Episode #17: Revolutionizing Graphic Design Education with David Block

David: 0:00
Um, if you don’t know what to do, look at other people. Surround yourself with good design. Good designers. Make a mood board. Fill it up with stuff that you like, that you think that that’s good, that that is good design, um and um. And then help, let let that inspire you. And, just like I I do with my students, I tell them copy it, copy exactly what you see and then modify it, make it your own right. So start by practicing what you see and then change it up to make it your own.

Lauren: 0:36
Welcome to Earning by Design, a podcast dedicated to guiding graphic designers and creative freelancers towards building successful businesses from their passions. I’m your host, Lauren Gonzalez. With over 14 years in the design industry, including both in-house, corporate and freelance design roles, I’m here to share insights and strategies to help you thrive in your design business. My journey was not without its challenges, including finding well-paying clients and struggling and managing an overwhelming workload for minimal return, but through perseverance and strategic planning, I was able to transform those obstacles into a six-figure design business that allows me to work from home, set my own hours and select projects that truly resonate with me. So, whether you’re embarking on your design career or you’re already an experienced designer, earning by Design is your companion to help you stay competitive in the fast-paced world of graphic design.

Lauren: 1:35
Welcome back to Earning by Design podcast. Today, I’m very excited with our guest. His name is David Block and he is a seasoned designer with 30 plus years of practical experience in just about every aspect of the graphic design industry, including print, web, mobile and video. And in 2015, he transitioned into the education industry as a teacher with North Orange County ROP, and he is the founder of a really cool organization called Design Rescue, which we’re going to be talking about today. So thank you so much, David, for being here. I appreciate your time.

David: 2:12
Yeah, thank you Lauren, I appreciate it.

Lauren: 2:14
Yeah, awesome. So I’m curious what inspired you to start Design Rescue, and I’d love to hear a background of what it is so everyone can understand, and we’ll obviously link to it in the show notes. But this is such a it’s an amazing program that I wish I had in high school to help the next generation of designers. And it’s amazing that you do that on top of what the teaching and the actual instructing that you do. So I would love to hear what inspired that and a bit more about it.

David: 2:46
Sure, so well. Okay, so Design Rescue started about a year or two after I started teaching. I’ve been a designer, as you said, for a long time and I started teaching just about eight years ago and the classes that I had were just normal classes, I was just giving assignments. But I built a. We have a pathway here. It’s part of an academy at the high school, so there, if they take my graphic design pathway, they know Illustrator, they know Photoshop, indesign why not just get them real clients?

David: 3:30
And so I started the very first year I did it. I pulled in a couple of clients and it worked really really well. So the following year I kicked it off. We had about 30 clients in that year and we only had I think we had 15 students or 18 students in that class. So several of the a lot of the students got double you know work with multiple clients, and that’s pretty much how it started. It was really I wanted to give, I wanted to create a portfolio preparation class and it turned into an actual studio and you know it was kind of an opportunity to get students to really experience, like you know, real life situations and practice business acumen and their soft skills about how to deal with clients, and you know what happens when you have clients that don’t respond to you, or you know how do you sell your work to them, how do you talk about your work, that sort of thing, and that’s really what we go over in the Design Rescue program.

Lauren: 4:35
Gosh, I admire that immensely. I mean, the first probably year and a half was just a massive struggle for me on all those different skills and when you don’t have to then yet be depending or counting about the money aspect of it and you can just focus on all the other points. I think that’s such a beautiful, safe space that you’ve given to these students, and how do you see that as bridging the gap between the education that you’ve taught them for those previous three years to then the practical work experience

that they receive?

David: 5:12
Yeah, that’s a great question. So, first of all, just like you said, I didn’t have this when I was in high school. I didn’t have anything like this. There was nothing that connected us to the real world at all. This, there was nothing that connected us to the real world at all. So just the opportunity for them to be able to meet with and talk to actual business owners has been amazing. I mean, put the work aside, just the relationship that they’ve been able to create and the guidance that that I wasn’t expecting. They come in here and we get, you know, advice and all kinds of. It’s really been an amazing, amazing experience.

David: 5:53
But to bridge that gap between the educational part and the practical work experience. So I wanted to kind of prove that high school students are not too young to take on these kinds of responsibilities, and that’s that’s really where it comes in, is where they, when they enter my classroom it’s they just came in from a day of normal high school where they get the same old stuff. We don’t normally get the adult level responsibilities, so to speak. You know what I mean. But, um, and in this class it’s, I am just a coach, everything is on them, and so, um, that that’s really where, where it bridges the gap and kind of brings in the educational piece with the real practical piece. Um, yeah, and then oh, one.

