Macoe Swett

Graphic & Web Design

Adjunct Faculty, Design and Illustration
The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University

Macoe Swett

Make sure you're working with—and for—people whose work you admire, so that feedback helps make you a better designer. Macoe Swett , Adjunct Faculty, Design and Illustration , The Art Institute of California—San Diego, a campus of Argosy University
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

My art teacher in high school suggested graphic design as a career path for me. I never wanted to be a starving artist so it seemed like a perfect fit. 

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?


As well as showing them my finished pieces, I often bring the working files in and show how I created them and talk about my process, which of course starts before I even get on the computer. We discuss idea generation and brainstorming techniques. I also talk about networking and soft skills, because I think both of these are key to a successful career.  

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?

I have one in-class assignment towards the end of the session during which each student picks a piece of folded paper from a pile with a word on it. Some of the words are spirit, silence, loneliness; things that are more conceptual than literal. Then they have 90 minutes to create a digital illustration that expresses that word (without including the actual word). It's amazing to see what they can come up with when challenged in this way! Most of the students in this class come in having never considered themselves illustrators. I ask them to suspend their disbelief for the next eleven weeks and remind them that no one is born with great drawing skills. Look at any toddler's drawing and this is obvious. It's a learned skill like any other. Many of them come in avoiding drawing because they think they're not good at it. I compare it to preparing to run a marathon; would you prepare by avoiding running? Of course not. 

What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

Collaboration is one of the best "real-world" experiences they can gain while in school. Many are surprised to know that in an agency, no one "owns" a project; it gets passed to whomever has the bandwidth at the exact moment it needs changes or refinement and it's very likely going to be someone other than the person who started it.  

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?


This is a tough one, but probably one of the most important things is to be open to feedback from others. And along with that, make sure you're working with—and for—people whose work you admire so that feedback helps make you a better designer as well. 

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 have my own design studio called Urban Legend Design and you can see my work at www.urbanlegenddesign.com and behance.net/macoe.