WESTPHAL COLLEGE OF MEDIA ARTS AND DESIGN
The son of a painter and a special-education teacher, Eric grew up on the edge of lovely Baltimore MD. After a brief, unsuccessful stint as a journalism student, Eric enrolled in the Graphic Design program at Maryland Institute College of Art, where he developed an abiding love for all things typographic. Upon graduation, Eric punched the clock at a number of well-known design and advertising firms (Pentagram, The Martin Agency, etc.), where he managed projects for a wide range of corporate and institutional clients. Eric has taught design and typography since 2006, and is currently an Assistant Professor of graphic design at Drexel University in Philadelphia. In addition, he maintains a shadowy, unofficial poster design studio (erickarnes.com) and a small branding studio with longtime friend and fellow classmate Christine Coffey. Eric’s work has been recognized by organizations and publications such as the AIGA, Art Directors Club, Type Directors Club, Society of Publication Designers, German Society for Book Arts, American Advertising Federation, CA, Graphis, and Print Magazine.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE EDUCATION A MEANINGFUL PART OF YOUR CAREER?
I was fortunate enough to have studied under Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips while an undergraduate at MICA. They were incredibly inspiring and when I was eventually given the opportunity to come back to teach, I jumped at it. It was important to me to give back and I quickly found that I loved the challenges of the classroom. I’ve since gained experience at other schools, but Ellen and Jennifer remain my benchmarks for what makes a great design educator.
IS THERE A SPECIAL CHALLENGE TO EDUCATING STUDENTS IN 2017 IN LIGHT OF TODAY’S CULTURE OR POLITICS OR ECONOMICS OR TECHNOLOGY OF THIS MOMENT?
The biggest challenge I’ve found in educating aspiring designers is making them comfortable with the ambiguities of an iterative design process. Cultural and public education policy shifts seem to have created more college students noticeably uncomfortable with processes that lack prescribed directions. Therefore, in Freshman and Sophomore courses, I try to stress the necessity of rigorous experimentation. It’s a tried and true technique that teaches students it’s ok – and in fact preferable – to tackle a visual problem without being able to predict the final solution.