Jennifer Coleman Dowling is an experienced educator, designer, and artist. She has been a Professor at Framingham State University in MA the past 26 years teaching courses in new media, computer animation, advertising, and graphic design. Jennifer wrote and illustrated the book "Multimedia Demystified" published by McGraw-Hill.
In her creative pursuits, Jennifer produces work that explores the intersection of art, design, and technology using innovative digital approaches merged with traditional media. She strives for authenticity and meaning in each piece, and her experimental methods include using various software programs and printing output merged with hand-made art techniques.
If you'd like to talk to Terry McDougall about coaching or being a guest on Marketing Mambo, here's how you can reach her:
Her book Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms is available at Amazon.
Here's how you can reach host Terry McDougall:
Her book Winning the Game of Work is available at Amazon
Welcome to another great episode of marketing Mambo. My guest today is the professor of graphic design and digital media at Framingham state university. And Massachusetts, her name is Jennifer Dowling. And she started off as a visual artist who eventually parlayed her interest in technology, education, and art, and to becoming one of the first professors of digital media back in the 1990s.
She's someone who's been on the Vanguard of training, young people to work in digital media and graphic design and the modern world of marketing for decades. Now for many people listening, you may not remember a time when everything in marketing was done physically in those pre-digital analog days, when we had waxers and paid stop and Exacto knives and everything went on boards.
We didn't use computers to create the artwork back in those days, everything would be printed and sent out in the mail, whether it was an advertisement in a magazine or direct mail or billboards or television advertising. This was a pre digital world. Now it's hard to remember back before there was such thing as email and the internet, but there was such a time.
And Jennifer and I met back in those foggy old days. She's also going to share with us how she trains students today to be effective members of marketing and communications teams.
And how she teaches them about the concept of branding, both for products and services at organizations where they might work. And also how they can develop an effective personal brand to help them get that first job after college. I hope that you enjoy our conversation and that you walk away with some really valuable nuggets that you can use in your career as well.
And now without further ado, let the Mambo begin.
Hey everybody. It's Terry McDougall with another episode of marketing Mambo, and boy, I'm so excited to introduce you to our guests today. This is somebody that I met at my very first job in Boston, Massachusetts. We were 22, 23 years old at the time, and both working in different departments of the same publishing company.
And we've just stayed in touch over all of these years and have remained friends. And I have really admired everything that she's done in her career. I am very pleased to introduce Jennifer darling. She is professor of graphic design and digital media in the art and music department at a renounced state university in Massachusetts. So Jennifer, welcome to marketing moms. Well, so I just gave the title, but maybe you could go into more depth about what you do and, what being a professor of graphic design and digital media is.
I'd be happy to, so yes, Terry and I go way back, we have taken different paths with our careers, but it's been fantastic staying in touch over the years and learning from each other. I went the route of becoming a professor, even though that wasn't my initial plan. But as a professor, I wear many hats and I work with many different types of students.
I work with my colleagues. I work with staff and it's a very enriching experience. It's been a long career. I started at the state university in 1996 and I started in the communications department. So I've only been in the art music department for about three years. A lot of my experience.
Was working with the communication students. So what I do is teach graphic design, animation, advertising, marketing, senior portfolio, digital tools, which is a fundamental course for the art majors. I teach intro to computer graphics. I teach motion graphics. So I have quite a repertoire of courses that I've covered over the years.
And, I've had quite a variety of students too, but aside from, my teaching, I also write, I wrote a book few years ago called multimedia demystified and it was published by McGraw-Hill.
So I'm very proud of that. It's not a textbook, it's more of a trade book and a lot of schools have adopted it, for their classes. So I still get, emails and royalties, even though it's been 10 years. it's a very useful book if you're learning about multimedia and digital media. I also, work freelance outside of my teaching.
I do branding logos advertising. I like to work with people in my town, the schools, the church, people, I know family members. So that's kind of my repertoire, even though before I started teaching, I was working with a lot of companies in and around Boston doing freelance work.
That was my career leading up to teaching. And I also am a fine artist. I work in mixed media. I make mosaics, I have this digital traditional hybrid that I describe as taking fine arts, scanning it in, manipulating it out, putting it, putting additional media on top of it, then bringing that back to the computer.
So it's this full cycle of, working with, the art piece and also allowing it to evolve.
