Imagine it’s your first day as a student, you’ve looked across the room to check out the competition and in walks Jony Ive or an equally legendary face in the world of design.
Awesome, it turns out he’s going to be your uni design teacher.
Still, you’d be pretty pumped and also full of confidence that you’re set to learn from one of the best and will of course jump out of bed to head to every class, regardless of how hard you partied the night before?
However, you quickly realise that Jony does not have any professional design experience as he regales at all the Universities he has attended, worked with or taught at.
So, I ask myself “can this guy teach me what I need to know”?
As I approach 40 my studying has been a blend of some utterly uninspiring teachers, some of who I’ll remember for the wrong reasons.
Of course, there were a few diamonds in the semi-rough who offered life-changing experiences and inspiration with every lesson.
This all sounds like fighting talk to me!
Round 1: Craftsmen Vs Academics
One such teacher occurred during a rather pricey two day Adobe InDesign accreditation course based in Glasgow.
As he shared his enviable list of past clients he almost instantly made everyone on the course feel confident they were going to be learning really useful stuff from someone who had learnt their craft at a high level.
He also shared a story of a previous course attendee who had before the course spent days painstakingly using the paintbrush tool to recolour a sports team’s kit in a group photo.
Had she known about the “colour replacement tool”, she could have easily wrapped up the task in under a few hours.
Of course, she could have studied loads of Photoshop manuals and found the answer, but she may have had to spend hours reading till she hit that chapter in the book that gave her the quicker solution.
In contrast, someone with real-life experience of doing a similar task and with the knowledge of Photoshop was able to deliver this answer in seconds.
He did say the colour drained from her face when she found out how much time she could have saved. I’d say colour replacement from skin tone to green or a pale white was pretty likely.
Round 2: Veterans vs Genius
If you haven’t seen the TV Series Suits, it’s essentially about a character Mike Ross who never attended law school but blags his way into a role as a law associate and also ends updating the current news hot topic Meghan Markle in the series.
That’s quite the royal flush if you ask me.
Mike’s character has a photographic/eidetic memory which allows him to recall pretty much anything he sees or reads with near-perfect recollection.
Now, I’m not suggesting that all design teachers who have no work experience have eidetic memories or are genius but a number of those without design experience have never had to put their theory into practice to solve real-life projects or handle things like time management, quoting projects, chasing clients for payments etc.
All of those are something that only someone with real-life experience can guide you on.
Round 3: Curriculum vs Experience
With no real-world work experience teachers, are you essentially paying for a copy-paste education?
Well, quite possibly and here is why…
It is something I certainly experienced at college where a few teachers just stood there reading a book to the class or handing out unimaginative and outdated worksheets with tasks to complete.
If any obstacles came up during the tasks, particularly technical one’s or unexpected questions from anyone in the class, they were clearly out of their depth and would either dodge the question or say they’d come back with an answer later.
The answers, like my student loan money, were never to be seen or heard again.
Round 4: Real vs Life?
Building an IKEA flat pack doesn’t make you a master craftsman does it?
For me, it’s a fundamental problem for anyone who is going to be my teacher to no have real-life experience.
I could study every “How to play football” book or video in the world but wouldn’t even consider telling Ronaldo how to score a free-kick.
I’d maybe tell him to keep his t-shirt on more as he’s damaged my body confidence with every tensed ab and muscle.
I’d know the theory, but I’d have no idea of how to deal with them beyond the page factors like pressure, fatigue etc.
Pay is also another factor in how can anyone who’s never completed a task to a deadline give students advice on what’s a reasonable time for something to take.
I’d take Ronaldo’s salary for all the design work I’ve ever done though.
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”— George Bernard Shaw
If it’s not too late and before I anger millions of teachers more than a famous “Leave those kids alone” Pink Floyd lyric.
They are heroes in my eyes and even for those who are not industry veterans, many went to teach because they enjoy sharing their theoretical knowledge and will push themselves to assist students by updating their skills to stay current.
Of course, teaching is also about being there as a supportive figure for students and all the work experience in the world won’t make you a great teacher it’s done to your human interaction skills as much as the knowledge.
Sadly a few probably went into teaching just for the pension and so they could get away with regurgitating the same old things year after year. We all had a few of those teachers who just read from the book, handed out papers and read exactly what it said on the screen during the presentation.
Round 5: Then vs Now
Staying current is another aspect where traditional education really struggles as unless you go to a smaller education centre or private teaching course you will rarely find the tools being taught to be hot on the heels of new trends in design.
If you have any doubts that my view of professional design experience being vital is a minority view a recent poll on LinkedIn asked, “Should a university design teacher have also professional design experience?” and just 3% said no.
