Ken Michalik

Graphic & Web Design

Lead Faculty, Graphic Design
The Art Institute of Michigan

Lead Faculty, Design Ken Michalik

Every project can become a great portfolio piece. Ken Michalik , Lead Faculty, Graphic Design
, The Art Institute of Michigan

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

My second grade teacher liked one of my crayon drawings so much that she placed it on the outside wall of the classroom for parents to see. That gave me the confidence to keep experimenting with color and design. Years later, a local art college that specialized in graphic design put on a presentation for my high school art class. That was the turning point. I was so impressed that I decided that I decided to pursue a career in graphic design.

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

For over 30 years in the advertising and design field, I listened to the client, to my bosses, account executives, co-workers, the mat room employees, suppliers, field personnel, everyone. And I knew that, in their own unique way, they were teaching me some great and valuable lessons, which I make a point to teach to my students.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I tell every student I teach that every project can become a great portfolio piece. I challenge students with real-life projects as a way of giving them them actual work experience. I invite design professionals to speak, co-teach, and interact with students. And I bring students to the professional workplace through field trips so they can gain first-hand knowledge of some of their career options.

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

The collaborative process teaches compromise, listening skills, adaptive learning, and creative enhancement. Students learn to listen to different ways of solving the same problem—that finding the answer may be a collective process. One of my favorite classroom assignments is having students bring a product to market. One student designs the branding, another designs the logo and identity, another designs the packaging, and another puts together the tactics to reach the target market. It’s all about building character and team spirit throughout the creative process.

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

The most important thing I bring to class is real-world examples. Every project I assign is relevant. I do my best to ensure that the students have the skill set, the knowledge, and professionalism to become an active and participating member of the global economy.

Anything else you’d like to share?

My students typically produce at least three professional portfolio samples they can use in interviews with prospective employers. Creating, developing, and managing a student’s portfolio is a huge responsibility that I take very seriously.