How It All Started
The catalyst for my entry into the world of teaching was the digital age. In the years following the introduction of the first Macintosh I would hear about this or that advertising agency that was getting into computers. By the beginning of the 90s, I was very anxious about the changes that were taking place in the graphic world. Computers had been integrated into the business side of agencies for quite a few years, but now the Mac was changing the creative side as well. Could I do it? Was I capable of completely transforming the way I had practiced my profession for many years?
One of my freelance clients was an agency that offered me a full-time position. The client list at Altman Meder Lawrence Hill included Johnson & Johnson Medical, GTE TSI, Goodbuy Sportswear, Home Shopping Network, Speedling, and Munters. The agency wanted me to come aboard as senior art director and be involved in the conversion of their art department to Macs.
Two trainers came into our offices and worked individually with the art department staff. The one-on-one teaching was very effective and I was impressed with how quickly we transformed our work product from markers and rubber cement, to pixels and bits. I had been out of college and out of the learning environment for many years but I took to these new technologies very well. I also ended up helping others in the art department as I progressed.
The very first digitally produced job to come out of the art department was a direct mail package for GTE TSI’s annual conference. My trainer and I worked in Quark. She helped me set up some very complicated paragraph style sheets for the project. It was intense, grueling, and awesome. It didn’t hurt that my trainer was very patient and very knowledgeable. I learned so much, so fast. I learned by doing. Watching, listening, and doing. I saw that teaching was a very powerful thing.
By 1996, I had left the agency world once again to freelance. The Internet and the World Wide Web was spreading like wildfire. Everywhere you went, people in the business were talking about websites. Eager to explore new directions and opportunities, I began to teach myself web page coding with HTML. I created and posted numerous sites in the next few years. My own studio website went through many incarnations. As I would learn new techniques and methods, I would just redesign it. As a freelance designer, I was out and about on a weekly basis. I handed out my card, which proudly included my studio’s URL, whenever I had a chance.
My interest and capabilities in website design became known among my clients which at the time, included advertising agencies. I was quite surprised when one day when I was asked to design a website for the agency, Peak Barr Petralia Biety (now Peak Biety). I began to get referrals from other agencies and to direct clients. I was a classically-trained, advertising agency art director who knew web design. That was a rarity. Most people doing web design were technicians or engineers.
But as I was getting work designing sites, a curious thing happened. I began to get requests to train designers and art directors to do web design. This was the beginning of my teaching career. I still got my hourly rate, and all I was doing was sitting next to someone, in front a computer, telling them what to do. It may be quite a leap to go from that, to standing in front of classroom of students but that is exactly what happened. I saw a classified ad for a job opening. It was for “chairperson of the graphic design department” at Florida Metropolitan University. I was intrigued. I called, not to apply for that job, but just to see if they had any teaching positions available. They did. I interviewed, and was given one class to teach as an adjunct professor. After FMU, I started teaching at the International Academy of Design and Technology, and most recently at the Art Institute, both in Tampa.