Designer, Educator, and Developer
Christina Laanen is a multimedia designer and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received both her BA in Art and MA in Multimedia from California State University East Bay. She currently teaches at The Art Institute of California’s San Francisco campus, where she is actively engaging, exciting and developing the next generation of graphic designers and multimedia specialists. Ms. Laanen also performs freelance work with local companies and non-profit organizations. Her most recent project of note is assisting the migration and redesign of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s public website. In both her roles, Ms. Laanen brings her students and clients into the design process as collaborators. With an open and adaptive design style, she enjoys the challenge of creating solutions for new and different problems.
As a multimedia designer and educator, I am deeply committed to engaging, exciting and developing the next generation of graphic designers and multimedia specialists. With my students’ needs and professional goals in mind, I use five core principles to guide my approach to teaching:
An Inclusive Learning Environment – On the first day of class, I establish the classroom as an inclusive learning community where everyone is a welcome contributor. I take a personal interest in each student by learning about his or her background and interests, and encourage the students to build relationships with one another. Each course starts with an icebreaker and is followed by exercises where students work in partners or groups.
Teaching Methods that Engage Different Learning Styles – I recognize that within each group of students there are different types of learners: visual, auditory and tactile learners. When developing my course material, I incorporate ways to engage these different learning styles. For example, when teaching how to use Adobe InDesign, I have exercises that the students complete on their computers. Step by step, I explain orally how to do something and show them with the overhead projector. I also provide written notes in case some students fall a little behind or want to go at a faster pace. With this setup, all students can follow along with the exercises and learn the necessary material for their homework.
I use a combination of lecture, discussion and studio time in the classroom. My lectures include a lot of visual examples and I engage students throughout the lecture with questions and discussion. After lectures, an exercise is given to make sure the basic concepts are understood. A longer assignment integrates the new concepts and challenges the students to critically engage with their design process.
Relevant and Interesting Assignments – In all of my courses, I ensure that all major assignments are relevant to the real world. It is important to me that students work on real world projects as each assignment is a possible portfolio piece. I stress the importance of quality work, especially to the lower-level courses, in order to get them to start thinking about their portfolios early.
While there are set requirements and goals to be met, many of these assignments have some leeway in topic. Students are often more interested and engaged when they have a say in what they are creating.
Clear and Just Assessment – I have high expectations for my students and the work that they produce. These expectations are stressed at the start of a course and are reinforced with the wording of all assignments. Each assignment includes a grading rubric with a point breakdown. Students are held accountable to the assignment requirements and in turn, I am accountable for grading fairly and in a timely manner. The grading rubric helps me keep objective and consistent. On each rubric, I spend time to give thorough and specific feedback.
Continued Professional Growth – Staying relevant in the field is important for me, both as a teacher and as a practicing designer. I attend quarterly faculty development days, webinars and workshops at the Art Institute of California - Silicon Valley. Additionally, I utilize tutorial sites like Lynda.com, read new books on design and following various design blogs. When time allows, I also do pro-bono design work for non-profit organizations. By continuing to grow as a designer, I get the opportunity to teach my students new skills and show them real world examples of design projects.
Coursework ranges from introductory courses in typography to the final Portfolio course for graduates.
Coursework ranges from introductory courses in layout to senior-level design studio and everything in-between.
Coursework ranges from introductory courses in layout to intermediate-level UI design and planning.
Introduction to Design Applications - Online. This course is designed to provide an introduction to the industry-related graphic software applications currently used in the design professions. Students will be introduced to basic skills and technical devices for electronic production of visual communication. The three areas of concentration are digital illustration, image/photographic manipulation, and page layout.
Typography I - Traditional - This course is an introduction of lettering skills and the history and foundation of letterforms. The placement of display and text type in a formatted space, and the relationship between the appearance and readability of letterforms, are also studied. Students will work in a traditional context of hand-rendering type and also be introduced to contemporary typesetting technology.
Typography II - Hierarchy - This course is a continuation of the study of traditional typography. Exercises and projects focus on the hierarchical qualities of typography. The development of marketable, original, and creative problem solving solutions will also be examined with an emphasis on creative techniques. Industry standard software will be used in the development of digital typography and hierarchal skills.
Portfolio I and II - This course focuses on the completion of a student’s portfolio and enables the student to begin their career search. Students will present work for the portfolio and will review and determine the quality of the work and make any enhancements necessary. The student will also complete a professional resume and extensive job search.
Art Direction - This course will examine the role of the art director in producing multi-faceted design projects. Working in teams, students will coordinate their creative efforts, from concept to finished output. By encouraging a team approach, the course will further enhance students’ leadership, communications and negotiation skills. Students will be introduced to informational and administrative approaches to the development of the advertising campaign strategies. Media and marketing realities will also be applied.
Collateral Design - The role that collateral design plays in the support of advertising campaigns is introduced and developed. Students explore various collateral design techniques, direct mail, business-to-business, business-to-consumer, non-profit, trade, and social media. The process of multiple-presentation techniques and media formats are emphasized.
Corporate Communications - This advanced design course will deal primarily with the development of internal corporate imaging. Building on the theories of design, the course will further examine logo design and internal application of the corporate image.
Corporate Identity - Students will investigate the use of corporate design and identity for branding. Further exploration of corporate id as a branding tool in advertising, marketing and social media will be employed. Comprehensive corporate identity systems, as well as, additional business collateral and a Graphic Standards Manual will be developed.
