Jody Graff: Educator To Watch 2019

Our 2019 Educators To Watch series shines the spotlight on people who are making a difference to their art and design students, schools and communities.


Jody Graff is an Associate Professor in the Graphic Design program in the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design  at Drexel University. She has taught in the program for over two decades and served as Program Director from 2007-17. The range of coursework Jody teaches reflects the work she pursues in her private practice and includes wayfinding, exhibition design, book design, branding and packaging. The coursework she has developed engages students in graphic design research and service partnerships both local and global. Jody has also collaborated and co-taught interdisciplinary coursework with other Drexel University programs and local partners. She is particularly interested in the intersection of graphic design and the built environment.

Her work has been recognized with several awards and her teaching has been recognized with an Instructor Gold Medal Award by Graphis. In addition to teaching and client work, Jody’s research includes creating varying types of paper sculpture. Jody’s passion for the power of design to celebrate and elevate the human condition comes through in both her private work and in the classroom.

How and why did you decide to make education a meaningful part of your career? 

I was asked to teach one class, for one term, and never looked back. I thoroughly enjoy working with students and delight in seeing them making new discoveries, honing their skills and inventing the future. An educational environment has also allowed me to collaborate with, and learn from, peers from many other design disciplines. The problems we are solving as designers are more complex and interconnected than ever. These conversations and access make me a better designer/collaborator/educator.

How do you balance the teaching of fundamentals versus the demands to respond to a fast-changing world of media, technology and culture? 

In order to respond with/through all of the new (media, techniques, materials, etc.), the fundamentals need to be that much more solid. With so many possible directions/interpretations, the concept and core principles must have depth and meaning or the solution will be shallow and fleeting. I encourage my students to be curious and test all avenues (and get off screen). Sometimes, the best solution that communicates the most clearly is the one that uses the least technology and is the simplest form.