Summer reflection

Part 2: pedagogy

James Grady
6 min readAug 29, 2019

In continuation from a previous post, Summer reflection Part 1: practice, Part 2: pedagogy focuses on the 2019 spring semester and summer session at Boston University. After two years teaching full-time at BU I would like to think I have a handle on things, but I continue to push myself and my students with new and relevant projects that support our departments learning objectives within the MFA and BFA. I’m excited to share some of the work from my talented students and provide a glimpse into the world of design at BU.

A view out my office window at BU

In a nutshell

In the spring I taught Senior Thesis and Motion Graphics. I also partnered with the Computer Science department, collaborated with the School of Theater, advised multiple grad thesis students, hosted numerous design lectures, guided field trips to amazing studios and galleries, and helped spearhead a new faculty search committee. I also taught a typography course over the summer, but who’s counting? 😅

A view inside my office at BU

Graphic Design Senior Thesis

Senior Thesis was challenging and exciting. Managing 30 individual thesis projects over the course of a semester left me intellectually exhausted—in the best of ways. I felt I learned just as much from the students as I taught them. They were amazing, thoughtful, articulate, creative, and professional.

Thesis projects ranged from Dissecting white imaginations and the Black body in horror film, to What it means to exist among multiple cultural identities, to How patriarchy interrupts the pursuit of the authentic self. Take a look at a few examples below.

Below are a few more thesis projects I’d recommend checking out:

Patricia Ho: 855 Beef Noodle Shop
Sam West: Eavesdropping, People Watching, + Paying Attention
Gabrielle Dipietro: Bone Folders + Blue Gloves
Nikita Singh: The Materials of Memory
Jami Rubin: Sugar Coated

BFA Thesis Show opening 2019, Spectacle
Keep an eye out for these young designers, they are sure to do great things!

Motion Graphics

For the second year I also taught Motion Graphics: an introduction to the methods and processes of creating motion graphics for broadcast and cinema. I love this class! The foundation of cinematic narrative, composition, and editing makes for a natural transition to design students who have never worked with video or animation before. I picked up on a few projects I did in grad school and I love the spin this class put on them.

Anvi Sarin: Tender Buttons
Yunjia Yang: Tender Buttons
Motion Graphics CFA AR 576: Spring 2019

Graphic Design + Computer Science

I’ve continued to bring together Graphic Design and Computer Science through the partnership of the BU Spark! programs.

BU Spark! is housed by the Hariri Institute for Computing, the Institute initiates, catalyzes, and propels collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training initiatives for a better society by: promoting discovery and innovations through the use of computational and data-driven approaches, and advancing computing sciences inspired by challenges in engineering; social, health & management sciences; and the arts.

The programs consist of Spark! Fellowships and X-Lab. Spark! Innovation Fellows start with an idea and are provided with a structured semester-long innovation experience to guide them through the process of taking their ideas from initial concept to a working prototype. Students participating in the X-Lab are provided with opportunities to work on a wide range of computer science and software engineering projects on behalf of external partners from diverse sectors. At the end of the semester the projects culminate with a public presentation and a pitch to venture capital investors.

Spark! weekend design workshop, always plenty of post-it notes and potstickers!

Graphic Design students work in collaboration with these teams from beginning to end and are able to gain real-world experiences that have converted into many industry leading jobs. We will kick off a new group this fall and I can’t wait to see what they create.

Graphic Design + School of Theater

Another collaboration I’m really proud to be a part of is with Clay Hopper and the School of Theater. Clay and I met at a Dean’s luncheon and discussed ways we might be able to work together on an upcoming adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

In an experimental and unique collaboration between SOT, SVA and ENG’s Dept of Computer Engineering, we produced an adaptation of Orwell’s 1984 in the Spring of 2019. We were attempting a scenic design that utilized conventional projection mapping technology in combination with generative-computer graphics and computational vision, in order to create a completely fluid and projected media environment for the actor. We hoped to make certain aspects of the projection scape truly interactive by mapping actors’ movements to the programming of the generative images.

I introduced Clay to one of my amazing students, Ellen Lo, who was in one of my web design classes. Ellen helped build some generative software that tied into their projection and lighting design. The outcome was amazing!

Clip from production featuring generative projection

This is only the beginning…this fall we will expand the team to include BU Spark! and I will oversee a directed study design student to collaborate with the team and continue the exploration of this aesthetic. I’m really looking forward to seeing what comes next.

So what’s next?

Classes start in less than a week. I’ll be teaching Senior Studio, Interactive Design, and co-teaching the Spark! Product Innovation class, as well as a list of other things I won’t bore you with right now.

Goodbye summer, hello fall.

Thanks for reading!

James Grady, Assistant Professor of Art, Graphic Design Boston University

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James Grady

Principal, Design Axl & Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Boston University