David: 6:44
One other thing. So, also as a result of the portfolio that they build here, they can actually just go right out out during high school or after high school and get a job as a graphic designer or get into an art school, and I’ve had that happen with several of my students. In fact, last year I had a student who was going to. He got his AA degree in graphic design by going to night classes, as he was inspired, you know, by taking my classes, and so he just pushed forward. That’s unusual, but it happened.

Lauren: 7:16
Oh, that must be so rewarding to see that in the real world, you know they go and that becomes their career. Absolutely yeah, I know, and that becomes their career. Absolutely yeah, I know. Yeah, it’s like your babies have flown. And so when you’re doing this, the Design Rescue when you’re promoting that, how do these clients find out about the program? And because this is, they get free design work. That’s how they learn right, that’s the experience. So do they find you through SEO, through your website, or through the YouTube channel, or what? What way do they find out about?

David: 7:49
it. I’ll be honest, it is all social all the time. Um, I am on everything just promoting the heck out of design rescue and specifically LinkedIn and Facebook. But, um, I’ll be quite honest, facebook groups have been the most um, um, most. I’ve gotten the most response out of those groups. You know, the buzz groups, the community groups and things like that. So, for instance, I’m in the Orange County buzz group and there are, I think, over 20,000 people and I just post, I start something fun, like hey, your neighborhood, your friendly neighborhood, graphic design teacher here, you know, got this fun thing for you to do. So it’s basically kind of have fun with it and I make connections throughout the summer to bring in the group of clients that they’ll have throughout the year. But it is all Facebook pretty much. I’ve had some couple here and there go through our website, but basically social.

Lauren: 8:46
Great, great. And are they usually branding projects? Are they also like marketing assets and other elements? Digital design.

David: 8:56
Great question. You know, actually it started out as a wide mix of things. I don’t know why, though, over the past two years, three years, it’s been mostly logos mix of things. I don’t know why, though, over the past two years, three years, it’s been mostly logos. This year, 90% of what we received started out as logos, and I got about half the year through, or I would say about two or three months ago, I realized what was happening and I told my students to enhance their project.

David: 9:21
So when you get into a conversation with them now, let’s build it out, you’re going to need a business card. You don’t just need a logo, you also need this. So we try to, you know, enhance the projects a bit. But yeah, they do. They do start out as branding projects

, but I do on on that. You know, on that front we do have other kinds of projects that come through. We do lots of not lots of, let me say it a different way we do a couple of projects that have 60-page documents, you know, like programs for events that are going on or you know that sort of thing. So we do have the typesetting projects that can be a little bit boring and long, but you know they do come in.

Lauren: 10:07
Good. Well, it’s good to get that experience on different types, because you know, it’s not always the beautiful projects that we get as designers anyway. So that’s nice to have that mix of a variety. And yeah, and then so do they when they’re working with clients. Do they go through the whole process, like the onboarding, and I’ve seen in their videos that it’s actually they meet with them in person. Is that every time, or is it done on the phone and through email?

David: 10:46
that, um, not a lot, I would say a few that still do zoom. You know, meetings We’ve actually done one just by phone um, uh for, but but for those initial consultations we really need that face to face and I want them to get that experience. So that’s what I push for, yeah.

Lauren: 10:58
I love that you do that because for me when I was just starting in I mean when I was working in house obviously it was face-to-face, but when I was just starting freelancing it was like the I hid behind my email and that’s what was the comfort for me. So, but I think if they’re coming from a place where they’re having to deal in person with clients and they’re having to experience that and and you know, get through all the shyness I I, I really can’t stress enough how much that experience I feel I missed. So I really admire that you have that for them to do.

David: 11:34
You know what’s interesting? I don’t think that they know. There are some students that don’t know that they have that fear of speaking with people and I don’t think they’re aware of it yet because they haven’t been put into those kinds of situations, and so a lot of my students perform a lot better than they expect, Because when you get face to face you know you’re sitting, sitting with them. It’s like you’re talking to a friend, almost it becomes kind of a chat, you know, not just a business thing. So it’s been, it’s been an interesting experience for sure to watch them kind of grow in that way, For sure.

