Rethinking Graphic Design Education

Marianne Catangay | F.I.R.S.T. Institute | Graphic Design & Web Development Program Director

“I try to be like a chameleon,” says Marianne Catangay, director of the Graphic Design & Web Development IDL program at F.I.R.S.T. Institute. “I take on the perspective of the student I’m helping and adjust my guidance accordingly.” Being able to connect with students in this way is essential since the program Marianne oversees is entirely online. IDL stands for Interactive Distance Learning, an approach to online classes that prioritizes collaboration and hands-on experience. “I treat our classes like a team,” she says. “Our students aren’t here for lectures … they can get that on YouTube.”

Marianne explains that a typical class starts by presenting a problem, rather than simply information. For example, she might show a class a finished graphic and say “OK, how can we achieve a similar result?” The class will then work together to find a solution. If they don’t get it on the first try, that’s fine. Failure is actually encouraged in Marianne’s classes. She believes that “failure is the only way to learn. I never want to get in the way of my students making mistakes. It provides me with an opportunity to observe how my students think, so that the next time around I can tailor the lesson to their particular way of processing things.”

What Marianne has discovered is that when students are given the space to work through problems on their own, they take ownership over the solutions they find and are excited to share them with their classmates. She explains that “when you let students hit a wall, it’s that much more exciting to them when they finally break through. When they’ve struggled to find a solution to their problem, they want to share that solution with the rest of the class. And so at that point students aren’t just learning from me, but from each other.”

Although Marianne has been a graphic design professional for over 14 years, she considers herself an educator first. “I enjoy the challenge of helping people understand things,” she says. “It can be frustrating, but when you finally hit that moment of recognition, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

F.I.R.S.T. Institute is a premier digital media school headquartered in Orlando, Florida. F.I.R.S.T. offers hands-on experience for students in both online and on-campus options.

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