Boy, you have laid out this whole, smorgasbord of topics that we can talk about. While we were talking before I hit record you were clear with me that you're not a marketing professor, but you do teach topics and disciplines that feed into marketing. And, it's sort of funny when I think back to us meeting in the 1980s, and you were beginning your studies of, digital media and digital graphic design back at that time. And I know I've mentioned this to you a few times, that when you were first starting on that course of study, I was so confused about what you were doing because the whole industry was in its infancy.
And, you know, we were both in Boston and, Lotus corporation was there some of the very early, tech pioneers started in Boston, which of course, Harvard and MIT are there. So, , it makes sense that it would be sort of like this tech, incubator, if you will. But even years after that, when I worked in marketing, everything was physical boards, that's how things got printed.
couldn't even imagine at the time, like what is, digital media, it's so funny. So, you were way ahead of the curve there, which I think is so interesting. Of the other things that I think is super cool is, how you've always been so creative and artistic ever since I met you, I mean, you're painting and drawing but how You were using technology to, further what you do and to transform what you do.
Well, thank you, Terry. I am very curious by nature and I've realized that the older I get, I'm always learning new things. I like to find out techniques, whether it's digital or a new mixed media technique with some material I saw on YouTube. I'd like to try experimenting and seeing what happens. And I think that's why.
Teaching is so rewarding. And that's why I like working with students because they also bring that out in me. I learned from them. I helped them explore and create. And as far as the digital media, interestingly, the title of my book being multimedia demystified, we were tossing around titles at the time.
What about digital media? What about new media? And none of them sounded quite right. And the editor very much like multimedia. And I felt like the term was a little old fashioned, but it didn't seem to matter in the end because it's all part and parcel of the same thing. It covers typography color pixels, whether you're working with vector art, which is mathematical shapes and objects, or you're working with bitmapped images, covering.
Technology computers, cameras, microphones, the mouse, the track pad, all of these things that are changing by the minute. So it's all part of the same package and it just evolves. And you're right in the eighties, I was just starting to get exposed to it. And I was on the ground floor, although I didn't realize it at the time.
So I can explain a little bit more about that. So there's the technology piece, but it's also how I evolved my career.
Jennifer was interviewed for my book because I loved her career story so much, so I know things about you, Jennifer, in terms of your other interests and I'd love for you to.
talk about how you learned about digital animation and that sort of
thing, and how that sparked your interest.
And following this path, that's led you to where you are. Maybe you can talk about how you got the job that you have now because I think that it is super interesting given the timing. So I'll just give you the floor
Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I read the chapter again recently to remind myself of my own career path. It was not a straight line. Circuitous at best and being a curious person, I was always looking for something that would interest me something that I heard about something that I thought I might like, and I would explore something.
And if it hit a dead end, I would try something else. But it was always within the realm of creativity. Wasn't always digital. So stepping back. Into my youth. I was always very creative. I loved drawing and painting and I took classes when I was a child. And I always thought I was pretty good, but I never was sure if I was one of the top artists, but I enjoyed it.
And I went through high school, had a nice portfolio. And my mother encouraged me to look at art programs when I was applying to colleges. So I started at the university of New Hampshire. I got my four year degree there and I studied fine arts. And during that time, I started thinking, what am I going to do with a studio art degree?
Because a lot of my friends and people I would meet were studying business and engineering, and they'd asked me, what are you planning to do with this art degree? And so I decided I needed to get a little more practical experience. So I took a few classes at Rhode Island, school of design and illustration and graphic design one summer.
And that introduced me to a whole new way of creating. And that was an eye opener to say the least. And then when I got back to UNH, I started working for the student, press the school newspaper, the entertainment committee, where I made posters. And I started doing graphic design. Now at the time, if we're going to throw this in, it was not computer based, it was handmade.
So the posters were. Basically a piece of paper and I would take something called electroset, which was letters on a page that you had a little stylist and you would rub it off and if you didn't get it straight, you'd have to redo it. So I did posters that way. Then the student press, we did layout and paste up where we had type setting.
There was a machine that you type in and it would print out text. And then we had this enormous room with all these pages, laid out on light tables and we would pay step, which you literally would put it through a wax machine and you'd cut what you wanted with an Exacto knife and you'd paste it up.
And if you want it to move it to another page, either move the entire page, you'd have to take it up again. And I also would do illustrations that they would put in the paper, they would ask me to draw something and I would just have to do it on the fly.
So I had a lot of experience at school that had nothing to do with my classes directly because I was learning, painting, and sculpture and drawing and art history. So I was able to find two ways to bring the fine art and the commercial art together. By the time I graduated, I felt like I had a pretty good sense of what I could do with a career.
