Deny Ehrlich, MS

Graphic & Web Design

Graphic Design Instructor
The Art Institute of Portland

Deny Ehrlich

It's up to you to make things happen. Don't sit back and wait for someone else to do it. Deny Ehrlich, MS , Graphic Design Instructor , The Art Institute of Portland
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

After I earned my undergraduate degree, I wasn’t sure which direction I wanted to go. I visited a graphic designer in her “native habitat” (her studio). When I saw her drawing table, I connected immediately to what she was doing—it struck an immediate chord.

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

I’ve worked both as a graphic designer in a studio and as a self-employed freelance designer. I bring the whole of that experience to the classroom. I approach each class as though we’re working in a studio; I treat my students as junior designers. I teach them to approach a project by first knowing what the client wants, and what challenges they face, then coming up with viable creative solutions.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

I teach a course that incorporates the real-life experience of working for a nonprofit client, coordinated through an actual design studio. Students must work with a professional art director as well as an actual client. They face real-world challenges like time constraints, competing priorities, personality conflicts, design requirements, and client presentations. They find that working together in pairs and groups allows them to help and inspire each other.

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

In that class, students from the Graphic & Web Design, Digital Photography, and Advertising program areas come together to create a collateral campaign for the client. While each group is tasked with their own component, they also work together collaboratively. They learn that the solution depends on the sum of the parts—and that sometimes, creative compromises have to be made.

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

You’re in the driver’s seat. It’s up to you to make things happen. Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to do it.

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

Embarking on a creative career can take time, so take advantage of any opportunity that seems promising. Keep your eye on where you want to go, but be realistic about how and when you can get there. And keep an open mind.