Nancy Wood

Graphic & Web Design

Adjunct Faculty
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

Nancy Wood headshot

I always encourage students to try different approaches to any project and to not be content with just one solution. Nancy Wood , Adjunct Faculty , The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

Growing up I designed and sewed my own clothes and clothes for my dolls. In college I expected to major in costume design but the major required basic drawing and painting courses. In my first oil painting class at UCLA I fell in love with oil painting- manipulating colors and shapes and the aroma of linseed oil.The professor held up my work as an example for the class and I was advised to change my major to Studio Art.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?


I worked in the printing industry during the 1970’s. I made darkroom negatives, did “stripping” (press layout) and made metal plates for the presses. I even learned to run a few presses. What I learned about printing and darkroom methods transfers to current tools in Photoshop and Illustrator. In the darkroom I made half tone negatives, did dodge, and burn by hand and made negatives and plates for four color process printing.

In the 1990’s I worked freelance making simple animations and designs to be printed on advertising specialty products. I used Photoshop beginning with version 2 to make photo composites for clients. I learned HTML and used the first versions of Dreamweaver and Flash to make websites for clients. I was the technical reviewer for several software books published by Coriolis publishing. Because I enjoy learning new software and technology I was able to move between different industries to pursue opportunities.

During the early 21st century I was involved with ACM SIGGRAPH and had the opportunity to meet leaders in computer graphics fields. I served on the committee for the 2002 SIGGRAPH conference in San Antonio and met amazing professionals, including one who produced Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video and did special effects for Lord of the Rings, and a computer scientist who helped develop raster graphics. It was a great opportunity to hear firsthand about their creative processes.


More recently I experimented with 3D learning games and was Associate Producer for an experimental business game in Second Life and Moodle. I earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with concentration in Educational Technology so I could develop learning materials with a deeper understanding of how people learn using technology.

I tell students that in the creative design industry they will always be learning new techniques and they will be valuable if they are flexible and can solve problems.

Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?

When students create a good design- I recommend that they try two more versions. Often when a student creates a good first effort- if they try 2 or 3 more versions their next efforts will be outstanding! I always encourage students to try different approaches to any project and to not be content with just one solution. Versatility and the ability to work with different media and styles is key to being a successful designer.

In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

I tell students that in the creative design industry they will always be learning new techniques and they will be valuable if they are flexible and can solve problems. Lifelong learning is key for any creative design field.

Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

I received my B.A. and M.F.A. in Fine Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles and my Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with concentration in Educational Technology from Texas A & M University, College Station.

My digital artworks have been included in more than 100 exhibitions around the world including the Museum of Modern Art New York’s “Museum as Muse” online exhibition “The Petersburg Biennale of Computer Graphics” in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the 2015 International Conference of Computer Graphics, Imaging and Visualization at the University of Barcelona, Spain. I’ve developed courses in visual design for colleges and universities and made presentations at national conferences including the 2014 National Art Education Association conference and the 2015 College Art Association conference in New York. 

I taught 2D animation at The Art Institute of Houston for two years, was a full-time faculty member at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh—Online Division for ten years and currently I am teaching adjunct online and for The Art Institute of San Antonio. I always enjoy working with Art Institutes learners because they are sooooo creative!