Yeah. Yeah. It's funny.
When you were talking about the pay stuff and all of that, I've worked in marketing since the eighties and I actually was, a commercial print buyer. And, I worked for a company that did a tremendous amount of direct mail and we did everything on boards.
Right. Did everything that you're describing, that we had a wax machine, we had big drafting tables. We had big pieces of board that each page was laid out onto. And I can remember, going to printers and them showing me their new, color separation machines, and I was there and you were there for the birth of, the software that we use, that, so, ubiquitous today, but , for many people listening to this, they might not even understand what the heck that we're talking about.
Right. The place that I worked in Washington, DC, that did the direct mail. We didn't have a type setting machine in our office. And so, me and the graphic designer would go out at lunch and walk over to the types of. To pick up the type, and it was like on this big, photo static piece of paper that was all rolled up and we'd have to bring it back and put it through the wax or in cut it and paste it onto the right pages.
Everything was physical, so it's so interesting but I mentioned this already, but coming from that physical world and you and I met at a publishing company, right? So this is exactly what they did there. They did have type setting in house, but they had a whole production department for the magazine that was physically putting all of those pages together, just like they did at your student newspaper. And I still remember you talking about like, oh, I'm starting to study digital graphic design. And I just literally could not get my head around doing this in. Cyberspace. It's
when I was working at that publishing company. So here's what happened. I had a hard time actually getting a job in graphic design because I didn't have a formal degree. I had some experience, so it was a bumpy start. So, this was before I had any interest in computers, I was just out of college.
It was 1985. So the job that I took in Boston, I was in circulation and I was doing data entry and that was my first time using a computer. So I was just managing these mailing lists and. I was kind of just learning some new skills, but not really using my creative abilities.
And I desperately wanted to get into the graphic design department that was across the hall. And I would go in there and I would ask questions and I would kind of make myself known and ask if I could work in there. And I was never given the opportunity because they had a staff and they were happy with the way they were doing things.
And so a couple of things that kind of got me interested in computer graphics at that time. read an article about a company in Providence called Cod Barrett, and they were doing computer graphics and they were working for Lotus development, doing graphics and slides, and they were doing many other things, computer animation.
And I was enamored. I was from Rhode Island. So the reason I saw that article was my mother was getting the Providence journal and I happened to see it one time when I was home. So I looked at the company and I thought I'd like to work there. So I inquired and they gave me an opportunity to do some freelance illustration work.
So I was a freelance illustrator working for the company that I had read about in this newspaper article. And they were opening an office in the Boston area. So while I was at this publishing company, I started doing digital illustration. At night and I was essentially creating graphics and illustrations for Lotus development corporation for their freelance graphics.
Templates and things that they could use in their software package. And after about four months of doing that, they offered me a full-time job. So that's what led me to even getting exposure to something like this. Now I was using a PC at the time that wasn't a Mac, as far as I knew. In fact, I hadn't been exposed to one and I was using a tablet called assumer sketch.
And so there was no mouse. Everything was done with key commands and Ms. Dos. So I'm a sketch which allowed me to pinpoint and trace something. And then those became very crew graphics that I then had to clean up on the computer. It was very laborious and time consuming, and I had a very limited color palette.
I might've had 16 or 32 colors. Being a detail oriented person and finding that the computer was so fascinating to me, I stuck with it and I got better and I was hired full-time there. And simultaneously I discovered the Boston computer society, and I might've been the only woman who would go to these meetings, but one of their meetings, they had a SIGGRAPH animation festival.
Now SIGGRAPH is an international conference. It's an organization. It stands for special interest group in graphics, and it is an ACM offshoot. ACM is American computing machinery, very, very old. Organization. And so SIGGRAPH has been around since the eighties, I think. And they have an annual conference.
So when I saw these animations from one of their festivals, it was all 3d computer animation. And I said, wow, I want to learn about this. I want to do this. I'd never really seen anything like this. It's in Disney movies, but it was flat to the hand-drawn cell animation. So this was groundbreaking. And then they had a SIGGRAPH conference in Boston in the late eighties.
I was thrilled. So I went and I learned so much and I started getting more exposure to this kind of thing that was really just starting to evolve in the mid to late eighties. So it was in the late eighties when I started to think, well, why do I want to do? Cause I didn't stay at. Company more than maybe a year because they were closing their office in the Boston area.
