April 5, 2022 Faculty Share Expertise about Teaching Beginning Designers

Pinups of student work

The originality and innovativeness that are applied to the teaching of beginning design students tells a story of commitment and vision about the future of the design disciplines. In our college, our first-year students in the School of Architecture and School of Interior Architecture share studio courses. They mingle and connect, and through this collaborative spirit, they inspire each other in the fundamentals of design. As they learn design together, they also are learning an important lesson about cross-collaboration among the design disciplines, a state that is far from unusual in the professional realm.

Our unique and innovative approach to teaching beginning design students is noticed, so when our faculty are asked to speak at the National Conference on the Beginning Design Student, it means something. Our innovativeness is both on display and shared with many other institutions.

Four faculty presented at the 2022 NCBDS this month, and each has a unique aspect to share.

Two of the four faculty represent Architecture and Interior Architecture and co-taught a first-year studio in fall 2021. Professor David Matthews and Professor Scott Poole used the best of both disciplines to bring the students together to learn as one. The most unique aspect of this studio was the approach: Gone were the artificially constructed deadlines that led to a sequential series of final outcomes. Instead, Matthews and Poole turned the old approach upside down. Students in the studio had large blocks of time to iterate, fail and reflect. Students’ work overlapped throughout the semester, and they learned to not expect a pre-determined ending.

“The studio pace is more attuned to the actual pace of learning,” said Poole. “We see our primary purpose as the unlocking of the beginner’s latent imagination.”

Read Poole and Matthews’s NCBDS abstract [PDF].


sculptural structure with white pieces

Jennifer Akerman is no stranger to NCBDS. In fact, her 2022 presentation was her fifth. “I really value attending NCBDS because it draws a large number of faculty teaching at a high level who are willing to share insight to their pedagogical process that is open and engaging,” she said.

In April, Akerman, who is an associate professor in the School of Architecture, discussed teaching first-year graduate Architecture students. She discussed her approach to encouraging rational intention and intuition by striking a balance between a proscribed set of exercises and encouraging the students’ self-discovery of design. Her studio was established as a dialogue between student and instructor and between thinking and making. By letting go of the illusion of control, Akerman’s students learned to create through a generative process that is attuned to the complexities of the field of architecture.

Read Akerman’s NCBDS abstract [PDF].


At the other end of the spectrum is first-time teacher Julie Kress, lecturer and adjunct assistant professor.  Although new to teaching, Kress’s approach to teaching second-year Architecture students is drawing attention. “I had never attended the conference before, but it seems like an excellent opportunity for someone new to teaching to learn about various approaches to early design education,” Kress said.

In her studio, Kress helped her students disrupt realism to open the way for creative thinking for the inexperienced design student. Traditionally, students are led from abstract to realism, but Kress’s students did the opposite. Through the use of drawing, rendering and digital modeling exercises, students began with concrete objects and became nimble digital creatives to strip away the objects’ sense of realism. Through this unique process, Kress’s students revealed unimaginable possibilities where previously there were none.

Read Kress’s NCBDS abstract [PDF].


The approach to teaching new design students—whether at the first-, second- or graduate level—makes or breaks a college of architecture and design. At the UT College of Architecture and Design, students benefit from professors’ innovativeness to become ready to think, make and design on a regional and global scale.