Do Web Course Bangkok teachers have real-life working experience?
Of course, they do, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Carl (co-founder) and his team of teachers are extremely proud that all our teachers do not just study smart but have the practical industry experience to make sure our student can hit the ground running as soon as they enter the working world.
Whether that is within an agency, corporate role or even stepping out on their own in the world of freelancing.
Many of our interns have even had a graphic design or web development related offers of employment even before finishing their final days as interns.
It gives us a real sense of pride that they want to complete the internship and that we’ve worked with them to get them out in the working world on a new exciting career path.
That said if they want to come back and do more training, we’re always happy to welcome them back.
We believe in helping students to be the most hireable versions of themselves.
WCB doesn’t hire educators, they hire doers.
Being doers also means they’ve likely been involved in the recruitment of junior staff at some stage in their careers which brings huge benefits in preparing them to be strongly suitable for getting hired.
We don’t churn out designer or website building robots and we don’t drain the personality out of students. What we do is watch students closely not just making sure they don’t click the wrong command or work as non-destructively as they can Undo is a powerful command but sometimes there’s no going back.
Round 6: Skill vs Talent
It’s an often-overlooked benefit of having teachers who have been in the working world who can quickly spot potential areas of talent where students could shine and target when looking for roles that will best match their personalities and skills.
As well as that by observing the students our teachers can call on their workplace experience to flag areas where they feel a student may need more guidance, whether that’s at an application knowledge level or even an area of their interaction with others that could be guided into a more collaborative approach.
We do require teachers to have a degree of humour and mastery of their industrial tools.
Most are design Ninja’s who stealthy switch between many tools making it all look so easy. Ok, they use the tab key but still 😉, who doesn’t love a keyboard shortcut.
We want everyone who comes to learn at WCB to benefit from being guided through real-life working scenarios.
It’s also one of the reasons why our internship programme has interns working on real client projects for our Web Courses Agency.
There’s no one size fits all approach or cookie-cutter class workshops. They see a project not just as brief but also the whole process from client meetings, quoting costs, creating timelines and managing client update requests etc.
Round 7: Users Vs Experience
Are teachers that big a deal if most schools teach the same design applications anyway?
Think of teachers as a website user experience.
If it’s not right people won’t come back and will go elsewhere.
So, a good teacher needs to be responsive, engaging, provide the right content and have an adaptive content management system in their brains and in their mouths to make sure the content comes out in the right order, at the right time and in the right place.
We have an extremely high number of word-of-mouth recommendations and returning students and that’s not something that would happen if our teachers didn’t share our passion to grow ideas and skills.
We believe in helping, inspiring and exciting students through their creative journey.
Round 8: Can Academia Land a Few Punches on the Working Veterans?
With online learning, and a plethora of design application books available across the globe, self-taught and wannabe designers have never had a faster route to getting their first step into a design career.
Of course, it’s great for companies to give fresh faces an opportunity but what if the first step they take leads them onto a wobbly career ladder that keeps them in a bubble protected from criticism or even fresh ideas as they stick within the safety of what they know cause it got them the job.
Those with no education but only work experience could be missing essential aspects of the designer theory that all so often allows them to be more polished and strategic in their design processes.
Yes, I agree that people who are 100% academic should also have professional experience, otherwise you’re too detached from reality.
There’s a very famous saying “the student has become the master” which is always a bit of an odd one in an educational term. If you interpret it to mean that the student has now learnt everything, she/he has been taught, does that now mean that the student would be qualified to pass that knowledge down to the next generation of warriors or in our case “pixel perfectionists”?
I certainly don’t think it’s that simple. Pardon the illustration pun but the now master needs to keep learning and “draw” on real-world experiences to reach the Grand Master or Legend level that students deserve when attending courses at WCB.
Perhaps we should call our teacher’s grandmasters in the future. It also wouldn’t make sense for a yellow belt to be teaching a black belt so ensure our teachers have a mix of theory and real-world experiences to deliver knock out training.
Fun fact: Carl Heaton the WCB founder moved to France for a while to study Aikido full time with the hope of becoming a professional martial art instructor.
At a university level, it’s extremely rare for them to even consider hiring a teacher without at least an undergraduate degree or equivalent qualification but that said there will be exceptions typically where that person has received such recognition for their achievements in their field that it’s a no brainer that students would gain insight from hearing that individual.
Some educational institutions may even welcome published authors into the classroom to be a guest lecturer or teaching assistant where they are an expert in that topic.
Not sure that the best answer is a binary yes/no expressed or contained within a single person. We all teach in teams, pooling strengths and experiences, these days I think. Certainly, the Glasgow School of Art innovation School is rooted in this principle.