And I started thinking, well, what do I want to do next? So I was considering teaching. One of my mentors growing up as an art teacher and I thought I might be good at that. And I thought this could be a good path for me, even though the computer still enamored me. I just didn't see a way into that.
I didn't have the skills or the, connections. It didn't have a degree in it. So I just put that aside and thought, okay, I'll look into the art education path. So I volunteered at afterschool programs. I taught at a summer camp. I was the art director for 500 children, one summer at a prep school in the Boston area.
And I really enjoyed it. But when I started looking into. Education programs. A lot of teachers were getting pink slips. It was not a time that teachers were getting hired. And I went to this teacher in Rhode Island, the one who had been my mentor and she showed me around. And I just wasn't thrilled about having to move a cart with my materials around the hall and not have a place that was, like called an art room.
It just didn't seem like it was going to be satisfying to me. All the materials were in a closet and I had to share, with three other teachers. And, but I thought, well, I'll keep that in mind. So after that I decided, getting my master of fine arts would be a good path because then I could teach at the college.
And I always thought, well, maybe teaching college students could be rewarding and I could also work in a design studio. So it allowed me to explore some of the things that I was interested in. I thought design. And then I started seeing programs for digital media. One program that caught my eye, which I ended up pursuing was called visual design.
And it was at UMass Dartmouth. And that was where I ended up going in that early nineties. So when I arrived, they were using Macintosh computers, and I think it was a small little
I remember those. Yeah. it
Was like, cube thing with
a tiny, like maybe like an eight inch screen or something.
And they were black and white. And, but then one of the reasons I chose this program was one of the top design professors was from Germany.
He was Bauhaus trained and then there were some colleagues who had gone to Yale for design. So I thought, okay, I don't have a design backgrounds. So I would be learning about design even as a grad student. And they had a professor teaching interactive multimedia. And so I learned what that was.
And some of that was computer animation. And some of that was interactivity where you would have a user interface and you would click on something. And of course that was all new to me, but I was fascinated because it combined my interest in art, zine, computers, and education, and I was able to get a teaching assistantship.
I taught a design class. And then I also got an assistantship working in the computer science and math departments where I was designing user interface graphics for an educational math program. And that was the national science foundation grant and that was why I ended up going to that program.
Yeah, can I just stop you right here? Because I want to emphasize for the listeners how cutting edge this is. We today take all of this stuff totally for granted. Walking around with the supercomputer in our pockets, otherwise known as an iPhone, You literally were there at the birth of what we take for granted every single day today.
And I'm so fascinated by the fact, I mean, you just said it, that, you were able to take art and design and computers and education. And again, I think people would just totally take this for granted and be like, oh, this is so obvious that you would be able to use this to develop educational software and so forth.
But we didn't know that back then. Right. We were like all curious about like, well, this was being developed and, enhanced at the same time you were sort of like building the car while you were driving it. And you'd get down the road a little bit
and you'd be like, oh, maybe we can put some headlights on it or maybe we should, so I want to emphasize that for people that maybe weren't even born at this time, how revolutionary this was and how it wasn't.
I mean, I've coached people who worked in, computer programming who, when they went through college, there wasn't computer programming at school. Like they just did it on their own, and so I just want people to know that a lot of these things, it was an analog world at the time. It was not a digital world.
You were really on the digital frontier. So I just want to inter Jack that, because, we both lived through this and it's very obvious when you look back at your story of how you landed, where you are today. That of course you'd come out the other end here, but it wasn't obvious at the time.
And you were just sort of like picking up the breadcrumbs along the way. So I'm going to stop and let you continue with your story.
no, that's fantastic. What you said it really does help give it some context. It wasn't analog world. And so when I started in my master's program, I took a typography class. I had never learned about typography, fonts and lettering and point sizes. And I was having to take undergrad classes as a grad student, and that was actually fine with me because I had a lot to learn. I took a video production class, which I had never done. And we were using VHS. We were using cameras. We use, equipment that allowed us to edit it. So there was some basic technology.
We were using, something that's equivalent to the Adobe illustrator program. And what's also trivalent to the InDesign program. But it was frustrating. We didn't have a user manual.
You couldn't go online and watch a YouTube. You stumbled through it, your professor, wasn't in the computer lab. You would go in there at night. You'd ask a neighbor if they were figuring it out. And you'd spent a lot of time getting frustrated and leaving the room. So it took much longer because you didn't have instruction.
