associate professor Andrea Herstowski
University of Kansas | School of Architecture, Design and Planning | Visual Communication Design | Graphic Design



:- Teaching Statement
Selected Class Projects
:- Bookcovers: Developing a Series
:- Famous Speech: Motion vs. Print
:- Creating Interaction
:- Workbook: Type Rules Illustrated
:- Senior Portfolio Class
:- Syllabus
:- Rubric
:- Student Observations/Reflections
:- Class Portal
:- Class Project Outline
:- Teaching/Student Awards
Contact Info
e: herstow@ku.edu
c: 795 393 9382


Approaches to teaching
Visual Communication, my instructional area, has a progression of three typography courses and four graphic design courses culminating with Senior Problems and Portfolio. I teach primarily sophomores as they enter the major and seniors in their capstone course.

My primary teaching goal is to help students become visual interpreters and problem solvers by establishing a strong foundation that consists of the principles of design and typography as well as technical proficiency on the computer. My approach is to start with simple, rule-based assignments and proceed to more open-ended design problems that require analysis and conceptual solutions. All assignments emphasize research and process. By teaching my students the aesthetic, intellectual, and technical skills of the field, I help to set their feet firmly on the path to productive, life-long careers in graphic design.

Laying a strong foundation
The first year assignments incorporate the fundamental design principles such as scale, contrast, position, space, balance, and symmetry. As the students explore the parameters of assignments, they are simultaneously introduced to the history of design, styles, and movements. At this stage, a balance of technical skills and historical perspectives is important.

The beginning assignments are a series of technical exercises concentrating on how the page looks or reads. As the semester progresses, students are allowed more freedom of self-expression and are asked to respond to the content, such as the message of the text and image, and how design shapes audience comprehension. Once a foundation is strong, students become visual interpreters. They have the skills to design a book, mailer, poster, etc. that is both beautiful and communicates a defined message.

Activating student learning
In art and design education students learn by doing. All assignments actively involve students in research, design, reflection, and refinement. I use a variety of classroom teaching methods, including lectures, demonstrations, student-lead tutorials, group critiques, one-on-one sessions, and formal hands-on exercises. In order to assess student progress, I lead whole-class discussions and evaluations of student process and final product.

Using the computer as a tool
The computer is an essential tool in contemporary graphic design. Because it is necessary that they graduate with proficient skills in key software applications, it follows that an important part of the students’ classroom experience involves hands-on work in the computer lab. To calm anxieties about learning new software, I use a combination of approaches. Rather than giving all demonstrations myself, I involve my students by asking them to provide tutorials to the class. Thus, students become the “resident expert” in small parts of the new program. They also have access to a series of online lessons created for the design industry. In the lab, as they explore the software, students create onscreen compositions, and we are able discuss how some solutions communicate more strongly than others. The result is that students learn from a variety of teachers inside and outside the class. (class project: Creating Interaction)

Capturing student reflections
For each of my classes, I develop a website that includes a class blog. The website outlines the projects, objectives, goals, milestones, homework, and other activities. It not only gives the students a place to review course materials, the website visually reinforces the design concepts students are exploring. For instance, the site’s clear hierarchy, use of words and symbols, images and text, mirror the concepts we study in class. I use a class blog in several ways. First, the blog allows me to post inspirational designs, examples, and resources. At the same time, it provides an important tool for student reflection. Here, students respond informally with their own discoveries and more formally to a series of weekly journal assignments. The journal assignments supplement the projects and introduce students to what professionals are writing, saying and doing. (Student Observations/ Reflections)

Collecting process work and observations
As part of their final work for each project, students complete a process book outlining the assignment objectives, research they conducted, concept development, consideration of audience, and their final design outcome. The finished book is an artifact that reveals their understanding of the project and the graphic design process.

At the conclusion of each project, students also write a critique of the assignment itself. I ask them to discuss all parts of the project: aspects that took too long; what they liked and didn’t like; if parts were confusing; and, what they would do differently. Other feedback comes from design professionals who visit class and participate in critiques. I use these comments to refine and make adjustments to the assignment. Some projects are replaced and others evolve.

Getting out into the community
In addition to coursework, I facilitate opportunities for students to gain professional experience by working with designers in the region. Some students have internships with firms where they undertake pro-bono projects. Others create design work for campus programs and centers such as, the Lied Center, Spencer Museum, KU Athletics, SUA office. Each year, a group of students design posters for the Coterie Theatre season in Kansas City and the Hallmark Symposium at KU. Frequently, students submit their projects to national and regional design competitions – and are often recognized (Student Awards). Students also regularly attend lectures, reviews, studio visits and other events hosted by the professional association for graphic design in the Kansas City area. These activities help students develop a professional perspective, network with others, and understand current design practices.

Because I have all the graphic design seniors in Portfolio I am also a faculty advisor for the Senior Show. The KU Senior Show happens every May in Kansas City. All graduating seniors, in graphic design and illustration (45+) present their portfolios at the show and over two hundred area professionals, friends and families attend. Many students have been offered interviews, internships or jobs right on the spot. It is a great opportunity for the students to show their work but, it is also an opportunity for my colleagues and I to show the area design community what we are doing with the major, network, make new contacts and reconnect with alumni.

The graphic design profession demands that students learn to solve complex problems, handle responsibility, collaborate with others, and keep up with ever changing technology. Students must become skilled at research. They have to be able to examine the ways in which complex ideas and messages are represented in visual form. Students require guidance in developing personal work habits and practice working as a team. Finally, they need to continually build their skills and learn about design both inside and outside the classroom. If students have this strong design foundation, they will be ready for the inevitable changes that will be part of their professional careers.