by Kyle Quint, Visual Arts & Design teacher
“What is design class?”, I’m often asked. The short answer is that Design is the class I wish I had in high school. The long answer is that design has been my way of discovering and understanding the world.
I graduated college with a visual arts degree and an ever expanding list of odd handyman jobs. At that point in my life my biggest skill was saying, “yes, I can do it” to any work that came along and then figuring out how to do it. All I knew is that I enjoyed talking to people, making things and I knew how I wanted the spaces around me to look. I realize now that I had been thinking like a designer my whole life, but for some reason I just didn’t really know being a designer was an option for me.
After a long string of hard work, “yeah, I can do its”, good timing, and marrying an awesome woman who convinced me to move to Tanzania I found myself helping to renovate an old safari lodge/coffee farm called Gibb’s Farm. The goal for the project was to keep the feel and charm of the working farm, honor the local community, and create an upscale luxury eco-destination. Oh yeah, and if that wasn’t enough, we had to keep the hotel operational while we renovated. Even though we had a great architect who did the majority of the design work, me and the team working at the lodge had to come up with a huge range of design solutions for the smaller details like the landscape design, furniture and furnishings. This was the first time I started to realize that my passion is design.
After the Gibb’s Farm project, I opened my own company so that I could continue consulting as an interior designer on projects around Tanzania and then eventually establishing a workshop to produce my own furniture designs. Working as a designer has allowed me to collaborate and learn from such a diverse range of people and professions. I have had the opportunity to learn about and design retail spaces, salons, restaurants, beach bungalows, even a dentist’s office. Design thinking has also gotten me the opportunity to work on films as well. As an art director, I had an excuse to investigate the lives of the characters and their environments and then recreate them in sets and costumes for the screen.
So usually at this point in my story people ask why I became a teacher. Well, after many years and many design projects, the first time I actually ever learned about the design thinking process in a school was when the MYP design teacher from the International School of Tanganyika brought his 8th graders to my workshop for a field trip. The students explained their projects to me and then asked me some questions. My question to them was, “What is design class?”. I was too old to enroll so instead I learned how to teach it. What I found out is that design class is a way for young people to learn how to apply math, science, art and other subjects to solve problems and create solutions in areas of interest and passion. Design thinking creates an opportunity to deeply inquire and impact the world around us.
The impact of my work renovating Gibbs Farm and in being an interior designer and furniture designer was clear and evident, and present on a daily basis around me, my family and the staff and guests of the farm. Design thinking allows students to look at a space, item or idea in a practical and creative way, and ask, “what can i do with this?”. They can plan out their solution but they also have to figure it out along the way. The thinking and approach can be applied to an array of professions, hobbies and personal passion projects. Our new campus is one such opportunity. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to consult with designers and school leadership on aspects of the new campus, to help add style, practicality and purpose from a Design teacher’s point of view.
I hope my experiences and insight as a professional designer provide motivation and passion for our students. They have and are building their hopes and dreams. Design classes are a springboard into adventures and professions they haven’t thought of or seen.