Photo: Talk With Me Game Design
Christine Lhowe is an art director, designer and educator with over a decade of experience in print and digital spaces. As Instructor of Art & Design at Seton Hall University, she teaches courses on typography as well as introductory and advanced graphic design. Christine is also Art Director at Ridge Marketing & Design and her work explores the intersection of functionality and emotion, creating experiences that connect people in a myriad of ways. Clients include but are not limited to Taiki Beauty, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, Tree of Life Productions, Focus for Health and many others. She recently sat down with us to provide her take on current industry trends, translating art into the classroom effectively, and who's doing impactful work in the field.
DS: How was it that you found yourself interested in this field? What about it keeps you feeling mentally "fresh" so to speak?
CL: I grew up loving to draw. I would walk around my house with a piece of paper and pencil replicating illustrations on table cloths, wallpapers, and in books. I didn’t know what graphic design was until my high school art teacher introduced me to it. She pointed to visuals around the room and told me designers were responsible for creating them. I decided to major in it and haven’t turned back since.
My interest in graphic design only continues to grow as time progresses. I feel lucky in that respect. I truly love what I do. We’re at a moment in time where people are beginning to understand the impact it can have on culture and that’s really exciting.
Keeping fresh is different for everyone. For me it means stepping away from the computer. I go for walks, talk to people that inspire me, read, draw, or write. It’s usually when I’m not searching for ideas that the most creative concepts come to me. I also make sure to stay current in what’s going on in the field by listening to podcasts, reading articles and books, and being involved in professional organizations such as AIGA. Designers have to always be learning because trends are always changing. That’s what I enjoy most about it. It never gets boring.
DS: What kind of graphic design has stopped you in your tracks? Can you think of a specific example or if not, maybe a message you thought was particularly clever in how it was executed?
CL: I’m most interested in graphic design that is used for good and creates change. Whether that be small scale such as making one person smile or large scale such as creating a movement that impacts society as a whole. One example that I saw recently was a redesign of The Royal London Children’s Hospital dining room by Studio Myerscough in collaboration with poet Lemn Sissay. They created a series of bright, eye-catching murals on walls in the hospital dining room to make what would have been an anxiety-filled stay for a child into a comfortable, inviting environment. It’s an incredible privilege as a designer: to know you have the ability to enhance the well-being of others.
DS: What brands are doing great work in your opinion?
CL: Brands that I believe are most successful are brands that are personable. It’s not enough anymore to simply place an advertisement in a subway station or magazine. Brands have to be in constant conversation with their customers and open to feedback. In addition, brands have to be continuously innovating. This is tricky because consistency is key to having your brand become well-known. You have to manage a fine balance between consistency and innovation in order to keep your audience interested.
Brands that I think are doing this well are Spotify, a music streaming service, and Slack, a team collaboration tool. When Slack is loading it shows quotes that either inspire me or make me laugh, and Spotify is somehow able to put together playlists of songs that I love and would have never found myself. When I login to both platforms, I feel like they know me. It can be absolutely terrifying if I think about it too much, but it means they’re doing a great job at knowing their users and it’s what makes me keep going back.
Photo: Generations of Shared Humanity: Design As A Tool of Inclusion
DS: As a professor, how do you find that key “bridge” of relaying information to your students? Is there a certain work flow you find works really well for moving the knowledge base from brand new to well-informed in terms of activities and projects?
CL: I find that students learn best by doing. Putting theory into practice is extremely important in graphic design (as it might be in any field). I teach this through repetition. For each project that a student works on, he or she comes up with multiple concepts. When my students ask me why this is necessary, I compare learning graphic design to learning an instrument. Practice is essential. You’ll never pick up an instrument and be an expert without putting hours of practice in. In graphic design, you have to practice your thinking and visualizing skills. You have to be comfortable sorting through the clutter in order to see solutions that work best. It’s impressive what students can learn through repetition and how gratifying it is for them when they have that “a-ha” moment. This also prepares them for the real world because clients often ask to see multiple concepts for projects.
We also collaborate and give each other feedback in almost every class. When working with clients, graphic design is just as much about verbal communication as visual communication. You have to be able to explain your ideas to the client in order to have them understand the decisions that you made. When students become comfortable verbally communicating their ideas, that’s when you know it has strength and is more than just making something look aesthetically pleasing.
DS: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in breaking into this field and even just wants to learn more about it?
CL: Be curious. Make a lot. Take feedback well. Talk to people. Share your ideas. And be open to learning new things every day. On a more concrete note, don’t be afraid to reach out to people in the field. Ask questions. Ask if you can meet them or have a phone call to learn more about what they do. Overall, graphic design is a very inviting, tight-knit community with many people that genuinely want to help aspiring designers.
Photo: Write With Me game design, prototype testing
Christine holds an MFA in Graphic Design from Vermont College of Fine Arts and BA from Seton Hall University in Graphic, Interactive and Advertising Design Art.