Frank Young teaches graphic design at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. On most days, students begin his class with walking meditation. On Thursday, November 15, 2012, Young led his sophomore graphic design class in an exercise aimed at letting loose their creative sensibilities: walking on blueberries and raspberries to create spontaneous art in a playful yet meaningful way.
Video Credit: Yusef Najafi
A little more than a decade ago, Nic Taylor was not sure what he wanted to do with his life.
He was sure, however, that the strong sense of creative energy that he felt didn’t fit with business school. He dropped out and went back to work at a ski shop in Washington D.C. where he had worked throughout high school. It was an act of patience as Taylor describes it.
But at age 18, life took a sudden turn for Taylor when a friend invited him to attend an open house event at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. It was an invitation that would put Taylor on a new path — one that would eventually lead the Maryland native to become a teacher at SVA.
“I was just totally lit on fire.”
“It was when Richard Wilde, [head of the graphic design department at SVA], talked [at the open house] about being creative, and making a life of that for myself -- I think that is what struck me then and stays with me now.”
“It’s something that I talk to my students about,” Taylor says, “how incredibly lucky they are to be at the beginning of a career where they get to be creative and free and make money doing it and create a life for themselves.”
Taylor, 32, has created that life for himself as a teacher at SVA as well as co-creator of thelibrarian.com and co-owner of Thunderwing Press, the design studio that he operates with his wife, author Jennifer Brandt-Taylor, from their home in Garrison, New York.
The two met in Los Angeles when Taylor was an Art Director at Regan Books. Taylor’s career has included jobs at RCA Records, Ogilvy, Publicis, Chermayeff & Geismar, and G2/Grey Advertising.
In order to switch tracks and attend SVA at the age of 19, he set goals to earn a 4.0 at Montgomery College in Rockville Maryland, and prepare a stellar portfolio. He did both. And while his career has continued to build momentum with countless achievements -- including numerous industry awards, taking a job as an art director for design icon David Droga for Publicis at the age of 23, and now creating his own vision of a design studio -- Taylor says his goal as an educator is one:
“To empower young people, period. That is what I try to do, no matter what the class,” he says.
“It’s not about teaching a style. It’s not about teaching any kind of specific look or feel, but giving young people the tools to find happiness and become successful.”
For those wondering what to expect with Taylor as a professor, he says it really depends on the class, but you can be sure it will be demanding. His sophomore year typography class, for example, starts out slowly with a “formal” hierarchal approach before becoming conceptual.
“I like to hold off on all that heavy conceptual thinking and teach typography from the letter to the word, to the sentence, to the phrase, to the paragraph… just sort of developing the idea of being able to handle content and manage a flow of information and visual hierarchy . . . learning how to tell a story.”
The narrative discipline should not be limited to the classroom Taylor says, especially when SVA students have access to all things New York City.
“Go around the city and dedicate three hours to just photographing typography that you love, and starting to assess what it is that you connect with about it,” he says.
“Expose yourself to everything and participate,” he adds. “Start talking about design, because that’s another part of this practice that I think is sometimes overlooked. It’s not just about what’s going through your head as you’re sitting, drawing, sketching, working on the computer, whatever. Half of design is communicating.”
And that communication is essential in the classroom Taylor says.
“It’s about expressing yourself visually and verbally, and recognizing that speaking up and being involved is making you part of a group. We’re all choosing to be here.”
For Taylor, teaching at the school has in many ways brought him full circle, for he traces everything that he has done to SVA.
“Without sounding overly indulgent, [SVA] has been everything to me. What I love about SVA is that you get to choose your path, you get to create your own educational journey.”
“Every teacher is different, and what’s beautiful about it is that Richard encourages every teacher to teach from their own source of inspiration. And so you get to cast as wide of a net, or be as focused in your studies as you want to be. And that is a profoundly special educational experience.”
Nic Taylor currently teaches sophomore year typography, senior year portfolio, and co-teaches a rigorous junior year Graphic Design/Communications class with Brett Kilroe at the School of Visual Arts. To see more of his work, visit his official website, www.nictaylor.com. For more on Thunderwing Press, visit thunderwingpress.com. Taylor also shares visual inspiration, design and typography through instagram, @thebushofghosts.
Zipeng, who’s from Shenzen, China, took part in the 2011 session; an adventurous eater, he channeled his appetite and dynamism into a series of striking food photographs.
Nova, who hails from Hongzhou and accompanied the class in 2012, was interested in architecture and became increasingly adept in abstracting buildings into mysterious shapes and structures.
Their generosity, assistance and humor certainly helped make the two workshops run smoothly; their input, imagery, creativity, and unique vision energized discussions and enabled the photo students to acclimate to their new surroundings, to become curious and inspired, and to quickly get to work on their projects.
The 2012 portfolio app for iPad and iPhone is here. Download on the App Store.
Explore the portfolios and work of the 2012 graduating class of the School of Visual Arts Advertising and Graphic Design Department.
Featuring the latest graphic design, advertising, motion graphics, interactive design, and 3D design work of our students, this app gives you the opportunity to find the most talented young designers for your company, startup, or project.
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Please note: Advertising, graphic design and 3D work will be available on May 8. Motion graphics content is available starting May 3.
Produced by Leo Mancini, Sebit Min, and Ori Kleiner.
The GDAD Interview series aims to explore the award-winning graphic design and advertising faculty. Each interview reveals the history of the teacher, the classes they teach, if they're working on any special projects, and their perspective on creativity, learning, and art.
