Graphic & Web Design
Graphic & Web Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division
Be an independent problem solver. Ashley Fessler , Graphic & Web Design Instructor , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
I got into design because my seventh grade band teacher told my mom that I was tone deaf. He also said that he always saw me doodling...so I should switch to art. My parents sold my clarinet and set me on a more creative path.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
I draw on my 20+ years of experience to make the learning as real as possible. I own a freelance design company, where I’m responsible for the entire the creative process—finding work, negotiating contracts, day-to-day client interaction, and designing. I share my design work with students, ask them to think about where they see themselves in the field, and urge them to start thinking in terms of how design is more than just creating pieces—it’s a business.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
I love teaching Identity Design. It’s a wonderful project where students create a logo design for a client, from start to finish. The client is a small business of their choosing, in their area. They get a chance to see a project through from start to finish and experience reaching out to clients. It’s a real eye-opener for them, and I love watching them gain confidence in themselves as designers.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
Designers typically work with copywriters, editors, back-end web and technology specialists, illustrators, and other professionals. Very rarely can designers work through a project without the help of others. I make sure my students understand that early on.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Be an independent problem solver. I still come across challenges and problems with every project I take on. It’ll be up to you as the designer to navigate those challenges and solve those problems.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Not every student has the same goals. I try to help them figure out where they see themselves, gain confidence in their creative decisions, and take ownership of their path to success.