Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Starting to Pay Off

This is the first semester that reflects the results of the revised Graphic Design curriculum at Colorado Mountain College which has enabled students perform stronger as the move deeper into the program. The results are visible, as in the two posters created by the Graphic Design I class for the CMC Theater Department. Jennifer Balmes designed the Inherit the Wind poster. Truce designed the I Hate Hamlet poster. Both posters were printed 4-color process litho at Gran Farnum Printing in Glenwood Springs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Powder on the Horizon

We had our first snowfall this week at Colorado Mountain College. Indian Summer is forecast for November, but this preview of winter is fun. Many of my students are already planning their snowboarding and skiing adventures.

I had the opportunity to attend the AIGA Design Education conference in Raleigh, NC in October. It confirmed the appropriateness of the learner-driven approach to design technology we started last spring and have continued in the Intro to Computer Graphics course this Fall. With the expanding range of proficiencies required for professional practice, educators across the country our struggling to adapt their curriculum to best prepare their students for an environment where design aptitude and technical proficiency are just the beginning. There was a lot of talk about “soft skills” and the ability to work effectively across professional disciplines. I guess I’m a bit relieved that my anticipation of this direction has our program at CMC on a good path.

I’ve started getting responses from the recipients of the promotional poster mailing that dropped a couple weeks ago. Several teachers in design programs at Denver area high schools are interested in my visiting with their students to share how the Graphic Design Program at CMC would be an excellent choice for their future. With the tight economy, our low tuition costs are even more attractive, especially when compared to the private, for-profit institutions. I’m planning a visit to metro Denver in a couple weeks to meet with students and faculty at several schools.

We’re also finalizing the ordering of new equipment that we’re purchasing through a federal Perkins grant we applied for last spring. By the end of the year, we’ll have a Wacom Cintique touch monitor installed in the open lab. The natural media tools enabled by this technology will be of great interest to our colleagues in the digital photography program, as well as the graphic design students. Five additional flatbed scanners will also be installed in the classrooms and open lab, to supplement the two scanners we already have. Finally, there will be a Wacom pen tablet installed at every workstation. Several students own their own, and I’ve met very few designers who don’t make great use of pen tablets once they’ve become acquainted with them.

There’s still a lot of time remaining in this semester, and we’re up to our neck curriculum preparation for the spring semester. I guess I’ll have to wait a bit longer to fully enjoy the snow!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Fall Semester is Just Around the Corner

I’ve had a busy summer. Getting the modified curriculum in place for the upcoming semester dominated most of my time, but well offer rich rewards once classes begin. I’m confident that students will appreciate and respond to the new approach. They’ll be very busy, but I believe they will quickly see the results of their efforts, and consider it very much worth their effort.

Some CMC colleagues and I attended a Higher Learning Commission conference on assessment in Chicago in late July. It was informative, invigorating, and challenging. I feel good about the assessment protocols I’m building into the Graphic Design program. I feel we’ll be well prepared to demonstrate effectiveness at both a program and a classroom level.

The Mac labs are having Adobe Creative Suite 5 installed this month. I’ve been playing with the new features. Pretty appealing stuff. And I've not encountered any glitches, so it looks like Adobe produced a solid upgrade. My grant application was successful, so all the Macs will be getting new Wacom pen/gesture tablets, several more flatbed scanners, and a big new Wacom pressure-sensitive monitor, which will be very exciting for traditional media artists.

The student-designed Graphic Design Program website is now live at

Amidst all the work, I found some time to hang out with the kids this summer. The high point of the summer was a white water rafting trip. My collegiate son also did some “moonlight river tubing”, which struck me as especially risky. But he managed to survive, and claims it was safe and sane. I don’t believe him for a minute. I think he was just very lucky. My middle son wants to me to join him for kayaking lessons this fall, which sounds like fun.

