Mick Opalko

Graphic & Web Design

Graphic Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh

Mick Opalko

You need an insatiable desire to design the best possible solution for every product. Mick Opalko , Graphic Design Instructor
, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

It was when I realized that I saw people, buildings, and landscapes differently; I saw them as shapes, texture, lights and darks, colors, and subjects.

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

I remind my students that, in addition to creativity, it’s important to verbally and visually communicate a clear message. And doing that takes hard work, research, and always staying current.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?


I have students create a 3D point-of-purchase display. They start by choosing and researching a product and determining a message. They present thumbnail sketches for classroom critique, then revise their sketches for another round of critique. We go over materials, processes, cost, and feasibility. And finally they present their final display for final critique covering design, concept, typography, communication and craftsmanship.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success?

Teamwork is all about sharing knowledge among students from different disciplines, and learning to communicate in a positive, effective way.

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


The main thing I want students to remember is that people are important.

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


You need an insatiable desire to design the best possible solution for every product.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I started my career teaching here 39 years ago. It’s made me a much better person, artist and, hopefully, mentor.