member of the college Professional Advisory Board that ensured we kept in touch with developments in the field.
In my role as lecturer, which I always enjoyed so much as it kept me in touch with our students, I continued to teach the basics of typography and info/graphic design but now mostly as part of an integrated project. In Breda I was responsible for teaching the complete placement path that we had put in place for students, consisting of research into professional contexts and roles, assembling a portfolio, designing a visual identity, building a website, drawing up and evaluating a placement plan, organising an exhibition of placement work and formulating an initial professional position. Incidentally I gave guest lectures about Information Design at the St Lukas Academy in Antwerp, the Graphic Design Masters course in Breda, as well as the unfortunately short-lived Interaction Design course.
After 40 years in Art & Design Education I retired on 1st July 2014.
Looking back, it's clear a lot has changed during 40 years in Art & Design Education !