Graham Elliott runs eyegasm.tv, a multimedia production company based in DUMBO New York, and has produced projects across the world, from music videos in Japan, travel commercials in Trinidad to TV travel shows in Mexico and Morocco. Joey Cofone, a junior in the graphic design program, spoke with Graham about flying airplanes, switching to art and how he ended up exploring motion graphics and making a documentary.
Joey Cofone: Hi, Graham.
Graham Elliott: Hi.
Joey Cofone: Let’s jump right in. According to your website, eyegasm.tv, you were training to be a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force, but then you switched to art. What made you decide to make that change?
GE: From when I was about 13 years old I was completely in love with airplanes and aviation. The smell of the kerosene, it just did my head in—it meant adventure. I didn’t come from a rich family, I’d never been abroad, so this was my way of traveling, in a sense. I got to watch the planes coming in and out of the airport. So I decided I wanted to learn to fly. Everybody thought I was insane. I joined the Air Cadets, it’s like the Boy Scouts for flying, and went through the ranks.
I found out there was a flying scholarship with the Air Force. I did all the tests, I went down to London, and there were 120 kids from all over the country. The first day was all physical examinations. I wore glasses, and at the time if you wore glasses that was it, you were kicked out straight away. So I took the eye test without my glasses, I don’t know how I did it, but I got through along with 12 other kids. I was flying solo in less than a week.
So I’m 17, I got my wings, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join the Air Force. It seemed a bit stifling. The whole time I’m good at art—my mother was an artist—and I thought I just wanted to try this art thing out. Again, everyone said no, my dad went crazy. I signed up for a foundation course and I just loved it. I decided to go with art.
JC: Why graphic design instead of, say, illustration?
GE: I was going to do photography, and then I realized with graphic design I could incorporate other stuff. I really liked coming up with projects. When I graduated, for some reason, I wasn’t that keen on the design world. I drifted around a bit doing more fine arts stuff and illustration, which was more enjoyable.
I moved to London and went to the Royal College of Art for an Illustration Masters. I teamed up with one of my classmates, we called ourselves the Thunderjockeys. We became this crazy design anarchist duo. For our first assignment we made a video for Swatch called 'Time Travel'.
JC: So this was your first introduction to motion?
GE: Yeah. It was a combination of graphic design and video, it felt very natural. When we graduated we had a show at the school. I built a skyscraper with a TV set in it showing our Time Travel film. Edward Booth Clibborn was the head of American Illustration and he liked it. He asked us to come to America to do a presentation.
We did our presentation at FIT with this crazy suitcase sculpture. Steve Byram, the art director at CBS/Sony Records was there and he invited us to meet up at the record company. About 6 months later I got a phone call and he says that Vernon Reid from Living Color wanted us to do their new album sleeve. So we did it, along with the next two albums and the video for the song Glamour Boys.
JC: That’s fantastic. How did you make the segue from music videos to commercials?
GE: We went to see the boss at Saatchi & Saatchi Ad. agency and asked for a job. He said no. We said that we were the Thunderjockeys, we could do anything. We put together a portfolio and went back and, I don’t know why, but we decided to dress up as women and brought a goat and a dalmatian along with our portfolio. The animals didn’t work as well as we planned and he kicked us out. Six months later we went back with a lot more work. We put thunderflashes in the portfolio as a surprise, but we didn’t get the mixture right and, when he opened the portfolio, it set the fire alarm and the sprinklers off. It was a mess, people were running around. We got kicked out again. We went back a month later, no tricks, and showed our portfolio. He gave us a job and we started writing and directing commercials.
JC: Fast forward, you’ve been working on all these videos during your career thus far. Your latest project is a documentary on the motion graphics industry in New York, appropriately titled New York In Motion. How did this project come about?
GE: I’d been guest lecturing at SVA for 10 years. Then Richard Wilde asked me to teach a music video class. I tried it and absolutely loved it. Soon after, a motion graphics class came up and I started teaching that. Students were asking me what motion graphics really is, it’s such an ambiguous term, and I thought maybe we should make a film about it and ask the industry itself.
We chose the top motion graphic studios, freelancers, and networks in NYC and we went all around and started interviewing people. It was originally going to be a 15 minute piece, but I realized it had the breadth to be a real documentary. It turned out that the industry is actually booming in New York ironically helped by the recession.
Madison Avenue and all the advertising is based here. They used to go do all the commercials in LA, but because of the economy they didn’t have the money to go all the way to California, so they decided to do them all here. That sparked a big change. Companies here in NYC that used to do the end tags for commercials started getting entire commercials. All these small companies started to get big jobs and were able to grow.
The film is about the creative process, how studios make these videos, how they started off, about the industry booming, and the ubiquity of motion in our daily lives.
JC: How can people watch the documentary—is it online?
GE: Not currently, we’re working on different distribution methods. You can check out the trailer at nyinmotionmovie.com and find out how and where you can see it. We’ve been showing it at festivals around the world and have had so much positive feedback. It’s really exciting.
Starting in September my motion graphics class is going to be New York In Motion–The Portfolio Course and we’re going to have people come in from the industry and set projects. It’s going to be very much a course derived from the industry itself. It will be great for students to have an introduction into the market before they even graduate.
JC: That sounds exciting. Thank you for sharing, I look forward to seeing the documentary.
GE: Thank you.
Portfolios from the 2010-2011 academic year are now online. The work of sophomores, juniors and seniors can be seen in the Student Work Gallery.
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