Creatives Wanted

Andrew Sobol draws on his graphic design career to prepare students for this thriving industry.

When Andrew Sobol was busy working as the creative director of an independent film studio, he always carved out time to teach, as his outlet from the corporate world.

After a decade as a professional designer, he changed careers, joining Elmhurst University in 2017 as an assistant professor of graphic design while taking on freelance projects part-time.

A big part of being an effective, impactful teacher has meant staying plugged in to his rapidly evolving profession, Sobol says. He can keep current with industry trends, and knows what prospective employers will be looking for in his students.

In the Classroom

Sobol teaches nearly all of Elmhurst’s graphic design curriculum, from the introductory courses to the portfolio and capstone courses that help seniors showcase their work. He has been responding to the demand in the job market by increasing his emphasis on interactive design.

“Websites, mobile apps, all the way down to the watches we’re wearing—students use them every day, but if they have to design them, it’s almost like having to learn a new language,” he says. “We have to get down to the nitty-gritty and examine how things work as well as how they look—the things that as users we take for granted.

“All the agencies and studios are looking for someone who can do traditional print design but also interactive design,” he adds. “The industry is thriving and creative people are needed.”

To prepare his students, Sobol makes sure his classroom provides a safe, collaborative environment where students “can cultivate their ideas, and where everyone’s opinions are valued.”

One of his favorite parts of teaching is brainstorming with students to flesh out their ideas or come up with new ones on the spot.

“There’s nothing like having a class of 10 to 20 people, and everybody has a different idea to present. Sometimes they can get stuck, so what can we do to get them over that hump?” he says. “Or when they’re creating something and are striving for it but for some reason just can’t see it yet—what can we do to get them to see?”

The Takeaway

As much as Sobol enjoys working with students in the classroom, he’s just as excited for the day they graduate and get to try out their ideas and skills in the field.

He knows that, as well-prepared as they are, they’ll continue to learn. It’s one of the many requirements—and joys—of the job.

“With the technology changing all the time, you will always be learning new things. Always. That continuing education is just a matter of survival in the industry,” he says. “And if you’re a graphic designer who gets to work with a variety of clients, you’ll need to learn about their businesses. You build up such a wealth of knowledge, and it’s a never-ending, really exciting process.”

And after the energy and long hours spent on a project—“where you go to sleep thinking about it and wake up thinking about it, maybe even daydream about it”—one of the greatest sources of gratification for a designer comes when it’s finished.

“You can see your product in the wild—what you created is in the store, or you can see people using the app you designed. It’s tremendously rewarding in that way.”

Posted June 26, 2019

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