Zachary Kaiser
For the past 13 years, I have been a passionate and committed design educator in a variety of capacities. During my undergraduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I co-founded a design and screen-printing studio for teens, the work of which has been published in magazines and books nationwide. As a graduate student at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, I had the pleasure of being a Teaching Assistant, learning from some of the best design educators in the world. For a year and a half, as I finished my own graduate research, I had the honor of being a faculty member in the Art Department at Emmanuel College, where I taught a variety of design classes. I now am part of the Graphic Design faculty at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, as well as at the Lesley University College of Art and Design (formerly the Art Institute of Boston). The following are some examples of student work, including a selection from my time as a faculty member at Emmanuel, where I had the opportunity to develop new assignments and shape the design curriculum.

Sophomore Studio at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

All sophomore Graphic Design students at MassArt are required to take Sophomore Studio, a 6-credit class that has four components. Each of four faculty members teaches one component, and the students rotate, spending three weeks with each faculty member. I teach the Systems component, in which students create sets of textile patterns driven by pseudocode. In this project, students investigate algorithm, the relationships between rules and behaviors, and the formal attributes that create visual relationships across elements of a system. These formal explorations enhance visual sensitivities and help students when they begin to design visual systems such as branding programs. At the same time, an investigation of the relationship between rules and behaviors becomes a springboard for the integration of design practice with other disciplines such as science or economics. Leveraging in-class systems mapping activities and readings about systems thinking, I facilitate discussions that ask students to consider their work in relation to the ideologies and rules driving the systems we encounter every day.

Senior Degree Project at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design

As a Teaching Assistant to Professor Gunta Kaza, I helped senior Graphic Design students develop their degree projects. Through a series of physical prompts to which the students had to respond, as well as through one-on-one consultation regarding everything from technical recommendations to conceptual guidance, I helped students find their voices as emerging designers.

Design and the Liberal Arts

Those of us who are or have been design educators at liberal arts colleges and universities find ourselves in a position that presents both difficult challenges and important opportunities. We often want to give students a design school education without the curricular freedom to do so. At the same time, students experience a wider breadth of learning that they can bring to their design work, and we have the chance to collaborate with faculty in many disciplines. In my time working at Emmanuel, I have investigated the relationship between design and the liberal arts, and the ways in which an education that endeavors to synthesize the two can be powerful and meaningful.

Emmanuel College, Graphic Design 1, Music Visualization

To enhance students' understanding of system, mapping, and visual language, I designed and implemented a music visualization project as a way to complement the more formal graphic design projects based around visual systems and hierarchies of information that we had done earlier in the year. Students viewed work by Michel Gondry as well as researched different information designers to get a better understanding of the act of mapping different types of information to elements of a visual system. Students also created a process book to document their work.

Emmanuel College, Introduction to Digital Process, Project 4: Community-Activated Design

I based the students' final project of the year on Clinton Carlson's Community-Activated Design project from the University of North Texas, and incorporated my experience as a screen-printing instructor at an urban teen center. My students in the Introduction to Digital Process class at Emmanuel were learning, for the first time, about the design process, while using some of the basic tools in the Adobe Creative Suite for the first time. Though the primary goals of the class revolve around the students developing a familiarity with the design process and the Creative Suite, I aimed to give students a basic understanding of the relationship between digital technologies and the implementation of projects in the real world. What happens in the space between a design idea and its final realization (whether physical or digital)? What considerations must designers make in order to successfully realize the fabrication or creation of a the project?

Students worked with Emmanuel's LGBTQA group, OUTspoken, to create a series of posters aimed at raising awareness about the organization as well as at creating a safer environment for everyone on campus. The posters were designed in three stages: First, students worked with OUTspoken to develop copy and design black-and-white poster templates, learning about scale, hierarchy and typesetting; second, students worked in Illustrator to develop a library of stencils which they then cut out, and; third, students used a consistent color palette of paints to add stenciled images to the printed poster templates. Students began to see that they had created a cohesive, yet dynamic, set of posters that, when viewed together, communicated a powerful message in a visually engaging way.

I also aimed to help students understand the basic principles of variability and modularity through the development of stencil designs that, though a cohesive visual language, could be applied in any way to the posters and retain a recognizable coherence. These principles of variability and modularity apply as much to web design as to the development of coherent, contemporary brand identities. This project served as an introduction to these foundational principles of design practice.

Emmanuel College, Introduction to Digital Process, Manipulative Media Project

I developed an assignment called “Manipulative Media,” that is intended to help students develop their skills in Photoshop, enhance their ability to communicate meaning visually, and facilitate an engagement in an iterative, design-based inquiry. I gave the students three quotes from which each student selected one to research. The students had to research their quotes, and come to class with at least ten pieces of research, represented by notecards or post-its, along with URLs or printed sources. Students worked to draw connections between these pieces of research, asking not only which pieces were connected, but how they were connected. By the end of the first week of this project, students had to have developed a “thesis statement” based on their analysis. For the remainder of the project, the students worked to visually communicate this thesis through the manipulation of imagery in Photoshop, eventually constructing a triptych of images that served as a visual thesis.

Mess Hall Press

While an undergraduate design student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I co-founded a non-profit design and screen-printing studio for teens, called Mess Hall Press. I helped run the studio for six years, prior to moving to Boston for graduate school.