You didn't have any guidance and you had to learn a lot on your own. I had to work with undergrads. So being, close to 30 and I'm working with 20 year old, they taught me a lot. Again, they were exposed to some of the things that I hadn't been yet. We would use Photoshop, but. Was it one of the very first carnations and there were no layers. There was no history. You couldn't do anything with it. And there was a software program that my professor had where we were experimenting with 3d modeling and 3d animation, but it was beta and it crashed, you couldn't move your mouse without it crashing.
So you would wait and you'd have to restart and you barely get anything happening or you would leave it surrender and say, okay, it says surrender overnight. And all you're making is a ball with a reflection and a shadow. And then it would crash while it was rendering. So you'd get half a ball.
And so, but I was learning a lot.
And one of the things I wanted to say that led to my teaching profession was I left. 1994 was when I got my MFA and I had to do a written and a visual thesis. And my visual thesis was a physical exhibit in the gallery at the university. And I set up a computer, which had my interactive multimedia educational program for children and during my last year, as a masters student, I developed this program that essentially was a children's educational program, teaching them how to grow and care for an apple tree.
And they got to click on things and make choices. And the whole point was to enhance educational multimedia for learning purposes. And so I set up my exhibit with graphics. I took screen captures. From the program, printed them and then put them in. a physical window frame game. And the idea was that you were looking through the window, which was kind of like looking through the computer screen and to the outside world.
And you were able to experience something on the computer that maybe you couldn't grow an apple tree, but you could simulate it. And then I actually bought two apple trees, and I had them next to the computer. So I was trying to make this sort of physical virtual experience. And this was back in 1993.
And those two trees were planted on the campus after my show. And I believe they're still there, the whole idea was I wanted to tie in that analog with the digital and the real with the virtual. And that was sort of the premise of my master's thesis.
Yeah, that's so
cool. That's very cool.
So when I left, so this was UMass Dartmouth.
I made my way back to the Boston area and I started freelancing and I worked for a variety of companies . I had a lot of different clients, user interface, design graphics for slides, for presentations. Video. Graphics for video. I did animation. So I was exposed to a lot of things, but none of them were turning into, they seem to prefer working with freelancers and contractors.
There really weren't a lot of opportunities, even though I had great skills and I could walk in the door and do whatever was necessary. I still didn't feel like, okay, Dream job is right in front of me. So I did a lot of exploring through those jobs, getting my feet wet, getting exposed to different kinds of companies.
And ultimately there was a college art association conference in Boston in 1996, and the CAA is a well-known organization and they have annual conferences. And typically they announced faculty positions at these conferences. So some of my friends from graduate school were coming to this conference and one of them told me there was a position at a university down the street from me, and it was for someone to teach digital design, graphic, design, and multimedia.
So I went to the conference, looked at the description, set up an interview and I got the job. So in 1996, I landed a tenure track position. At Framingham state university and they're a little more intimate. There's a strong sense of community. And I'd been there for 26 years
Wow. That's so
I've been teaching
this ever since.
Again, I want to emphasize the fact that you were moving down this path and when you got started, universities were not teaching this topic because it didn't exist. So, you just sort of found your way down this path of like, oh, I'm interested in art and I'm interested in computers and I'm interested in education. And then at the same time, technology was moving ahead. And obviously universities were recognizing that, oh, we better get up with the time. So I just think it's really fascinating that, you both came to this crossroads at the same time, because it's probably a little bit unusual for someone in their early thirties to be immediately offered a tenure track position.
I mean, am I wrong
Yes, actually. You're right. You're absolutely right. It was my degree. So the MFA is considered the terminal degree. So that allowed me to even be considered for a tenure track position.
Had I only had an Ms or an ma I would not have been considered. So that was one advantage. And I knew that going into the master's program, that I would have more opportunities to teach at the college level. I still didn't know if I wanted to teach college, but I knew I wanted to have the option of teaching it.
But yeah, so I was in my early thirties and I didn't have. Teaching experience at all. Other than I taught some workshops in Boston, I taught how to use Photoshop to professionals in the field. I would teach Adobe illustrator and those would be eight hour workshops. And I did that, but I didn't have any college teaching experience.
So they were taking a gamble and I was jumping into a cold pool, not knowing what I was getting into. So it was a combination of taking risks, both me and college on me, but I also had the skills that no one had at that
no, There were programs, but they were few and far between.
think it's really interesting because again, going back to you doing that introspection and saying, what am I interested in and seeking out those opportunities, you couldn't just look at the course catalog and say, oh, I want to major in digital graphic design.
