Dr James Dyer joins the School of Art & Design
by Larissa Petryca, on 27 September 2023 09:42:33 CEST
The School of Art and Design is excited to welcome Dr James Dyer as a new lecturer for the Graphic Design and Fine Art & Experimental Media programmes. James brings a wealth of academic expertise in Graphic Design, New Media, and Digital Culture, and he has even authored a book; Graphic Events: A Realist Account of Graphic Design.
Last semester we welcomed James to PCU where have gave a Visiting Artist Lecture, as well as a workshop for Graphic Design students. The workshop included a street walk to document fonts, which the students then took back to Bishop's Court studios to use to create new design pieces under his guidance.
We asked James for a short interview to introduce him to the PCU community, and to learn more about his professional background, the types of projects he will be implementing, and his insights on the future direction of design.
Can you tell us about your professional and academic experience?
I have a BA in Multimedia Design, which sounds a little twee and out-dated now, but it was a very good programme. It combined theory and practice and strongly encouraged critical and explorative thinking in making. The programme also involved a placement year where I worked in a few different design agencies as a coder and a graphic designer. It was an eye-opening undergraduate course that made me passionate about academia.
I moved to the Netherlands after graduating and enrolled in a Master’s in New Media and Digital Culture at Utrecht University. The course was intense, lively, and sincerely committed to its work. Each week I sat in small classrooms with contemporary voices in an emergent field, it was a brilliant experience.
Once I graduated I was awarded a PhD scholarship at the University of Huddersfield, the same institute where I studied my BA. I started in 2015 and worked on my thesis on the datafication of the everyday whilst teaching undergraduates in graphic design and animation.
Why were you interested in teaching at PCU?
I had just published my book on Graphic Design and I was looking for opportunities to speak about my book. I viewed PCU’s lecture profiles and student portfolios and they looked really interesting. I first met online with one of the lecturers and he was extraordinarily passionate about his students and the work that goes on at PCU. I visited PCU to deliver the lecture and workshop and now, 6 months later, I live and work here.
Can you explain what students will learn in your classes?
I mainly teach students how to write about design and communication, I emphasise the importance of sincerity of expression in their writing more than the rote clatter of most academic writing. A student can still be creative, expressive and articulate in their writing without sacrificing academic rigour or exactness. Ultimately, what I am teaching them is a particular attitude towards writing.
Can you cite some projects that students will work on to help emphasise the learning?
Put broadly, we write flash fiction, journalistic articles, academic papers, essays, and theses. My classes are mostly organised like workshops and seminars, so there is a lot of group work and collaborative exercises in class that require independent reflection after the class. Generally, without being too blunt about it, all the projects aim at getting words on a page and then evaluating those words and maybe choosing some other, more appropriate words that might do a better job.
How are these classes useful to a students' future career?
If we come to learn that communication is a serious challenge – which is the underlying premise of most of my classes – then we will be more cautiously self-conscious about the ways in which we communicate, this kind of sensitivity makes for vigilant and alert people. I would argue that those are enviable qualities for creatives in all fields.
What do you look for when grading creative work and theoretical assignments?
Passion, authenticity and diligence. The work doesn’t have to be mind-bendingly original, it just needs to have been made with some heart.
Is the field of Graphic Design changing?
It is always changing and has always been changing. This is why being fixated on learning software as a graphic designer is a myopic approach to the field. The best design programmes teach attitudes to creative challenges, this makes their students adaptable and resilient to change.
How do you plan to address rapid technological advances in your classes?
In academic writing when you put a word in quotation marks it makes that word suspicious, it draws a more critical eye to the word and its supposedly straightforward meaning. This is what I do in my classes, I metaphorically place these terms inside quotation marks and make them unusual and needing of new perspectives and fresh articulations. This is how I address artificial “intelligence” and “social” media and the “creative” cloud, and for that matter, graphic “design”.
What are some of the graduate pathways that you have seen your students achieve after completing their studies?
I often keep in touch with my graduates, they have gone on to be graphic designers, animators, 3D modellers, art directors, freelance designers, researchers and teachers. They work on big Hollywood films and small independent projects, they work for NGOs and enormous corporations.
The happiest ones are the ones that know they are contributing something valuable to either their studio or their community, or both, and I am proud that I was able to encourage them to explore their passions and have confidence in their creative visions.
You can check out more of James' work at https://jamesdyer.co.uk/