Lauren: 12:10
Yeah, yeah, I love this and and so have you had any specific? You mentioned one of those. Maybe you can elaborate more on a success story with the Design Rescue Program what you’ve, what’s significant, what like, how it’s really impacted their career trajectory in, in going to where they want.

David: 12:29
Absolutely I. Actually I I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve got one student that I’ve. I have a couple of different success stories that will actually let me start with the first one. When I started teaching in in 2015, um, I had a student who was with me for three years and then she graduated and in well, yeah, 2018. And when she went to Chapman University, she got herself a job as a graphic designer there on campus while going to get her degree in graphic design. So that was the first kind of success story. I wasn’t able to keep track of where she went after that, but that’s. That was as far as I went with that that student.

David: 13:12
Another student, though, who graduated just last year um, during the school year, he took on a project in design rescue for for his father, to be quite honest, um, but his father, I think he worked for fire department under the TEMS team, which is the tactical emergency medical support team, and they wanted a new patch. He got to design. That patch came out super professional, looks so good. And when he graduated, he actually came back this year and he said that he’s gotten response. He’s gotten requests from other fire departments asking for patches, so he’s starting a little business doing patches. So he came back in and asked for advice. You know how do I deal with this, what do I price it at and all of that stuff. So, and he’s still going to college, so all of that. You know that before even having his degree.

Lauren: 14:06
That’s beautiful, wow, that’s such a fun point in how he can be making an income and you allowed the space for him to not have

to deal with the pricing side of it, and that’s what I think is cool is that they’re able to take things on in increments and not have because we get bombarded. When you’re starting a business, you get bombarded with all these different tasks all at once. So this is a really nice way of easing into that. And yeah, and what do you find is the benefit? There’s obviously a lot of online courses, and I teach online courses and and I’ve taken online courses, but what do you find are the benefits of in-person design instruction?

David: 15:18
That’s a really great question, um, and I’ll tell you, you know, during the, the, the lockdown, during the pandemic, we really really saw uh kind of this is this really highlighted the, the benefits of in-person, and I’ll be totally honest with you that that destroyed us during that 2020.

David: 15:39
But when we came back, I was everybody was so excited to be in person and I really doubled down on um. You know the way that I teach in person and what I mean by that is normally okay. So the benefits of being in person, obviously, and what I mean by that is normally okay. So the benefits of being in person, obviously, it’s that over the shoulder help, right, getting to watch students actually do the work, watch them make mistakes, show them right there in front of them how to make the make it right and then watch them do it the right way. That was that’s really the benefit to it, and I think you know now that I think back, I think before 2020, I wasn’t really I kind of wandered the room I didn’t do put that much focus on the over the shoulder help. Over the past couple of years, though, it’s been really, really valuable to jump in there, take their mouths away from them, show them exactly what to do and then watch them actually do it.

Lauren: 16:34
Oh yeah, that makes total sense. I can see that as a benefit and even I mean as much as you can do online and you probably experienced this doing the critiques, you know, writing the notes on the work and everything that I try and do that, as you know, as best as I can. But I remember that in-person, and even working in-house or under a creative director, it’s really invaluable, so great.

David: 16:59
Absolutely.

Lauren: 17:00
Yeah, and so now, with the whole Design Rescue program looking forward, how do you see this evolving to further support students and the community over time? Or do you ever see it expanding to other schools or other areas that you can kind of maybe oversee? Or I’m curious what your thoughts are, because it’s such a successful concept and I just don’t see that everywhere.

David: 17:27
Yeah, I actually gave a talk at the last CTE conference CTE is career technical education and I gave a talk about my design rescue program and after that time I had several people that were to extend the design rescue program to other schools. Absolutely, I’ve already written kind of an on a sort of a directions for how to, how to manage the program and how to onboard, you know, onboarding for clients and how to deal with with every aspect of it. So I’ve got that ready to go for schools and I’m actually starting to reach out to them and we’ve I actually I think two weeks ago I had somebody come from another school to observe, so that’s already starting to happen. Also, I want to collaborate with business and create more of an internship kind of a program. Right now it is set up as a work-based learning kind of a program. Right now it is set up as a work-based learning situation. It’s a service. Learning is what it is really and what that entails is basically having students do the work in a classroom situation supervised by a teacher, but doing work for clients, and so that’s work-based learning.

