LHM Fellow: Leon Butler

In partnership with ArtCenter’s Graphic Design (Gx) and Graduate Graphic Design (MGx) programs, HMCT offers international grants to educators teaching at the university level designed to expand and enhance their teaching pedagogy. Chosen applicants are embedded for one week in ArtCenter typography classes, where they observe, learn, and share. Leon Butler was chosen as the Spring 2022 Fellow. Leon has worked as a visual narrative designer, filmmaker, and educator for over ten years, receiving plaudits from The Type Directors Club, the Future Makers awards, Digital Media awards, Young Directors Awards and the Irish Design Awards 2019. Leon’s has completed residencies in the School of Visual Art New York, and at 72andSunny in Los Angeles. Leon was appointed as a Research Fellow at the National University of Ireland in 2016 and as Designer in Residence in Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles 2017. He is currently working as a Lecturer at Technological University Dublin as well as continuing to grow his own practice at Bold Visual Narrative.

The last number of years have turned many of our established teaching methods on their head and pushed our studio environment online. These changing teaching practices and technological shifts have presented challenges in creating increased collaborative learning situations and ensuring that students have a curricular-based experiential learning environment that can enhance their education. When I think of design and technology, I am always reminded of this quote by the great Hermann Zapf in 1968 “Electronics will soon force its claims upon Letterforms, and let us hope it will liberate us from the dust of the past.”.

Having had the chance to visit and spend some time with the faculty and students of the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography and ArtCenter, an environment where students are introduced and immersed in the physical production practice, it is easy to see how they are so energised by the development of work. Getting the opportunity to watch and work with Gloria as she guided a class of grad students as they generated and refined design solutions while trying to effectively communicate how they would transfer the work to the press, all while collaborating with others on colour sets on presses helps to establish Archetype Press as a dynamic place where students learn to experiment and work with others.

The professors at ArtCenter support students as they grapple with the complexity of design problem-solving through critique, meta-discussions, and suggestions for further development. Observing this reinforced my thoughts that by employing a variety of different communication methods for collaborative learning and experience, we can focus on practical creation and making where students learn through doing. The output of the work, be it analogue, digital print, or transmedia, one thing that did not alter was the process. In my own teaching practice, I hope to accomplish this by equipping the students with a framework for how they might construct a project. This technology agnostic framework is based on an approach that focuses on core skills – this applied to a variety of projects in partnership with industry and the community will help students to bend, break and remould this framework into a set of tools and methods that works for them. The time at ArtCenter observing similar frameworks learning environment, one that encourages students to question and create, helped to reinforce my own problem-based learning approach, which intertwined with a focus on ongoing iteration, this sets it apart from a prescriptive type of learning environment to one that encourages students to question and create.

In Gloria’s studio sessions, she helped to model new technical skills on the presses all while discussing a learner’s work; during this engagement in reflective dialogue on the creative rationale and interpretation of the project brief, she managed to weave the work into the larger historical design narrative. These exchanges created an inspiring conservatoire learning environment to practice the multifaceted work of being a designer and something I will certainly try to bring into my future teaching methods.
Leon Butler, June, 2022

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