Q&A: Design Lecturer James Walker

James Walker

Design lecturer James Walker has a background ranging from environments, branding, illustration and interaction. His work has been featured in several publications and books; was part of larger collective projects that are now in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, MOMA, and the Brooklyn Museum; and has won several design-focused awards from organizations such as the AIGA and Communication Arts. Walker received his M.F.A. in Visual Communication and Design from Virginia Commonwealth University.

He is the co-founder of the nonprofit, Type Hike, which defines itself as a Typographic Exploration of America’s Natural Wonders. The project is a type-focused collaborative directly benefiting nature and wildlife-based organizations through the sale of posters.

What first interested you about the design field, and what drew you into pursuing this field as a career?

Comic books got me drawing, and gaming turned me on to computers. In high school, I took a job at a sign shop branding local businesses, which combined those two interests, leading me to graphic design.

What is your background in the field?

I spent several years working within an architecture firm designing branded environments, museum exhibits and restaurant spaces. This included branding, print, web and interactive elements. After that I’ve managed the rebrand of a Fortune 500 company, worked with a startup designing iOS video games, and I eventually started my own practice creating a range of work from packaging to interactive to illustration. 

What have been some of your favorite design projects to work on and why?

Album art is what started my private practice and continues to be my favorite type of work. It allows me to explore material, packaging and type in new ways.  

What kind of projects are you currently working on?

At the moment, I am continuing an effort with an Austin-based brewery creating a range of assets such as packaging, labels, semi-truck graphics and illustrations. 

What type of classes do you teach over the course of the school year?

Primarily, I teach interaction classes aimed at developing a sensitivity to how digital media affects the way we communicate and how we can design for that. Beyond that, I’ve taught Images in Communication, Senior Capstone, Project Studio and graduate-level courses. 

What do you hope students take with them when they leave your class?

An awareness to the importance and impact that design can bring, good craft and a genuine enthusiasm for an ever-evolving discipline. 

What is one piece of advice you wish you had received when you were starting your career in design?

The importance of writing, public speaking, research and that school never ends—you’re always learning, and you should find ways to stay curious. 

Nov. 14, 2017