This spring we welcome Frank Chimero to the PSU Design Department. Not only is he new to the school, but he is new to Portland. Welcome! Welcome! He answered a few questions for us about his process and teaching. Give him a high five if you see him in the halls. He is teaching 470 Contemporary Design Projects this spring.
Please tell us a little about your education.
I went to school out in the middle of nowhere in Missouri at Missouri State University. It sounds quaint (it was), but for some reason there was an excellent stock of eastern Europeans teaching design at the school. Polish, Russian, Bosnian, you name it. It was incredible. I studied design and illustration and learned about designing, rigor, symbolism, and craft. I'm also thankful for the emphasis on theory. It was a very European school in that regard, and every time I visit other schools, I'm struck with just how European my education was. I think that emphasis on theory informs a lot of my work and teaching methods now.
How did you break into the field?
In high school, I had friends in bands. This means t-shirts, posters and album designs. You know the drill.
Please tell us a little about your design work history.
I've been on my own since day one. I've been really fortunate. There's been lean times at the very beginning, but things have been stable the past few years. Basically, I finished school, and made the assumption I wanted to work for someone else some where else. (Missouri isn't exactly a hotbed of design activity.) So, I start researching. Where to live? Where to work? In short, all the options paralyzed me, so I started looking for freelance work to pay the bills in the mean time. Then, freelancing took on a life of it's own. The jobs got bigger. The clients got further away. The work got more demanding and more rewarding. I think I just grew into it, making things up as I went along.
And now, here I am, years later. Still making things up.
What is the focus of your creative research?
I'm interested in how the creative disciplines can delight people. I define delight as the area where surprise and clarity overlap. How can I show you something you haven't noticed before? How can I make you consider something in a way you haven't before?
I have a fascination with the creative process, curiosity and visual experience. I think process is an unsung hero, and I think it's our duty to discuss it. It is, after all, what we all have in common. Teachers, students, painters, writers, designers and dancers all know the terror of the blank page. I want to focus on mental dexterity, and I want to find wit, surprise, honesty and delight in the world around us. And then document it. Basically, I want to create fun work that is nourishing.
above: Illinois from the state series
What is your teaching philosophy?
Many small things over one big thing. Lots of smaller assignments that can link together and culminate into a meaningful whole. Some projects a student will knock out of the park. Others will fizzle and burn. A student's mistakes and missteps become more costly the fewer assignments a class has, so I try to equalize this by having a lot of smaller tasks. Frequent iterations also help students discover what they are good at.
Process. My class is very process-oriented. Often times, the process and documenting it takes a key role in the final form of the assignment. While a student may be able to teach themselves subjects like typography or software, a rigorous process seems to be something that benefits from an outside pressure pushing it onto the student.
Edit. Come up with lots of ideas. Go through a process. Choose the best ones. Make those. Polish. Refine. Delete. Waste. There's a lot of waste in gold mining.
What classes are you teaching this year?470 Contemporary Design Projects.
Who/what inspires you?
Everything. I'm the kid that took apart his watch and his parents computer. The one who made patterns with his legos instead of buildings.
In short: Words and pictures, less and more, wires and pulses, flora and fauna, looking and listening.
Please share some links to sites that inspire you.