Tom Newmaster: Educator To Watch 2020

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Our GDUSA Educators To Watch series shines the spotlight on teachers and administrators who are making a difference to their art and design students, schools and communities, and their own disciplines.

TOM NEWMASTER | PENNSYLVANIA COLLEGE OF ART & DESIGN

Tom Newmaster is an Adjunct Instructor (teaching Packaging Design) at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design. He has been teaching the packaging class since 2008. His class has produced 15 GDUSA Package Design Award Winners, and 5 ICMAD Young Designers Competition Finalists since the program started entering student work in 2015.

With a degree in Specialized Technology from Antonelli Institute/Bradley Academy, Newmaster graduated from Bradley Academy in 1989 and has been working almost exclusively in the area of packaging design and brand development. Started his career at Tower Advertising, then from 1998-2016 was principle/co-owner of WFM, and in 2017 he started FORCEpkg, a design and branding concept built on a results-oriented philosophy and a “Relationships First” model. 

Over the last 30 years, Newmaster has worked with national and global clients including The Hershey Company, Pfizer, GSK, Stoner Car Care, W.L. Gore, and Zippo.  He also has brought his unique design savvy to challenger brands such as Dieffenbach’s Chips, Levels Performance Provisions, Fresh Solutions Network, Klamath Basin Fresh Organics, Koch’s Turkey, Tom Sturgis Pretzels, and Wolfgang Candy. 

Newmaster got into teaching to help the next generation learn about the amazing world of packaging design, and to provide some “real world” experience in the classroom. All of the assignments are based on actual projects from throughout his career, and he exposes the class to consumer behavior research and emphasizes creative problem solving.

 WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE EDUCATION A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CAREER?

I started out as an annual speaker at PCA&D, and at one point was told I should be teaching the packaging design class, rather than just showing up once a year for a few hours. I didn’t give it much thought until the call came one day and I was offered the packaging design instructor position. I really didn’t think I was qualified for the job, but wanted to give it a shot. At the least I could get back to doing some art direction one day a week. Since I wasn’t necessarily doing design work every day, it would help keep me fresh with the design-related software. Sounds kind of selfish looking back, but that was probably just my inner voice talking me into doing something new and challenging. Now it’s much bigger . . . it’s passing on knowledge, sharing experiences, and helping the next generation of designers realize potential in another area of design.

 HOW DO YOU BALANCE TEACHING FUNDAMENTALS VS. RESPONDING TO A FAST-CHANGING WORLD?

The fundamentals of great packaging design are purely based on good solid design principles. It’s always about engaging and motivating consumers to pick-up the package by using shape, color, and text. Whether it’s a brick-and-mortal retail shelf or an on-line product search, the packaging is often the first direct interaction a brand has with a potential consumer. The challenge today is understanding what happens in the physical world and the digital world, and what needs to be done to make a product/brand stand-out and make a connection with humans in both environments.