NNHS | Feisworld



Welcome to a special episode of Feisworld, where I interview 5 guests! They are Sue Brooks, an art teacher from the Design and Visual Communications Program at Newton North High School (NNHS), and her four graduating seniors : Marisa Ng, Bradley Trepanier, Sophie Tavolieri and Max Hernadez.

If you can’t see the player above, click here to listen and download. Scroll down to see “Show Notes” and “Quotes”.

The episode features the latest news and development from Sue’s program. Marisa, Bradley, Sophie and Max took turns and talked about their fascinating projects in the past two years (2014-2016). From teaching inner city kids (who don’t speak much English) on how to design complex systems, to getting Justin Bieber’s attention at TD Garden in Boston (a sold-out, 17,000-seat stadium) when the lights went off.

NNHS Orchard Garden

Lessons learned in Design and Visual Communications?

  • “It’s OK to fail.”

  • “You don’t notice that you are learning, but you are!”

  • “Hold your ideas loosely. Keep it loose and expand your brain.”

  • “Always challenge myself.”

Justin Bieber Twitter Post

My relationship with NNHS Design and Visual Communications began in 2011 when I was asked to mentor the students. Sue and I also organized a field trip for 16 students to visit SapientNitro, an advertising agency I was working for at the time, to help students explore professional fields in design. That same year, I put together a Summer Internship Program at SapientNitro and invited two students to join in. One student, Sam Schwamm, presented his final project in front of a dozen senior executives. Sam’s story was shared on the company’s blog, highlighted by Alan Wexler (previously Head of North America, now President of SapientNitro). In the summer of 2016, Sam was hired as a Junior UX (User Experience) Designer in the Boston office before his college graduation.

In 2014, two students from Sue’s program, Karen Fan and Felege Gebru appeared on Feisworld, after winning a National Design Competition and shook hands with President Obama at the White House. Karen is now a student at MIT and Felege at Brown. Felege is working as a design intern at Pixar Animation Studios (summer, 2016).

If you are a student, a parent, a relative or a friend who believes in design but not sure how it can be a long term career, this is the episode for you. If you are lucky enough to live in Boston, Newton, I hope you get in touch with Newton North High School to learn more.

This episode is not sponsored by NNHS. Rather it is my personal opinion and observation during the past five years. As a professional in the marketing, design, advertising world, I can say with confidence that design is critical in many areas – visual design, product design, user experience design, illustration, storyboarding and more. If you have questions for either Sue Brooks or myself, please feel free to reach out by leaving a message on this blog, or get in touch with me @feisworld on Facebook.

To learn more about the Newton North High School’s Design and Communications Program, please visit their website. Read more on the Apprenticeship at Orchard Garden, check out this article, and this one (WOW Week).

Show Notes:

  • [05:50] Guests introduce themselves and mention two relevant things they learned from the Design and Visual Communication course

  • [10:00] Students commenting on their experience at Orchid Gardens

  • [15:00] How did it hit the students the fact that their teacher was involved in such a big project?

  • [17:00] (To Sue Brooks) Did you ever stop to think if this was worth spending your time?

  • [20:00] (To Students) Can you comment a bit more on the T-shirt design project?

  • [26:45] How is learning within design and visual communication differ from other types of learning or beyond your high school experience?

  • [29:15] How does Ms. Brooks grade her students?

  • [35:20] Have the students been able to leverage their design and visual communication skills to other areas of their lives?

  • [39:00] What does ‘creating your own future’ mean for the students? Career path vs. personal path.

  • [46:30] Students’ favorite lessons

  • [50:00] Fei shares her experiences as Project Manager

Favorite Quotes:

[14:00] ‘I just knew that that was one of the biggest accomplishments I have made, more than having my students present […] to President Obama’

[27:00] ’One giant thing is the fact that it is really learning by experience and learning by doing, not by hearing or listening, sitting down or watching something happen. You are always involved…’

[27:30] ‘Learning to appreciate your work always makes a big difference’

[30:00] ‘In many ways there has to be some level of trust by the students. […] As they move forward, they have to trust my method of teaching’

[31:05] ‘To me there ain’t a student. A student that never tries, haven’t learnt anything. There may be really good but they haven’t pushed themselves any further that what they are already capable of’

[33:20] ’As the students graduate, because they’ve seen something from the beginning, they were able to see the results. Have they taken shortcuts, I’m not sure if they’d have reached where they reached.’

[42:20] ‘If you master something, then you gotta teach it, and it’s not because they can’t figure things by themselves, but by teaching it, it allows them to reinforce what they’ve learnt, and then the next person could teach the next person’

About Sue Brooks:

I have been in the design field for over 25 years. My experiences in the private sector include positions such as: Graphic Specialist, Senior Designer, Project Manager, and Creative Director. However, the last 16 years of my career have been spent as a Design and Visual Communications Instructor at Newton North High School (NNHS). Some think of design as being limited to advertisements, websites, and layout. However, I like to think of design education as a process by which I engage my students to identify a problem, advance solutions through observation and collaboration, and critically explore other alternatives. Their final ideas can be expressed in any number of media. This position as an educator has allowed me to teach courses, participate in programs, and foster countless initiatives in the fields of design and invention.”

About the Designs and Communications Program at Newton North High School: 

The Design & Visual Communications pathway begins with a half year Exploratory course and progresses through full year Major 1, 2, and 3 courses. In Exploratory, students learn the basic principles of design and become familiarized with software including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Flash, and 123D. They subsequentl apply those skills in mock projects by creating posters, animations, 3D letters, and images. In Major 1, students further develop their design skills and have the opportunity to work on a variety of live projects for the community. Major 2 and 3 students collaborate together to work on large-scale projects for clients with Major 3 students acting as the team leaders. At the end of the year, the Major 3 students receive a criterion with which they design and create an artistic structure so as to leave behind a legacy for future students.



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