Graphic & Web Design
Graphic Design Instructor
The Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg
Don't follow trends. Analyze and deconstruct them to see why they exist in the first place. Dan Streeting , Graphic Design Instructor , The Illinois Institute of Art — Schaumburg
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
The first was studying architecture for a year in an intensive year-long studio course, which taught me to approach creativity on a whole new level. I switched to graphic design afterwards, but that intense approach has always informed my work. The other defining moment started in 2003 and lasted for a decade. I played in a band, which was a creative outlet for more expressive visual work...a sort of parallel graphic design education.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
Having worked in both design and production in a variety of settings including in-house, agency, and freelance, I’ve accumulated a lot of practical experience. I’m able to relate what we’re doing in class to practical design challenges I’ve dealt with professionally. I run my own design practice, balancing a variety of clients and personal projects, and that helps ground my advice to students in reality. It’s less of an abstract to them. If I can balance a sense of expressive freedom with an understanding of the real world, I’m having a good day.
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?
Most of my long-term assignments are pretty open-ended. I tend not to say no to students’ ideas, as long as they’re pursued with intention and integrity and they fulfill the spirit and difficulty level of the assignment. I see my role as a mentor, as showing students what’s possible...that the world of design is a lot larger than they might think. I encourage each student to try working in new ways, whether that’s a conceptual approach or something as simple as trying a new software technique.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
We all collaborate as professionals every day. But students worry about working with each other in the classroom—they see it as the dreaded “group project” where not everyone pulls their weight. I prefer short-term collaborative projects—brainstorming sessions, client pitches, and branding activities—where the result is purely idea-driven and not tied to a crucial grade. Teaming up with peers from other programs helps prepare Design students to work with clients and those who may not have a design-based vocabulary.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Develop your own personal voice. See design as a big picture, not instant gratification. Understand history and context. Don’t follow trends, analyze and deconstruct them to see why they exist in the first place. And use that knowledge to make your own work better.