It just did not exist because you really were on the Vanguard of the development of the technology. And it just happened to align with what you enjoy doing physically. But you were kind of curious about how can we start to do this digitally? I would imagine that had they not found you, they'd probably still be looking, um,
Well, they would have found someone and it's not as though no one could do it. It's just that it was in its infancy.
It's an unusual set of skills, I think,
Because did take your interest in technology combined with your depth of experience And.
interest in art and education,
exactly. So there were some advantages to having someone like me because I could teach graphic design. I could teach fundamental concepts that were still considered valuable and they still are today, but also teaching skills with the computer that, students would benefit from, which is what I'm still doing today.
So I taught in the communications department for many years, , I now teach him the art and music department and I cover different subjects, but I'm essentially training people on how to be prepared for the workplace in design, digital art and animation communications, marketing fields and also how to promote themselves. So one of the key courses that I taught for many years is called senior portfolio. So students would have to prepare their elevator pitch, their resume, their cover letter, their logo and branding package, which included a business card, a promotional postcard, a website that included their work, all of their photography and graphic design and video work.
And every spring we would have an exhibition in the gallery. And have professionals in the field and alumni come back and review their portfolios and give them tips. And then they would hold mock interviews and they would also have to have a client project that they worked on during their senior year.
It was separate from any internship or job. It was actually a project within the senior portfolio class. So I have taken over the years, a lot of the different things that I've taught. And then I see the culmination in the seniors and how we are preparing them to go out and be effective employees and be creative and find the path that will help them with their employment, their future plan.
Some of them go to grad school, but a lot of them go on to get jobs in the field
and we've been very successful.
that's so cool. And it's funny as an executive and career coach. Obviously I'm coaching people on how to be effective in the workplace. And often working with people who are looking to do something different, whether that's get another job or start a business or something like that.
But, it's really critical that if somebody's looking to be employed, that they think about how do I add value? And, I always say like hiring or even promoting people is risky, because organizations invest in that person. They're investing with the expectation that they're going to get value out of that investment. And it's risky because you don't know whether you're going to get the return on that investment. But I think that what you're doing by helping them think through, okay, what is my personal brand and how do I communicate that? And how do I, show my portfolio. This is what advertising agencies do. This is what, people who work in marketing, this is what they do. They have to sell, whether it's selling, an executive within the organization to, give the green light for a campaign or, in an ad agency selling the client on, a campaign, you're preparing them.
And I think that for companies, be able to see that a student has had some experience doing this, that they can look and say, oh, okay. My confidence level has gone up because I see that they've already done this. Maybe it's not for like a quote unquote, real client, but they've done it.
They've thought through this. They have something to demonstrate their skillset. So I think that, you're doing them tremendous service by guiding them through this process because it's an easy step across the line to actually do it in a company.
Well, yeah, thank you Terry. In fact, continuing with that, some of the students that I work with are not in the graphic design or digital media areas. Some of them are focusing on corporate communications or perhaps video production. There are times when I work with students that are assigned to me because I am in the department and I would be helping them pick the courses and plan their future goals and get them thinking about internships.
But even with them, they would have to prepare their resume and they have to think about what they want, what they want to do with their courses, but also how to prepare for the next move. And especially if they're approaching their senior year, they need to start thinking about it.
But the profile of the kind of student they're mostly first-generation students. So they're maybe the first in their family to go to college. So they value their education. So a lot of them they want a practical path, , and they want to think about how they're going to utilize this education.
Typically they're paying for it themselves and they get the help of loans and scholarships, but they want to get as much out of their education as they can.
And I think of them as the customer, which I was telling you earlier, we have to make sure that they are happy. They want to see that their education has been worthwhile. So I helped to encourage them with that process.
And many of them are working at least one job, but a lot are working two jobs in addition to carrying a full course load
so a lot of the students that I talk to have a very practical mindset, because they're thinking about what job they can get or if they should go to graduate school. And that was similar to me, Terry, I'm a product of public education, both my undergrad and grad program. And now where I teach are all public institutions.
