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Adjunct Bulletin Adjunct Accolades By Robert A. Watts, MA, Associate Teaching Professor
Department of English and Philosophy

Robert A. Watts

Rosemary Murphy, MLA., Adjunct, Graphic Design, (pictured left) has been teaching in the Graphic Design program in The Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design since 1989. She teaches Typography and Visual Communications courses.  Murphy received a BFA in Graphic Design at Philadelphia College of Art (now University of the Arts) in 1981 and earned a Master’s Degree in Liberal Arts at the University of Pennsylvania in 2005. She owns a small graphic design firm, Murphy Design, based in Center City and works with corporate and nonprofit organizations, local businesses, colleges and universities designing publications, identity projects and promotional materials.

Murphy began teaching at Drexel after meeting faculty members through her involvement with American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), the professional association for design. She was invited to a critique of student work, which must have impressed people, because shortly afterwards, Murphy was offered the chance to teach a class in logo design and corporate identity. She’s been teaching regularly ever since.

Murphy notes how graphic design has gone through major changes since her student days when “everything was drawn, sketched, planned and finished by hand. There was a lot of cutting and pasting. There were a lot of tangible materials.” During her initial years at Drexel, when she taught logo and brand design, students sketched more by hand with tracing and layout paper. “The design and imaging lab was separate from the classroom. It was the next step. Now, every classroom is a computer lab with a large meeting table in the middle— the classroom set-up is a pretty wonderful and necessary thing,” Murphy says. “Yes, most designers sketch and plan projects using every means possible—pencil, paper, iPhone, tablets…” Technology is an integral part of the process.”

When asked what she enjoys most about teaching, Murphy response is: “Drexel students bring a great energy to the classroom. I enjoy their great questions, terrific work ethic, can-do attitude and fresh eyes. I’m especially excited when I can help a student discover a deeper appreciation for design as they find a way to doing what they love.”  Murphy’s graphic design firm is mostly a one-person operation; therefore, she has found it enormously satisfying when given the opportunity to interact with colleagues in the design field.  “Being able to have camaraderie with peers opens new possibilities,” she says. “I get to see first-hand what others are doing in the profession and keep up to date with always changing, evolving technology and better ways to work.”

One emphasis Murphy brings to the classroom is the importance of collaboration between designers and their clients. Design work is never done in isolation— it’s usually a collaborative effort with other designers, clients, writers, printers and fabricators. Design projects involve “a lot of understanding the clients’ goals and refining them,” she says. “There’s a lot of delving into what to communicate and how to do that effectively. It’s a matter of not getting too attached to preconceived ideas and reacting to and refining things as you work through a project.”

She explains that her recent work on an annual report involved ongoing communications with fundraising and communications staff— there was a constant process of refining ideas and designs. “I was involved in my client’s project meetings as the material was being developed. There were some clearly defined strategies and making it all work took some refinement and several iterations. The final project was very much a collaboration and much richer because of that.”

Hearing Murphy describe work with various clients, one gets the sense that listening and communicating are fundamental to successful design. She shares this insight with students who surely are helped by hearing this information from someone who is immersed in the field.

Recently, Murphy began to serve on the Drexel Faculty Senate. So far she’s been impressed by the knowledge of university regulations and history, the pointed questions that members of the senate ask regarding the decision making process.

When asked what it takes to become a successful graphic designer, Murphy says that she encourages students “to be open to new experiences, be flexible and delve into aspects of the profession that genuinely interest them—to play on their strengths. And most of all, always have several plan B’s … in terms of evolving and constantly learning new things.”

That sounds like good advice for students in all fields in the 21st century.