By Day By Night is an interview series that profiles graphic design tutors from design schools throughout New Zealand. We learn about their role as a teacher and their own personal design practice.
Today we hear from Luke McConnell who works at the School of Media Arts at Wintec in Hamilton.
What is your official title at work?
Senior Academic Staff Member
Programme Coordinator – Graphic and Digital Design
Can you tell us a little bit about your background, your career path, and how you got into teaching.
Teaching wasn’t really on my radar when I began my journey in the design industry to be honest. I graduated with a degree in graphic design and I was ready to take on the world. I got my foot in the door working part-time as an in-house graphic designer for Gallagher Group Ltd. This however didn’t pay the bills so I started up a small design studio at the back of my house and got to work developing my skills and getting to know the realities of running a business. This mix of in-house and studio work was fantastic as it provided me with a diverse range of work. One day I was trying to integrate nine different languages onto some product packaging, and the next day I was creating animated logo idents for a community anti-tagging campaign! Things then got a bit crazy when I decided to add teaching to the mix. I began teaching in the School of Media Arts at Wintec in 2009 and over the next few years my studio time decreased and my teaching role grew. Eventually I accepted a full time teaching position at Wintec and have been a part of the dynamic creative community ever since.
Outside of work hours what creative projects and/or research are you involved with?
Outside of the classroom I am involved in a range of creative research projects which are generally collaborative in nature. What I enjoy the most is thinking about a specific tool, skill, or process I use as a graphic designer and experimenting with ways it can be used outside of common practice. My current work focusses on how 3D modelling and animation can be used to create interactive installations and sculptures through the use of projection. I am really interested in how a simulated 3d space can be projected into a physical space to create curious shifts in perception.
This kind of work is only possible through experimentation and collaboration. I am fortunate enough to rub shoulders with a lot of creative people in the School of Media Arts so I take advantage of that as much as possible. It is amazing what happens when you work on projects collaboratively with people like sound designers and digital designers in an interdisciplinary way.
How does your personal practice feed into your role as an educator?
I see value in collaborating with talented people from other disciplines to create multifaceted work and this is something that overflows into the way I teach. I want to see my students do more than what has been done before, I want to see them push boundaries and make a ruckus in the world through design. I often talk to my students about these three things: Creativity, Collaboration, and Passion. These three things are what will get them places in the creative industries. It is important that design educators continue to create work and to push their skills. The design industry is constantly moving and there is no room for designers or teachers who are standing still.
How do you balance these two roles? Are there any particular benefits and/or challenges?
I love the fact that I can be working on creative projects outside of my teaching. The balance is always tricky, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. One huge benefit is that I am surrounded by experts in their respective fields as well as passionate students who are eager to be innovators. This creative environment fuels my research practice and has pushed me to think more broadly about how I can apply my creative skills.
What are the best bits about working at a place like Wintec?
The School of Media Arts at Wintec really is a creative community. Every day I get to work with talented staff and students from a wide range of creative careers including graphic design, photography, moving image, painting and sculpture, interior design, fashion, communications, music, you name it. Because of this structure I get to teach students from all of these domains. I love watching what happens when you teach a fashion student how to do 3D modelling or when you teach a journalism student how to design publications. I learn a lot from this kind of thing – these students aren’t constrained by ‘the box’ so they think outside of it by default. I think designer can learn a lot about design by working with creative people in general.
Where can we see more of your own work?
School of Media Arts, Wintec
At the School of Media Arts we provide innovative, interdisciplinary education that prepares students for a future in the creative industries.
If you’re interested in graphic design, moving image, digital media, painting, sculpture, photography, animation, interior design, fashion design, journalism, radio, public relations, songwriting, or commercial music, Media Arts’ programmes of study are a great place to begin your career.
Experienced staff and industry standard facilities help you develop a unique range of skills and the ability to apply them in the professional world. There are always challenges for students entering a rapidly changing work environment. Innovation, expertise, team work and an awareness of contemporary communication strategies are highly valued. We are very conscious of the preparations necessary and believe that we provide a unique learning environment that encourages students to work collaboratively while developing a strong individual practice in a chosen field. We strive to provide students with the right mix of technical problem-solving and interpersonal skills, all informed by an awareness of professional expectations.