Q&A: Meet Matt Noblett, new graphic design faculty member

 Drury University welcomed a new addition to their staff this semester as Matt Noblett joined the institution’s Graphic and Design Program. Noblett currently teaches two sections of ARTZ 211 Digital Foundations and ARTZ 325 Form and Content. He keeps quite busy with his classes, but fortunately The Mirror was able conduct a quick Q&A with the man himself.

 

Matt Noblett, Photo by Drury University.

What compelled you to become a Drury University faculty member?

I completed my MFA in Graphic Design in 2013.  I was excited about doing more hands-on creative again and found myself inspired by creating relationships between thoughtful visual design, messaging and audiences.  I have always been a very open person and had shared with many friends and family that I intended to move to academia at some point in the future.  Some of my past Adjunct work while working professionally was extremely rewarding.  After Joining Target in 2016, they had gone through some significant changes in leadership and direction that were not exactly what I had planned for in my role with them.  I began confiding in friends and family that now might be a good time to make the jump – and a few months later, I reached out to Drury.

Drury was at the top of a short list because they had a strong and interesting approach to Liberal Arts education tied to professional skills and a Graphic Design program in the Art Department.  The faculty also were very collaborative in nature and willing to consider new ideas. They wanted someone to think of new ways to grow and advance the graphic design program… all very exciting prospects to me.  As an added bonus, my wife grew up not far from Springfield and we both have family in the region so it was a win-win so to speak.

Could you list some of your work experience in graphic design?

I have quite a bit of Corporate Retail and Healthcare experience. But I can’t do this question justice without mentioning that I was raised in an art and design household.  My father had done design work for HallMark and later 3M.  I spent much of my life admiring his work and developing an appreciation for design.  Before I pursued my undergraduate degree, I already had been working with him on professional work while he was teaching Graphic Design.

My first “real job” was as Art Director for an ad agency.  We did regional account work for McDonald’s and Mercy Health in the Joplin Area.  After pursuing this for a few years, I became really disillusioned with the focus of Graphic Design in the 90’s and its pursuit of Award Winning work that often looked really good but was not chosen for effectiveness.  I accepted a role in 1998 with Wal-Mart as Sr. Designer for SAM’S Club. Wal-Mart taught me quite a bit about design, the role design plays in marketing and ultimately the role of research and design.  In 2000 I was promoted to Creative Department Manager of Samsclub.com.  Over the course of 6 years this mostly entailed:

  • Startup and overall management of SAM’S Club email marketing
  • Building a photo studio supporting Samsclub.com which later became a 35,000 sq ft photo studio that supported all of Wal-Mart
  • Overseeing design and, what we would call today, user experience of Samsclub.com
  • Overseeing all data management, item copy and content for the website

In 2006 I was ready for a change an accepted a Role with Express Scripts in St. Louis, one of the leading U.S. Pharmacy Benefit Management companies, overseeing all aspects of creative for marketing and digital.  Later I was promoted to Director of User Experience overseeing all corporate digital design with a team of User Experience and Design professionals located in St. Louis and New Jersey.

I was with Express Scripts for almost 10 years before taking a role with Target as Sr. Director of User Experience and Accessibility over Target.com, Target Apps and Enterprise tools.  I left Target this spring after pursuing and accepting the role with Drury.

What do you love most about graphic design? 

Working with teams and changing lives.  Graphic Design when done right is really a team sport.  There are very few successful designers that work in a bubble and unveil their work.  There’s peer reviews, client reviews and most importantly, customer feedback.  You take all of this in and develop work that speaks to the end-consumer and hopefully enriches their lives.  When successful it is one of the best feelings you could have.

What do you love most about your job as a teacher?

I enjoy not only teaching the students and seeing the light bulbs go off randomly as they begin to get and apply concepts, but also the environment.  I’ve always said good designers have strong inner egos.  Every good designer does critiques and looks at each other’s work often with a couple of thoughts… “I could do that” or “I wish I had thought of that”.  As faculty, I enjoy the “I wish I had thought of that” aspect of reviewing student work.  Once I have that feeling it’s a matter of coaching and developing the student in a way they can create a successful piece.

How are you hoping to contribute to the current graphic design program already in place?

First, I love that the program is still part of the Arts.  I believe good designers don’t need to be great at drawing or painting, but they need to know how use basic artistic skills.  My hope is to help grow the program within the arts and partner with likeminded programs.  There’s already an established relationship with Architecture to foster.  I hope to add Communications, Computer Science and many other areas to the internal relationships we can build. There are countless relationships that Graphic Designers have in professional environments and it only makes sense to build on that in their education.

I also have always enjoyed the technology and software designers use, so I would want to ensure we stay as contemporary as possible in the class room environment.  This includes both the software and a sense of research and curiosity that hopefully will instill a sense of empathy toward the end-consumer of our designs.  I also believe that what we do outside of our professional work is as important to development as the work.  I love throwing pottery, woodworking, gardening and am fascinated with 3d Printing.  I bought my first 3d printer in 2010 and now have three that keep me busy. All of my past-time endeavors keep me mentally busy and continually questioning and developing ideas and process.

How do you feel about your first few weeks of teaching at Drury?

Great.  The students are absorbing information and applying it. I’m teaching an advanced graphic design course and two general education courses that are design software oriented.  It’s exciting shifting gears from Graphic Design Majors and Minors that are exploring advanced design concepts to students from across the campus that simply chose my Digital Foundations course because they were creative, enjoyed the software or simply wanted to learn it.  I’m pleasantly surprised at how creative the non-art and design students are and how quickly they are doing things like retouching photos in photoshop and building their skills.

What are you excited for most about the rest of the semester?

Developing relationships with the students, especially some of the graduating seniors in graphic design.  It’s important to me that I have a strong relationship with them even though I had little impact on their Drury education.  I want them to feel comfortable coming back to me when they are job hunting or get that first job offer to help guide and build their confidence and skills.

I’m also excited about building the foundation of faculty and student relationships that will allow Drury to grow and develop the Graphic Design program within the Art Department.  This means getting feedback from alum about the program and what could be improved. Learning from the faculty that have crossed the bridges I’m encountering as a new faculty.  Also educating those around me regarding the role Graphic Design plays both on campus and in society.

What would you like students to know before taking a class with you? Do you have any pet peeves?

I love a collaborative team environment.  To succeed in design you have to both receive and give feedback in a constructive way.  Not saying what bothers you about a design during a peer critique is the worst thing you could do. It’s up to the designer to receive the feedback, but they can’t do anything if you’re silent.

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