A new computer store featuring Macs opened last week in downtown Glenwood Springs. It will be great to have a certified Mac technician in the area.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hot Time in the Summer Time

Things are heating up in the graphic design program at Colorado Mountain College. The Professional Advisory Committee met last week. We had a lively discussion about the challenges facing the graphic design profession, and how best to prepare our students to face them. The PAC shares my vision of creating a world-class design education program at CMC, and approved our comprehensive 5-Year Strategic Plan.

The engineering on the new Graphic Design Program website is complete. The students did a great job creating a web presence that will represent the program nicely. We’re adding content in preparation for a mid-July launch.

The promotional poster series is press-ready, and should be sent to the printer this month, for delivery in July. The plan is to have them in the hands of high school art and design teachers before their schools start in the fall.

The annual Graphic Design Program Program Review report is nearly complete. Preparing the report was very enlightening. Out student body is surprisingly diverse. I was particularly interested in the fact that many of our students are slightly older learners, not just the “traditional” student who enters college directly from high school. I think this offers a richer learning environment, with all learners exposed to the life experiences of this broader range of students.

In a couple weeks I’m going to man the CM booth at the annual Strawberry Festival in Glenwood Springs. From what I understand, this is a major event this summer. I like strawberries. I also like the opportunity to meet prospective students. Other chances occur in June and July, at the Early Registration days at the Spring Valley Campus. I anticipate these being “easy sells”. Once a student sees the beautiful campus on the mountaintop and the top-notch facilities, they’re usually excited about beginning their college career at Colorado Mountain College.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I thought this was supposed to be vacation time

My inner workaholic is pleased. Despite the rumors of the lazy days of summer for academics, I'm finding that my schedule is overflowing with stuff to do.

The first meeting of our newly composed Professional Advisory Committee is scheduled for later this month. Comprised of representatives from the professional community, including designers, ad agencies, marketing consultants, printing and signage vendors, and more, this committee advises the Graphic Design program at Colorado Mountain College. With the significant modifications I'm recommending for the program, their input is both valued and required. Preparations for this meeting include finishing a 5-Year Plan for the program. It's both invigorating to consider the opportunities available to us over the next five years, and sobering to think about the challenges we face in achieving our goals. While its always been exciting to experience the changes and advances in the world of professional design, rapidly emerging technologies are combining with unprecedented market shifts to create a "perfect storm" for graphic designers. Navigating successfully through the sea of new expectations for graduates will require my best leadership efforts, the sage advice of the Professional Advisory Committee, exceptional work by my staff of instructors, and motivation from our student population. Fortunately, the Colorado Mountain College administration has demonstrated strong support for the Graphic Design program.

I just returned from a visit to Fort Hays State University in western Kansas. They have a well-established Graphic Design program, offering a rigorous BFA degree. The results from their students were truly impressive. We’ve begun a dialog about an articulation agreement that would allow my graduates to receive credit towards earning a BFA from FHSU. Not only is their program strong, but they offer tuition grants to transferring students, as well as a special tuition rate for students from Colorado. Having familiarized myself with their program, I can confidently encourage my students to explore that path for their continued education.

With the release of Adobe CS5 this summer, I need to integrate the features of this major upgrade into our technology-based courses for the coming year. This involves a lot of learning on my part, as I explore the many new ways this broad set of software applications has improved and changed. I anticipate making intensive use of my membership, as well as the soon-to-arrive (I hope) new textbooks.

In addition to all the work for CMC this summer holds, I’ll also have the great pleasure of hosting two of my sons. One has just finished his Freshman year of college in the midwest, and is spending the summer taking Biology, Pyschology, and Health & Fitness courses at CMC, and working to save money for a trip to Europe next year. He arrived in town on two days ago, and has already landed a job and made friends. He even has a date tonight for a concert in Aspen. I wish I'd had his social abilities when I was his age. After exploring Glenwood Springs for the past couple days, he told me he completely understands why I'd choose to move here. He's hoping his school and work schedule will allow ample time to spend a lot of time discovering the multitude of outdoor activities the area provides.

