With the end of the academic year this month we are exploring arts and education and featuring Tuan Nguyen, our own artist and teacher, in our staff spotlight. Tuan is The Studio’s graphic designer and has been an instructor for various art classes for many years. With his most recent position as adjunct faculty at Cal Lutheran University, we asked him to talk about his experience in the arts and education.

What is your background?

My background is in fine art. I was trained traditionally with an emphasis on techniques and development process.

How do you approach a creative project? How do you think of a design? What comes first?

First, I take the time to do some research and development. I’ll research the client, the age of the company, and who they have on staff to get an idea of their company dynamics, who the design is for and who will be reviewing the final product. It helps to know the rest of the staff because even though one person may be requesting a certain design, he or she usually has to please the rest of the workplace so it’s useful to get an idea of the other team members. I also look at who they’ve worked with in the past and most importantly, I look at their target audience.

Next, I’ll take a close look at their product, the whole entire project relies on a working product so you want to make sure the product works and works its best. I try to understand the whole entire look of the product and develop a matching style for whatever the piece of design work is that I’ve been asked to create. Then, when I start the project I generally do a mockup of the branding, logo of whatever the piece may be. This includes creating the general look of the font face because it matters who they are attracting, where it will be exposed and placed. For example, if I’m creating something that will be used in print media I find fonts that have inkwell, meaning they will look good on multiple backgrounds whether it be white or colored paper, and it needs to be legible and easy to read. If it will be used in digital media, then I look for something easy to animate. I also think about how it behaves on a mobile platform if that applies to the product. Once the mockup is complete I present it to the client for their approval and explain each element and component of the design and why it is included. This whole process of getting to a mockup involves research and making sure the design matches their target audience. I also look at what is trending in their market and see what other people with similar products are doing.

How did you get involved in teaching?

I’ve been surrounded by teachers since I was very young, everyone I know either is or is related to a teacher, most of my family are in teaching or academics. I started substituting classes for teachers I knew then it just kind of took off from there and I started to teach my own classes and workshops.

What age and professional level do you usually teach?

I’ve taught all age ranges, from younger groups to the elderly. My workshops usually consist of other art professionals and other professors – people who have experience in the arts. It’s usually a collaborative environment where I’m sharing my knowledge and they will be sharing their knowledge. I started teaching a younger audience once I made connections at CLU. This past semester I taught an undergraduate design class which focused on 2D and 2D design theory and execution.

What do you like most about teaching?

When people understand the process and can carry it out themselves. I enjoy seeing students thinking for themselves and when I know they are absorbing the information and doing it correctly on their own.

How do you apply your teaching methods to the workplace?

My motto in teaching is students need to understand the foundation of each process or concept before we move on to the next phase. If someone doesn’t understand something at the beginning, then they will get confused moving forward so I like to know that my students know and understand something before we get more in depth. I use this same method in real life and in work meetings – I like to make sure the client understands the project or design concept I am proposing before we move on to the next phase. That’s why I like to explain the reasoning behind my designs, the functionality and what we envision for their project; I want to ensure they don’t have questions before we get into more detail so we are all in sync and can move forward smoothly. Understanding the foundation to any project is key to delivering a good final product.

What is your dream project?

I want to design a software product for another company. I would design the interface, website, collateral and how they sell it, who their target audience is and how we approach that audience. I would love to see a project take off from page 1 to page 100 and know that I had a hand in every step of the process from initial concept to final completion.

For more information about Tuan check out his about page and stay tuned for our next team highlight.