So when I was young, I wanted a practical path. So. It resonates with me and that's why I feel so compelled to help my students
before we hit record, you made a distinction to me that, you're not a marketing professor. I know I mentioned that earlier in the podcast, but, I think marketing is influencing people to take action. And what you're talking about here is marketing, even though it's not, going to work for a big corporation and, doing their digital ads or email campaigns or direct mail but you are teaching the students how to influenced whether that's to get new job or to impress an admissions committee for graduate school
That's really important. And what you do, it is part and parcel of the whole marketing process, because people are influenced to take action by. Brand and typography, and Color which is all part of what you teach, and I wonder if we could, kind of pivot a little bit and talk about how critical what you teach is to the development of strong brands and even how important brands are to the whole idea of marketing.
And that could be whether it's the personal brand of the students or, what you're teaching the students about brand that they may take into a creative services department in a company or into an ad agency, or even as a freelance designer. So can you talk a bit about.
Yes, absolutely. So one portion of that question, I think of what I cover in my classes Whether it's my intro to graphic design class, the digital tools class, which is for the art majors, or my senior portfolio. And for many years I taught visual communications, which was a gen ed course for any major on campus, I would teach logos and branding and marketing because I felt that they could develop their own brand.
And that would help them also learn about and appreciate what visual identity and branding is. So there was a learning component. There was a critical thinking and assessment component where they had to look and examine and absorb and then create their own. I've always felt strongly that students.
Learn this because they're surrounded by brands, they purchase products, be it a food product or clothing. They are aware of brands. They're exposed to advertising at a return. to not only become more aware visually and conceptually of the marketplace, and what they see on a day-to-day basis, but how they interpret it, how they internalize it and how they themselves can process how they perceive themselves as a brand.
So in other words, we all present ourselves, visually our hair or clothes, the way we. My adorn our car. If we put stickers on it or the way we decorate our room. So we're all kind of walking billboards, whether you want to be understated or
loud, but, we are also presenting our identities and various forms.
And that may alternate from day to day, we may change the way we feel, the way we project ourselves based on how we feel. So I like students to become aware of how branding and marketing affects them and also how they themselves present their own brand to the world. And that then gets them thinking about what they can offer in the workplace.
As they move through those four years of college, They start to envision themselves in the real world. So I give them assignments, only to look at brands and produce their own, but also to develop relationships with clients. And most of my classes will have a client project.
So it may be a local non-profit that we work directly with. And we may develop a logo and branding project or marketing materials that postcards and flyers, and it allows them to see what it's like to work with someone directly. They're not getting my feedback as they're only assessment.
They are. Required to work with the client and find out what their needs are and how best to produce what they will need for a successful, promotional package. over the years, and some have been used by these clients for their own promotional purposes. And students often, if you give them the opportunity, they rise to the challenge.
They may not seem as motivated when it's traditional sort of rote lecture and maybe an exam, which I actually don't give exams too often but, I do give writing assignments and projects and I find. They're typically most engaged and they tell me at the end of the semester, that's often the most valuable experience they get is working with a client on an actual project.
Sometimes I might say, it's fictitious client. So I'll say, okay, we're going to do a project for this local organization that does recycling. And , we're going to think about climate issues. how do you want to develop an ad campaign? So it may not be that in that case, I would be directly working with the client, but I will pick something that's an actual organization or movement or cause that they can then hang their hat on.
They can say, okay, I'm going to do this. And I want to have an opportunity to connect to something real. And I also give the students a choice because students today are often concerned about social justice issues, but diversity about personal identity, , about things having to do with the environment and climate, they are concerned about race issues.
So I might give them an opportunity that isn't directly connected to a client, but it would give them an opportunity to do something that would be a campaign to promote positive perspectives on a difficult issue. And they enjoy having that opportunity to select the topic and research it and come up with their own visuals and their own copy so that they can promote.
An idea. So it's a lot of different things, but that I find also engages the students a lot. And again, it gets them thinking about beyond the four walls beyond the ivory tower. So there's a lot of practical things that I bring into my teaching that I think are valuable that do tie in with whether it's marketing or branding, or even just getting students to be aware of themselves and their views about the world, because it's very easy when you're young to have blinders on and be very narrowly focused and be a little apathetic politically.
