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Op-Ed Professor Edition: Bizhan Khodabandeh's teaching axioms

Sep 19, 2017

Posted in: News

By Bizhan Khodabandeh

Khodabandeh, Bizhan
Khodabandeh, Bizhan

‌Like many educators, several years of teaching have resulted in a repertoire for myself of various analogies to explain certain concepts to students. I find myself regularly using them to best explain aspects of our field of study. I also find myself repeating several other phrases in the classroom that can be sometimes comical - especially when they are used multiple times during a class. My hope is that others might find this information as useful or as comical as myself. Here are some of the phrases I find myself regularly saying to students each semester.


"You have to learn the rules before you effectively break them. Without knowing the rules, you are just stumbling in the dark. That's not experimentation."

"Folks involved with organized crime effectively break the laws because they are well aware of them. For making art, it's the same."

"Move that over there."

"You are searching for visual harmony vs. visual dissonance. It's like band members performing slightly off beat from each other. The audience may be aware that it sounds bad, but not understand the cause. So use the typographic grid."

"The typographic grid is the most important aspect/part of design...well, one of the most important aspects.”

"Visual metaphor is the most important aspect/part of design...well, one of the most important aspects."

"Don't mutilate the type by stretching it. Distortion is best achieved through the extension of strokes and erasure...well, most of the time. Sometimes it works, but it's best to try that when you understand how to more effectively use it."

"That is not the goal of this assignment."

"Yes, that was covered in the syllabus."

"Yes, I explained that last class. Remember?"

"You might think that I'm making this difficult for you. That's not the intention. These assignments are necessary to achieve greater skill sets and understanding of the medium. Wouldn't you be skeptical if a personal trainer let you just lay around for an entire session and gave you zero input?"

"Don't say only positive things during critique. We are here to get better - not pat each other on the back. Tell each other what can change to make for a better project. We aren't telling them it's garbage. We are making suggestions that may make for a stronger outcome. Also we aren't looking at a finished realistic oil painting here. Any suggested change is probably only going to take 5 min to an hour."

"I always found critiques boring in school so let's try to make this quick and start working again."

"Does anyone know about (insert part of history or artist or process) ... OK well it's (insert explanation of history or artist or process)."

"At least try this suggestion. It'll take a few minutes to execute it. It might look terrible and you scrap it, but it's at least worth trying the suggestion.”

"Most artists that I've spoken to are unhappy with their current skill level. Don't be discouraged. All of your work is just part of the constant path towards an unachievable goal of perfection. It doesn't matter how many awards or praise you have received during your career. Try to focus on the journey being the most enjoyable and important aspect to you."

"Many of us aren't completely happy with the outcome of our work, but there are those rare occasions that we achieve something we never thought possible of ourselves. That's what keeps you going. That's what makes all this worthwhile."

"Good morning. I mean, afternoon."

"Does anyone know where my coffee is?"

"I don't believe the the idea of being gifted at art. It's hard work. Even a master like Michelangelo said that if folks knew how hard it was to achieve his skill level, it wouldn't seem as wonderful. That means you have to work outside of class. Don't just rely on class time to practice."

"Thoughtful practice is important. If you draw the same mediocre drawing every day, you have gotten really efficient at drawing a bad drawing. Spend time being critical of your work and studying the theory as well as those that came before you. That means work outside of class. Don't just rely on class time to practice."

"Your first idea is usually the most superficial and obvious solution. That's why we make multiple sketches. It's like trying to hit a bullseye with one shot. The more shots, the more likely you are to solve the problem."