David: 18:50
Internship obviously would be. You know, they spend time there at the office, they get a desk to sit at and actually do the work. That would be wonderful. We actually so. I don’t. I’m not a district teacher, I work for North Orange County ROP and we actually have something called a career I’m sorry, cpi, career pathway, internship that’s what it is and where we do this and it’s. You know, kids can take advantage of this, but I want to build it more into my program. It hasn’t reached us just yet. Those are the two things, yeah, two areas I’d like to extend into.

Lauren: 19:33
Those are the two things, yeah, two areas I’d like to extend into. That’s a great

concept, yeah, and the internships are usually either very low pay or free anyway, but it’s a great experience, so it makes sense. I mean, it would only benefit the companies that are around that area.

David: 19:49
Yeah, absolutely Getting to be in the office environment and that’s where the soft skills you know really hit the road and you know really, really test themselves on how they deal with people. I think that’s most important, other than the design skills. I think that is actually most important to learn those soft skills actually most important to learn those soft skills.

Lauren: 20:14
I totally agree, and it can be very it can be very scary to be in an office environment where there’s not a lot of creatives around you and you’re having to make those creative decisions yourself and do those points. So I think an agency is obviously a different circumstance because you’re under a creative director but sometimes in an in-house role, you’re one of the only creatives, so that definitely would be an amazing experience for them.

David: 20:39
Yeah, absolutely Great.

Lauren: 20:41
So what advice do you have to those that are new to the graphic design industry? These days there’s a lot of stuff going on out there and you know AI and such, but just overall, because you’ve had such an extensive experience in the industry, what advice do you have for those new?

David: 21:01
So the advice that I give to my graduating seniors a couple of different things that I’ve thought of that I talk about with them. Number one look for opportunities to work on teams. It’s great to have a freelance business, but it actually is better to get experience working and seeing how other people in different disciplines do their work so that you have that, you can at least get that experience and see what they do. For instance, I was a senior designer at Experian writer, the project manager, you know the um, uh, the client, whatever. You know all the account managers, you know the development team and everybody, and. And we get to see how they do their work and we get to focus on just our design work. I get to design, just focus on my design work. So I really think that working on a team is beneficial before jumping into a freelance situation. And then another piece of advice I would give you know, the creative blocks actually happen and, side note, I wish the word block had a positive connotation to it. It is what it is and everybody gets them. So creative blocks actually happen and when they do.

David: 22:29
This was a big thing for me when I was in college. I was, I struggled, I didn’t know. You know what happens if you’ve got a blank. You’re blank, you got a blank sheet in your head. What do I do? Um, and my teachers didn’t really have a good answer. So I I, I came up with the answer, which is just to surround yourself with good design. That is the answer. Um, if you don’t know what to do, look at other people. Surround yourself with good design. Good designers make a mood board, fill it up with stuff that you like, that you think that that’s good, that that is good design. Um and um. And then help, let let that inspire you. And, just like I I do with my students, I tell them copy it, copy exactly what you see and then modify it, make it, make it your own right. So start by practicing what you see and then change it up to make it your own. So that’s the second piece. I think creative blocks actually happen. But just surround yourself with good design.

Lauren: 23:31
Beautiful. Yeah, that’s something that you can never get enough of. Are you a fan of having your students take a break from the computer sometimes and just look at books or go out on a walk or anything?

David: 23:46
You know, every now and then, every now and then I do like well, unfortunately we only have like 45 minutes or 50 minutes to focus on. So when they come into the class, like okay, let’s spend every minute working. But there are times when I actually start the class with a fun video. I’ve started class with your videos, in fact, just as an example. But yeah, I mean we don’t really go out and take walks. We should, that would actually be a great idea. But yeah, I mean, every now and then we start the class with something fun to loosen, loosen them up a little bit and then we get right into work.

Lauren: 24:25
Great, totally Awesome. And and then, what advice do you have to those who have been in the industry for a while

or are maybe struggling with, with, uh, do they want to continue, or they’re, they’re set, but they, you know, they’re maybe concerned about the future of graphic design. Do you have any words of wisdom on that for those guys?

David: 24:47
Sure. So people that are have been in the industry how are that are seasoned designers, I think. Look for opportunities to kind of give back. The one thing that I do talk about with my students and I it’s so true is that when you can show somebody how to do something and actually watch them do it without your help, that means that you’ve mastered that thing, and I talk about that all the time. So I try to get my students to help each other in that way, and it is actually pretty awesome to watch them turn, show them how to do it, sit back and they actually do it. It’s really, really great to see that. So what I recommend for those that are seasoned designers is look for opportunities to show your mastery of your skills or, at the very least, go to a website like I don’t know wiseantcom or someplace like that, where you can actually become a tutor and help others. I think that’s really the best way to sort of demonstrate your mastery of your skills. And giving back to the community I think that’s super important. Giving back to the community, that’s beautiful.