His younger brother is coming as soon has his high school lets out for the summer. He's an avid biker, and can’t wait to hit the trails that abound in the Roaring Fork Valley. He’s also eager to rack up the required road miles to qualify for his driver's license on his birthday at the end of the summer. I suspect I’m going to get talked into lots of non-essential road trips. I hope he won’t be too terrifying to ride with. I remind myself that I survived the learning-to-drive experiences of both his older brothers.

I’ve also ordered the building materials to construct an outdoor enclosure off the back door, so that the dogs can enjoy the summertime. Locals warned me that wolves, coyotes, birds of prey, and bears are all known to enjoy household pets, particularly small ones, like our two chihuahuas. There will be a cover and a small pass-through door into the house, so they should be able to avoid becoming dinner for a wild carnivore.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Calm Before the Storm

Portfolio show is finished. Projects have been submitted (including the piece shown by CMC student Sergio Carrasco, an Adobe Illustrator vector graphics project that make fine use of the gradient mesh feature). Final grades have been posted. Graduation was last week.

Classes for the coming semester are all in place. Textbooks have been selected, including the new crop of Adobe CS5 learning resources. We’re switching from CS4 over the summer, “God willing, and the creek don’t rise”, as my grandmother would say. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that software ship dates will be met, and book publishing release dates will prove to be more than public relations puffery. The new software also means that I’ll be spending a lot of time on this summer, learning the new features before classes start again in late August.

Outsiders often think that summer break is just a giant vacation for academia, but the truth is a bit busier. There’s a lot to be done over the summer, including convening the Professional Advisory Committee for the Graphic Design program, so they can review proposed changes to the program and assess the 5-year plan. This means I need to complete the 5-year plan prior to the meeting, lest the cart run completely over the horse.

Meetings must had with adjunct instructors, instructional directors, technical support staff, and many others. Rooms must be reconfigured and computer systems tested. Curriculum must be checked against emerging factors. Assessment tools must be tweaked. An endless stream of papers, and files, and . . .

I’m also visiting Fort Hayes State University in western Kansas. They’re very interested in an articulation agreement with their graphic design program that would allow our Associates Degree students to receive full transfer credit of their degree credits towards a Bachelors’s Degree in Graphic Design from FHSU.

It’s going to be a busy summer, but I’m looking forward to an exciting Fall term of new classes, new projects, and new students.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Final Stretch

We’re coming up on the end of the semester. Seems like most everyone returned from Spring Break energized for the last few weeks of class. The Capstone students are putting the final touches on their portfolios in preparation for the April 20th Portfolio Show. The MGD105 Typography and Layout class is busy working on their multi-component corporate I.D. final project. The MGD112 Adobe Illustrator class is creating designs for a commemorative silver medallion that will be produced with a dimensional die — a pretty cool learning experience, and a great way to explore the realistic rendering capabilities of Illustrator.

Speaking of Illustrator, I watched some preview videos for Adobe Creative Suite 5 today. Wow. Great new stuff coming, including a Flash Catalyst, a new simplified animation tool, and major enhancements to the other components.

The Capstone class just finished the last of the Graphic Design Program promotional posters (see the photo I've included in this post). The first poster presented the history of typography and design. The second poster is a glossary of print production terms. And the third poster presents “The Mathematics of Design”. These will be mailed out to high school art teachers at the end of the summer, just in time for back-to-school.

It’s hard to think of it as springtime here. While it’s been shirtsleeves warm here the past few days, it snowed this morning. The locals tell me the the weather will be unpredictable through May, and the settles in to three perfect months in the summer. Glenwood Springs is gearing up for the tourist season. My boys are hoping to get hired on at the Hot Springs or Glenwood Caverns for the summer. Sure beats my summer job of painting stripes on parking lots at Robert Hall clothing stores throughout the greater Chicago area.