Sydney Ligouri: Educator To Watch

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.


Sydney Ligouri has been a designer for nearly a decade, after graduating from Parsons School of Design with a BFA in Illustration. Her experience includes communications design, print, editorial, branding and UX/UI. As a designer, Sydney values conceptual thinking, following process and collaboration. She has always had an interest in mentorship and developing others, which led to the co-founding of RookieUp, an online mentorship and creative career building platform. Her combined skills and interests of design + mentorship led her to join the teaching team at Shillington Education, an innovative global design college. Sydney has been teaching at the school for over three years and was recently promoted to Head of Teaching, New York, overseeing all teaching and teaching teams on the New York campus.

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

I’ve always had an affinity for creative education! I started getting very serious about art when I was 16 and during my years studying at Parsons I always really admired my instructors. Then, in 2015 I co-founded a creative mentorship platform called RookieUp, and I really dove head-first into thinking through what makes a great creative mentor. Serendipitously, Shillington and the opportunity to become a teacher came into my life in 2017, and it was genuinely the best thing that ever happened to me. Witnessing the journey our students go through the course is SO inspiring, sharing knowledge is deeply humbling, and the diversity of thought and expression in what the students produce is so damn cool. Plus, the fact that most of our students are coming to us having had a different career previously, we really are helping them make a huge exciting shift in their lives.

Have the events of 2020 changed the way you think about or teach graphic design?

The events of 2020 – particularly the events and conversations surrounding race in America – have most definitely changed my perception of the design industry as a whole. Representation for women and LGBT+ folks is and remains an area we need to grow in. But current events have exemplified that we need to be better utilizing our spaces to provide skills, tools and a voice for BIPOC folks striving to enter the design industry and excel. At Shillington, I am part of a team spearheading diversity initiatives in our campuses and online spaces, including BIPOC scholarships to make design education more attainable to under-represented communities, full audits of our educational, content to ensure full representation is present in subjects like design history, and inviting inspiring BIPOC designers to come speak to our students about their design journeys. There is undeniably a huge amount of whiteness in the design industry, and I believe educational institutions are responsible for stepping up and pushing for more and, more diversity in their courses, which will result in more diversity in skilled designers available for hire.