A Bigger World of Design and Design Ideas out There


Design Workshops inspire students, give them the opportunity to meet significant designers, empower them to take their design forward, identify opportunities for design improvement, understand the needs, get out of the class and see a bigger world of design out there. University of Texas at El Paso and teacher Antonio Castro recently had the honor to conduct a workshop with the significant Canadian designer Andrew Lewis. Andrew wished to give students a new perspective and way of thinking and design. When I asked him to say few words about his experience, he said:

Recently, I have wanted to break the bad habits of students of Googling for images and not thinking and to begin by drawing. I had them look at composition with examples of Franz Klein, the abstract expressionist artist of the 1950’s. His use of simple black and white, positive and negative spaces was incredible and I use that knowledge in my own poster compositions.

So, I had them begin by drawing simply circles in any composition of their choice. Following this was squares then shapes and also critiques of this exploratory project. Then, I threw at them something very different, draw what they hear with a series of contrasting music selections; Chopin to death metal. Music, they perhaps never listen to to force them to listen, think, then draw while retaining form, composition and line quality. All of which really build a design or possibly a poster. It was a fun class and I was honoured by Antonio Castro’s kind invitation to visit the University at El Paso Texas.


Antonio Castro H. writes about ‘Design Workshops’ and their own successful one.

The beauty of the Chihuahuan Dessert in the American Southwest is a ubiquitous part of El Paso Texas, the city where the University of Texas at El Paso is located and where I have had the pleasure of teaching Graphic Design for the last 12 years. El Paso is located in the westernmost corner of Texas right where Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico come together. It is also 670 miles northwest of Houston and 565 miles southwest of Dallas, which are the biggest centers of contemporary art and culture in the state. In what Graphic Design concerns, being so isolated has its pros and cons. It is positive because it forces us, professional designers and students alike, to look at our surroundings and design with this in mind allowing us to make unique work that could only come from this region. This is reflected in how designers utilize color, texture and space in their designs. This also comes at a price. Being so isolated makes it harder for us to have easy access to the major trends and ways of thinking in contemporary design culture.

I have to admit that lately this problem has been eased by the internet, but I strongly believe that designers need to experience world class design first hand. Thanks to the generosity and vision of the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at UTEP, the Graphic Design department has been able to invite world renowned artists/designers such as Brad Holland, Art Chantry, Luba Lukova, Yossi Lemel, Alejandro Magallanes among others. They have come to lecture, jury the Annual Student Show and most lately organize workshops for our students.

Our students benefit tremendously from these experiences, not only because they get a chance to meet and talk with these amazing artists/designers, but also because they are given a different perspective of design other than that of their professors. We strategically time these artists/designers’ visits with the conclusion of an arduous school year so that the students leave for their summer break inspired and ready to come back and work hard the following semester.

Most recently we had the pleasure of having Canadian designer Andrew Lewis among us. Andrew conducted a workshop that challenged students to understand how the creative process ought be used when solving a Graphic Design problem. As student Edgar Bonilla very eloquently puts it,

“Andrew refreshed to us one of the fundamental principles of good design. That of balance. The concept of balance was taken to another level as it was paralleled to music, thus creating a newer, interesting, and entertaining approach to the problem-solving process of poster design. We were challenged by the task of visually representing different genres of music and incorporating the principle of balance to our images. As a result, we were forced to think in a more abstract way discarding obvious solutions and focused in producing something experimental, creative, and new.”

Another concept that Andrew presented to our students was that of authenticity. Student Berenice Mendez states that

“Andrew Lewis’ workshop brought us students back to square one, while aspects of design such as finish, execution, color and type are important, no design will communicate and engage the viewer if its concept and innate creativity isn’t genuine. During the workshop we were reminded that a designer’s job is to deliver a message in the most simple and interesting way. Every other tool you use must aid in this endeavor.”

Our plan as a Graphic Design department is to continue providing our students with these visiting artists/designers’ events that not only help to enlighten but also to remind them that there is a bigger world of design and design ideas out there that they can aspire to.

Maria Papaefstathiou

VISUAL DESIGNER since 1996 and blogger since 2010. Living in Athens, Greece. She has been focusing her research on poster design and particularly on social poster design and portrait design. Her main poster project is a series of posters celebrating great personalities of traditional and popular culture in Greece and Jamaica. These include actors, singers, musicians, poets etc. This is an ongoing project. “I believe that design is a powerful tool that we designers can use to spark enthusiasm, change mindsets and bring positive actions to our world and our culture”. FOUNDER AND EDITOR OF GRAPHICART-NEWS.COM BLOG. She carefully curates high-quality designs, illustrations, and art, from all over the world that will teach and provoke other designers. Many consider her blog to be an exceptional educational tool. CO-FOUNDER OF THE INTERNATIONAL REGGAE POSTER CONTEST which was launched on December 2011, partnering, the creative activist Michael Thompson aka Freestylee. (www.reggaepostercontest.com)


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