Erin Freeman

Graphic & Web Design

Graphic Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Atlanta

Listen to your intuition. That voice will get you through a challenging project and help you cut through the clutter when you're on your own. Erin Freeman , Graphic Design Instructor
, The Art Institute of Atlanta

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

When I was four, I drew some amazing aliens with a black Sharpie...on the roof of my dad’s green Ford Pinto. My mom had always stressed the importance of women in the workforce, and how everyone had something special to contribute (even marker murals). I knew that I wanted a career that I considered to be an extension of myself.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

Moving from a classroom environment to a creative industry is a huge challenge for students. Suddenly they’re working on multiple deadlines, in different scenarios, alongside various work personalities. I try to prepare them for it by sharing my experiences in the form of case studies. They get a sense of reality and we forge a common bond that helps me become a better mentor.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

In Corporate Identity and Branding class, designers are assigned a creative brief, conceptual and sketching exercises, logo development, a standards manual, and supporting graphic collateral. I call it a “high learning curve” course, because by the end of the quarter, they start to understand the entire design process, including the designer/client relationship. Playing the roles of designer, client, researcher, collaborator, printer, and presenter gives them a greater appreciation of the industry.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

It’s easy for a design student to work as a “party of one” in a Mac bubble. But in the real world, many designers work in groups. I encourage students to share their ideas with their classmates so they can produce more robust solutions. And when students from different programs brainstorm together, they find solutions that may not have happened alone or with students with the same major.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Listen to your intuition. That voice will get you through a challenging project and help you cut through the clutter when you’re on your own.

What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?

Fight complacency. Challenge yourself to find the best solution through creative experimentation—while walking through the fear of failure.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I’m grateful that I get to work with such creative minds who want to grow and learn. The biggest thing I impart to my students is how to cultivate and nourish creativity, the fuel that pushes us every day.