As the new academic year approaches and our journey begins, the feeling of anticipation is still the same even after 28 years of teaching on the graphic design course. Many students on their very first day are shy and apprehensive, but our teaching and learning strategy is fun and interesting which helps build a rapport with the students and lecturers. Year one is the foundation and mostly focuses on exploring and generating ideas, working with various media and materials, image making, collage, studying symbols and pictograms, exploring typography in dynamic ways and creating innovative 3D solutions. This initial stepping stone paves the way for critical thinking and developing visual intelligence for future design projects. I have very clear memories of students arriving on the induction week eager to learn, equipped with their sketch books and pens. After introducing the course and showcasing design work from graduates, the looks of bewilderment on their faces is a common occurrence, but some of those students 4 years later passed their degrees with first class honours. Nothing is impossible if you have enthusiasm and motivation.

The opportunity to share my passion for design with young creative minds is a fulfilling experience, not only throughout the student’s journey, but also when they graduate and become part of the professional community. I am always in contact with many ex-students who need advice or who just pop in to college to say ‘hello’ and I’m still very proud of their achievements. Success is not only completing the tasks and delivering on time, it’s ‘loving what you do’. Waking up each day and looking forward to the next adventure is a blessing and including creativity in every part of their life will eventually become second nature. One starts to notice visual communication in a new light, street posters with significant flaws, packages in supermarkets that lack appeal, menu designs with poor images and many other design blunders will be more apparent.

Each student has different talents, so they shouldn’t be discouraged if they find a particular skillset challenging as they all learn at a different pace. They’ll discover and develop their own distinct voice in time. Some may be better at sketching, others in computer software, individuality is something we encourage as all designers are unique and that is what sets them apart. Graphic design is constantly evolving with new ideas, materials and technologies. A desire for learning and constantly seeking new innovations and design methods will help a student move forward and become a lifelong learner who will be able to adapt to any environment and the ever-changing demands of the industry.

I have experienced many changes myself. I remember my first job as a senior designer in London. We worked without computers on a large drawing board and had to use overlay films for different colours. Preparing artwork for print was a long and arduous task. A logo that can be created in a single day today, would have taken me five whole days. I had to adapt and learn new tools and switch from traditional methods to digital to keep up with the competition. At first, I was scared I would fail, but I absolutely love digital design and now teach Photoshop here at Alexander College. For me personally, teaching graphic design is not only about transferring my knowledge, it’s also about nurturing a love for learning and a passion for design. Learners will not only achieve all the necessary skills to join the professional practice, but also have the power to change the world with their design concepts and make a difference in society. Together and with the rest of the team we will embark on a path of exploration and creativity. I hope to inspire and make a lasting impact on their journey of discovery into my world of visual wonder.

Maria Pallecaros-Theoclitou
Graphic Design Course Leader