Design and Technology - Online. This course will utilize computer applications interfacing the graphic and applied arts. Students will produce contemporary advertising and graphic design portfolio projects. Emphasis will be placed on creative concepts, good typography usage, image manipulation and presentation techniques.
Design Team I and II - This is a special-projects course in which students utilize their knowledge of design, typography, and production techniques to execute a team project. Students also apply communications, teamwork, and organizational skills. Students work cooperatively to achieve a common goal, similar to industry experience.
Digital Message Making - Students will further explore through an in depth study how to create messages using the computer as a tool.
Electronic Layout - This course teaches from the ground up all major aspects of Adobe InDesign, looking at real world examples and creating them in the most effective, efficient and print-friendly way. You will discover new levels of creative freedom and productivity using Adobe InDesign—it is tightly integrated with all the Adobe applications—enabling a fluid creative environment for designing professional layouts with sophisticated graphics and typography.
Graphic Design Capstone - Students in this course present a comprehensive understanding of their academic experience. Proficiency will be demonstrated in both studio and general education courses through a written, oral, and visual presentation.
Graphic Design History - This course will examine the influences of social trends, historical events, technological developments and the fine arts on contemporary graphic design, illustration, typographic design, architectural design, photography and fashionable trends in general. Through lectures, supplied visual examples, independent research and design assessments, the student will gain insight into a variety of major design influences. The student will learn how to research and utilize a wide variety of design styles.
Grid Systems - This class will enable the student to better design with type and visuals, and utilize technology in problem solving. Emphasis will be on the process of design development from roughs to comprehensives, layout, and the use of a grid system for multi-component layouts.
Information Design - In this course we will explore the role of visual communication design (graphic design) in communicating information in visual form. Emphasis is placed on competency in research, production, and presentation of advanced-level projects that encompass the use of information design in graphic visual communication.
Intro to Packaging - Students will receive a broad overview that covers essential package design basics, including materials and production methods, structures and surfaces, product positioning and environmental concerns.
Package Design - The focus is on package-branded products. Students will focus on revitalizing existing brands as well as developing new brands based on development of Identity and packaging applications.
Project Concept - Students will explore various solutions based on common industry problems allowing them the opportunity to integrate their personal vision. Students meet with faculty to outline their time management and concept.
Project Study - Through observation and documenting their own work, students focus on projects of their own within an area of interest with the approval of the Academic Director. In this course, students will work with non-profit organizations.
Senior Project Design Studio and Lab - In this course students develop an independent project. Developing a long-term assignment and extending the skills learned in previous studio classes are emphasized. Observing and documenting their own design process, students focus on the projects of their Senior Project Studio.
Typography III - Expressive and Experimental - Emphasis is placed on the expressive potential of typography. How the form of the written letter affects meaning is studied experimentally. The emphasis is on design elements from the perspective of history, psychology, and artistic interpretation executed with digital tools.
Typography IV - Publication Design - This intermediate course focuses on computer based page layout. Emphasis will be placed on design, multiple page layout, type management, high-end output file management, and static and digital publications.
Design Layout - This course is an introduction to the basic principles of systems and structures of digital layout – students will learn the principles of layout for creating effective visual compositions.
Digital Identity Design - An examination of the role of design in brand identity and marketing. Students will learn design strategies for developing integrated digital branding.
Digital Typography - This course is an examination of typographic structures for digital communication. Students will learn principles of typographic composition with an emphasis on effective use of type in screen-based media.
DVD Authoring - An introduction to creating interactive DVD titles. This course will focus on production techniques of DVD authoring, proofing and pre-mastering.
Information Design - An examination of systems for organization and presenting information so that it is effective, efficient and understandable—students will design and organize content into information structures that encourage users to browse, learn, search, and explore.
Interaction Design for Entertainment - An exploration of design for interactive entertainment. Students will learn to combine principles of communication design, sequencing and interactivity to create engaging user-centered experiences.
Interface Design - An exploration of the synthesis of visual design and principles of human interactivity. This course will examine the conceptual and practical design of interfaces.
User Experience (I): Research - A focused examination of user experience design research, concept development, and planning techniques for the design of multi-platform interactive experiences. Students will research and conceptualize an engaging and user-friendly experience that utilizes multiple channels to deliver strategic objectives. In-depth research and analysis of users, business requirements, and cultural trends is conducted and provide an advanced understanding of the research methods of user experience designers.
User Experience (II): Prototyping - A continuation of User Experience Design: Research, this course examines methodologies and techniques of prototyping and usability testing for the design of multi-device interactive experiences. Students utilize previous research to iteratively create and test prototypes. A variety of prototyping techniques are explored including paper and digital prototyping methods. Various testing methods are also explored from guerilla usability testing to more formal testing sessions.
Coffee Rim is a startup company specializing in freshly ground coffee beans and coffee accessories. The company currently has a small, local storefront, but wants to expand its product lines and sell to a national clientele. The client, Jane Smith, describes her company as casual and down-to-earth, approachable to the average person rather than just coffee aficionados.
Students are presented with the scenario that the client is looking to formally brand and market her company. This scenario can be adapted into different areas of graphic and web design:
Students in this introductory web design course are challenged to design the information architecture for a Company or Organization of their choosing. This quarter-long project culminates in a final presentation and documentation of the design process.
The project is broken down into weekly assignments: