Programs in Graphic Design
and Comments on Leadership, Personnel and Operation of the
Graphic Design Program
Each Graphic Design Department or Program operates somewhat
differently according to the type of institution, mix of personalities,
program objectives and working conditions. During my career,
I have taught at independent schools of art, private and public
universities. What is relayed here are recommendations based
on my experiences, observations and opinions. While they might
not apply to every program, it is hoped that they will provide
insight into a number of conditions and situations connected
to the operation of an educational program in Graphic Design.
The traditional form of Graphic Design program
organization is a Department with a Head who is expected to
provide leadership, handle administrative duties and represent
faculty, students and program. In most institutions the position
is by appointment, at others, the headship is elected from
the faculty or it is a rotating position.
Arts colleges and most but not all state universities are
prone to use other forms of organization. Perhaps the most
common is to lump Graphic Design with other disciplines into
a Department or School of Art under the leadership and supervision
of a Department Head or Director. In these circumstances,
there is no leadership by discipline; there are less faculty
for each program of study and each one tends to be less professional
with fewer required credits in the major.
Design programs must have a designated Head with specified
responsibilities to fulfill the role of leadership. I cannot
conceive of a program being effective without institutionally
of a Department or Program Head
The position of Department Head, Senior Professor
or any other such designation defining leadership is generally
regarded as one of authority. Speaking from twenty years experience,
I would define the position as first being one of service.
Service to the administration, faculty members and students.
The role of the Head is to serve the various and many needs
of faculty, students and administration. A primary responsibility
for the Head is making decisions which are in the best interests
of the program. The decisions might not be popular with administration,
all faculty members or students. The Head must make the decision
and accept full responsibility for it even when it is difficult.
position of Department or Program Head is the least understood
of any in academic organization. Administrators tend to view
the position as the last outpost of administration and expect
Department Heads to represent administrative interests. My
view of the Department or Program Head position is that its
primary role is to represent the best interests of the program,
faculty and students, and it is the link with administration.
academic organization, I divide individuals into categories
of leaders, managers, followers and independents. The latter
might fit into any of the previous categories or function
in different ones at different times. I do not believe that
one category is superior to any of the others because all
are required. Qualities of leadership usually are natural
and might be roughly characterized as being forth right, respected
by others, easily accepts or creates change and has abilities
to organize and project. I do believe that individuals can
learn the role of leadership. Those with natural abilities
to manage might exhibit traits of paying attention to details,
are more methodical, have a strong sense of responsibility
and order. In my experience, followers are usually individuals
who do not want the additional responsibilities of the Headship
or managerial duties as they are committed to professional
practice, their families or some other outside interest.
observation is that administration most often goes awry when
unsuitable individuals are appointed to a position, and particularly
so when leadership is required. Managers seldom make good
leaders; leaders are invariably boat-rockers in management
positions and so on. However, there are many exceptions and
sound appointments result from matching the appointment to
the needs of the position. As an example, a Graphic Design
program with an exceptionally strong faculty might benefit
more from good management than strong leadership.
leader who carries out the responsibilities and serves their
constituents will be more successful over a longer period
of time than those who view the position as one of authority.
Leadership simply does not work when it is only authoritative.
The Head consults, coordinates and facilitates program matters,
keeps records, plans and generates ideas, works with administration
and speaks for the program.
traits of leadership are few and absolute. Leadership is defined
as one who leads by example. An effective leader cannot expect
others to do what they are not willing to do themselves. Being
direct and honest are mandatory in dealing with faculty members,
students and administrators. There has to be trust and respect.
Procrastination, indecisiveness or avoidance behavior on the
part of the Head inevitably leads to erosion of #confidence
in, respect for, and trust of leadership. Openness and flexibility
are related qualities; to listen is often more important to
leadership than an ability to articulate. Secretiveness does
not sit well with faculty or students and it is highly destructive
to trust. A leader can make some unilateral decisions and
survive in position. However, if the leader consistently makes
unilateral decisions, faculty resent it and credibility for
leadership is lost.