The streets and coffee shops of Kent are brimming with students, newly-installed air conditioning units peek out of apartment windows, and our studio calendar has transformed into a kaleidoscope of colors. This can only mean one thing: school is back in session for students AND for us! 5 out of 8 members of our studio have got syllabi on the brain. We teach courses on Design Thinking, Motion Design, Digital Citizenship, Advanced Typography, and more to students majoring in everything from Art and Design to Computer Science and Communications. As we begin to share more of our time between the studio and the classroom, we’re taking a moment to pass on our best scholastic suggestions — advice passed on to us in the classrooms of our pasts, or maybe advice we never heard but wish we had. Here we go!
#1: Try something, quit something
My college years got a whole lot better when I realized that not everything I invested my time in needed to be career-related or look good on a resume. I felt a good bit of internal, societal, and systemic pressure to choose activities, classes, and summer jobs to propel me on a successful post-collegiate career journey. While I think you should try to set yourself up well for post-grad life and work, your college years are a time when you’ll have the most freedom and access to try new things. Join the mountaineering club. Audition for a capella. Quit something. Work a summer at a job that doesn’t pay much but is fun and teaches you a lot. Take a class in a subject you’ve always been curious about. If you don’t want to pay hundreds of dollars to join the honorary…then don’t. Your college years are about shaping and forming you as a person in a more holistic way rather than just coming out with a diploma and a clear career path. The activities I did and the elective classes I took that seemed “totally unrelated” to my major and career trajectory were some of the most formative and memorable experiences of my life. As Mark Twain is quoted saying, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
— Advice from Grace
#2: Get a change of scene
The best thing I ever did as a college student was leave campus (or at least to go somewhere on campus that didn’t feel like campus (e.g. the Herrick Conservatory). Often times I would leave to go to a coffee shop for the day, take a hike at the CVNP, or visit a vinyl shop. Being in any location long enough can feel stagnating physically, mentally, or emotionally. Taking time to switch up my routine and step away from something was always refreshing. If you’re reading this as a post-grad, same thing goes! Get the heck out of your office. Take advantage of that lunch break. Are you able to work remotely? Go to a coffee shop or work in your backyard.
— Advice from Alex
In the dead of winter, Kent State's greenhouse complex teems with life. Home to a diverse array of plants-and some…
#3: Write it down
I am both a student and instructor and besides “pack a dang lunch” here is the one piece of advice I will give: Get yourself a paper planner (and some real notebooks) and write things down with your actual hand. I know you think your mind is a steel trap. I know you can do it quicker on a phone or computer. I know you’re not worried about the deadline because it’s so far away and your current priority is figuring out your Halloween costume. I know paper planners are archaic and only your mother would be caught dead with one. But you know what mom knows? That not only will you have your notes to remind you of deadlines and information in the future, but the very act of writing something helps your brain remember. It’s true! Scientists say so! I really love teaching, but I do not love standing in front of a classroom giving out important project information to 20 completely motionless people staring back at me. If you have taken class with me, you have definitely heard me say, “Write that down. Literally right now.” I say this because I receive your emails, and I know that you will remember 0% of the information I gave. So find some paper you like, and an amazing planner (like these beautiful ones), and start writing! Your brain will thank you the next time you have an important project due or an exam to take. And so will your instructor when they no longer receive the “What were the dimensions again?” panic emails the night before a due date.
— Advice from Cait
#4: Treat college like a job
College is a great time to build good habits. You’ll definitely be busy, and for most people, that doesn’t let off after college. Take care of yourself, don’t overwork, and be deliberate about your classes and studies. If you treat college like a job — having productive days even when you’re not in class — you might be surprised how on top of things you can be. And go to class. The worst thing a student can do with me is blow off classes and not be communicative if there’s something they keep missing class for. I want you to succeed, but I can’t help you if you’re absent and seem like you don’t care. I’ve had students pull through some really tough personal situations that required prolonged absences because we stayed in communication and worked out a plan. I’d love to write those students recommendations for scholarships and jobs!
— Advice from Nate
#5: Eat & stay hydrated
Hello, this is your mother calling to remind you to drink enough water and eat something for breakfast! Get yourself a nice water bottle from the Target — one with measurements, if you can, or at least know how much it holds. I downloaded a water app (there are many) a year ago and it told me how much I need to drink a day, then every time I finish a glass or bottle or a cup of tea I push some buttons and it tells me how much I still need to drink. Easy peasy. Remember that you are like a nice green plant — you need to be watered every day! (That’s not good plant advice, I know — your father’s the one with the green thumb. Just roll with the metaphor, honey)
My second piece of advice is to make yourself something for breakfast and eat it! I don’t care if you go all out and make breakfast tacos like your dad, or if you keep it simple and sweet with a bowl of granola like your mum (maybe throw some fruit on there if you can). Or if you’re running really late, eat a banana on your way to class. Just get something in that precious tummy so you’re not runnin’ on E till lunchtime. I love you hun, have a great day at school!
— Advice from Katey
#6: Don’t forget the FUNdamentals!
In high school I was on a soccer team for four years. We would practice every day all summer and into the early fall. For the first month of practice, all we would do is run. Like just all different kinds of running. Long runs, sprints, suicides, it was a lot. It freaking sucked. Last I had checked I signed up for soccer!? If I wanted to do nothing but run I would have signed up for track or cross country?! We wouldn’t even see a soccer ball for weeks, let alone do skill drills or scrimmage.
You are perceptive. You see where this is going. Obviously, if we didn’t do the conditioning and build the endurance none of the ball skills would have mattered at all, because we wouldn’t have lasted in a game. Design (and really every other discipline for that matter) works the same way.
When you’re first starting out you have to learn the fundamentals, and at times the means to the end can be bewildering and tedious. You’ll be chomping at the bit to finally arrive at what you perceive as being the “actual, real stuff.” You might think “I seriously have to do that many sketches?” “How many times am I going to have to arrange and rearrange these black squares?” “When are we actually going to design something?” But ya gotta do the conditioning. You have to fall into a natural design posture so that your design gestures will be on target without so much effort. Sometimes a student will get too ahead of things while they’re still at an early stage and ask me if the poster they did on their own is looking good. Most of the time I suggest that they keep focusing on the fundamentals. And eventually, the people who put a lot into that boring rhythm make really, really good stuff.
— Advice from Ryan
Okay, NOW you can start packing up your books. Our lecture is complete, and class is dismissed! When you have a free moment, be sure to give our “Back 2 School” Spotify playlist a whirl. Curated collaboratively amongst members of our studio, these tracks are selections we had on repeat in middle and high school. Yeah, some are angsty. Sure, some are pure teen pop. But they’re the songs we loved…and still love. We hope you enjoy them, too.