David: 26:05
If I could also add one more keep challenging yourself. There’s one one thing that that that I struggle with and I, you know, in that dreaded downtime between clients. Or you know, let’s say I’ve got a lot of projects and they’re all kind of the same sort of type of project. Challenge yourself, do something that’s outside your comfort zone. Learn a new skill. I picked up, I picked up the bass. I learned how to play the bass about two years ago, and not that I can use it in my design. Who knows? Maybe I can’t, but you know, enhance yourself in between projects. Just challenge yourself.

Lauren: 26:46
Enhance yourself in between projects, just challenge yourself. Love that Absolutely Well. I’ve really been inspired by what you’ve said and I think that it’s something that I wish that you could duplicate yourself all over the world and really have this, because if every designer or budding artists had someone like you there, it would be a much different place when people go out into the world and career. So I really appreciate what you’re doing, David. Thank you so much.

David: 27:15
No problem, thank you.

Lauren: 27:16
Yeah, and and also where? What would you say would be the best place for people to connect with you? Find out more. I would love for you to say well, obviously, link in the show notes, but I know I’ll let you say the names of everything that you would prefer them to go to.

David: 27:31
Okay, thank you, I appreciate that. So, uh, first you can take a look at the uh edhsdesignrescuecom. That’s our uh, that’s the design rescue program that I run with the kids, um, and then there’s my my podcast, which is kind of uh, born out of the design rescue program. It’s called the design rescue show on um on YouTube. Just search it out. You’ll find the design rescue show. Uh, if you’d like to look at my own personal portfolio, just go to davidblocknet.

Lauren: 28:02
Awesome, Okay, Perfect. Well, thank you so much again, David and I will see you later. And also, please make sure everyone go check out his YouTube channel and his what they’re doing. It really it. There’s also have some really cool videos which I’ll link in the show notes. That goes over the actual students in action, which I love so awesome. Thanks, everyone, and have a really good rest of your day.

Lauren: 28:35
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Earning by Design. If you found value today, I would be incredibly grateful if you could leave a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback not only helps this podcast to grow, but it also helps to get in front of more designers who need help too. So thank you sincerely for being here and for more resources to help you succeed in the world of design. Please visit forthecreativescom. That’s the number four, thecreativescom. We offer a variety of courses, programs and free resources, all tailored to enhance your design skills and your business knowledge. Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram at for the creatives for more updates and tips and, if you haven’t already joined my growing community of over a hundred thousand subscribers

on the for the creatives YouTube channel, that has more content, all designed to fuel your creativity and your professional growth. Until next time, keep creating, keep exploring and continue to push the boundaries of your own creative journey. I’ll be here to guide and inspire you every step of the way.

Listen to this podcast episode on…

Real-World client experience is what new designers need.

In this episode, I had the opportunity to interview a seasoned designer with over 30 years of experience who has turned into a full-time graphic design educator. This educator is helping the next generation of graphic designers gain real-world experience as part of their high school curriculum. David shares wisdom for new and seasoned designers based on his extensive career.

More about David:

David is a graphic designer and educator with a career that started in 1991 after discovering his passion for design while working at a mall kiosk. His journey took him from early web design ventures with his father to earning a Bachelor’s in Graphic Design from The Art Institute of California – Orange County. David spent significant time at Experian, evolving from a Senior Graphic Designer to an Interactive Art Director, and co-created the Handable Phone Grip, a testament to his interest in functional design.

In 2015, David transitioned to education, teaching Digital Design and Visual Communications at North Orange County ROP, El Dorado High School. He founded the ‘Design Rescue Studio,’ a program that combines academic learning with real-world projects, and launched ‘The Design Rescue Show’ on YouTube to extend his educational reach. Currently, he balances teaching with running his freelance design business, continuously learning and adapting to the ever-changing design landscape.

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Additional notes and links mentioned in this episode

Connect with David:

The Design Rescue Program: https://www.edhsdesignrescue.com/

The Design Rescue YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBQxyDw4xzi-L2uGpvt8shQ

David Block’s Design Site: https://www.davidblock.net/

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