It's easy when you're old to do that, too. And, , I really Love as I'm listening to you, that you're helping them to become more conscious because to your point, we live in America, we are completely surrounded by marketing messages, whether we realize it or not. And even with social media, like what are social influencers, if not people trying to influence you to take some kind of action, even if it's click, like, but usually they're using that audience for something that is commercial in nature eventually. But helping the students start to understand that and to start to think about, okay, if this is my objective, maybe it's a social issue or it's , a product that they want to sell or whatever that they think about the objective. And then they reverse engineer it.
back to like, okay, if that's the objective that I want to happen, what are all the steps that I need to take in order to, take people through the attention, interest, desire, action, , that classic, advertising or marketing funnel. , so it's so great that you're doing that. And, , as you were talking about, , the fact that you really try to use these, , tangible projects and that students really like that, , when I think back to college and you and I are around the same age, back to the eighties, I took One advertising class in college, and I still remember it because it was a mock advertising campaign for, it was actually Welch's squeezable jelly. That was a, that was the product innovation of the mid eighties was the, the plastic jelly things that you could squeeze and make your peanut butter and jelly without using a knife. , but I remember our campaign because, we were physically doing that and I would not have remembered it, had it just been all theory.
So it's, , great. That you've got this understanding of what has meaning for your students and you're giving them the opportunities to practice this and develop a portfolio, that they can use when they're looking for a job or when they're applying to grad school. So it's very cool.
One of the things Terry that I love about teaching, which of course, I didn't know. When I first went into teaching is how much I get out of the students, how much I learn and enriching experience of that student interaction and the exchange of ideas and hearing about their creative approaches that might be different and being open to that and letting them know that I'm open to it and not say no that's wrong or no, this is how you have to do it because I was taught that way.
I was taught by professors that would take the pencil out of my hand when I was drawing or draw on top of my drawing. And granted, they are trying to teach you, but it always bothered me a little bit. Now did learn, and that's probably an old school method, when I take their mouse, because I also do sometimes try to teach them by showing one of the best ways I will say, can I take your mouse and show you also, I say, I'm going to undo this when I'm done so that it won't save over their work.
Or I say, have you seen. So that we save it because if something happens to the software program and they lose all their work, I do try to respect them and their views, and I value that. And one of the reasons I have come to appreciate it so much is because of the pandemic, having to teach on zoom for three semesters and then going back into the classroom last fall for the first time in a year and a half, with masks on and social distancing and fewer students, because we had to , keep our distance.
I missed that so much because on zoom, it's just not the same experience. So I have to say that in-person experience is absolutely, especially when you're doing something that is visually oriented. But aside from that, you had said something about bringing them to a point where making them aware and bringing what I teach to a level That's going to engage them. I was thinking about how I learned so much from them, as I said, what I like about working with young people is they bring so much to the table. Currently, I'm on a sabbatical. So I'm exploring a lot of new ideas and creative pursuits.
But when I go back in the fall, I'll have a whole new set of 18, 19 20 year olds that weren't there four years ago, meaning I have a fresh start every semester and I have to keep it. It keeps me young. It keeps me on my toes.
I always have to be learning new techniques, new technology, software updates. I have to learn constantly and they do teach me, but I also have to prepare a lot.
So Jennifer, it has been such a pleasure talking with you today, as you know, I love your story. That's why I had you back. , you're in my book winning the game of work. Cause I just love how you just followed your instincts and you found yourself in this really cutting edge, fantastic career. What are the words of wisdom that you have for people that might be listening today, maybe around how you follow your heart to find a career that is a good fit for.
Well, I would recommend not leaving a stone unturned and I always tell my kids and I've told my students, it can't hurt to ask. Sometimes just being curious, looking into something, trying something you're not going to fail, you're going to learn something from every experience. And if you tell yourself going into it, okay, this will broaden my mind.
It will open me to new experiences. It could lead to something that might actually be the path that's best for me, or it might not. But if it doesn't, then you turn the corner. And the thing that is right for you might be standing in front of you. So my suggestion is to stay curious, be aware of.
open, listen and realize that there's a wealth of opportunities, right at your fingertips. You just have to be open to them. And also, network talk to people, just even friendly. Talk to the person at the post office, the teller you're packing, packing your groceries at the grocery store, your aunt at Christmas.
In other words, if you show interest in what people do, they'll oftentimes be interested in what you do
I love that, , it reminds me of this saying that has been attributed to Nelson Mandela and it is that I never lose. I always win or learn. So Jennifer, if people want to get in touch with you, how can they find you?
Okay. So I teach at Framingham state university and I am listed in the faculty for the art and music department, but I am also on Instagram and Facebook. My portfolio profile is Millbrook studio, on Instagram and Facebook. And can be found on LinkedIn as well.
Okay, great. Well, I'll put all the links in the show notes. So Jennifer, thanks again for being with us today.
Thank you, Terry. It was a lot of fun and I really appreciate that. You asked me to join you today.