Instructor Michael Osborne Heads Back to School
Academy of Art University instructor Michael Osborne has every right to coast. Beyond over a
decade of experience teaching Product Design in the Academy's School of Industrial Design, Osborne
also runs his own successful design studio, MOD/Michael Osborne Design. Suffice to say, the man is
busy and not without accomplishments.
However, for Michael Osborne, coasting is not an option, so he decided to add graduate school to
his busy "to do" list. Two years later, he is fully entrenched in the Academy's MFA program in
graphic design, beginning to satisfy a lifelong itch long gone unfulfilled.
Michael Osborne is both an instructor and a student. (Image: HOW Magazine)
During his undergraduate career, Osborne learned how to be a designer, and did not struggle to
find work. However, as he told
HOW Magazine, "I never had the time to take classes like experimental typography or
bookmaking. I always thought it would be great to get another degree, but never had the time.
Twenty-five years later, I finally made a commitment to do it."
As an instructor, Osborne is notorious for giving his students projects that change over the
course of their development time, as is true in the professional world. While his students have
been grateful for his key insights into what it's like to be a working designer, I'm sure they also
take some delight in knowing that Osborne is now on the receiving end of similarly challenging
Osborne faced a particularly challenging task in a class called "Design Offline." An
introductory class survey asked, innocently, what the students would do if they won the lottery.
Osborne answered that he would travel and do pro-bono work for good causes, so the class's
instructor, Jonathan Taylor, crafted an assignment for him. Michael was to find a non-profit
overseas, identify a graphic design need, and address the need.
Osborne met the challenge and then some. He approached the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance
(GAIA), who had a message ("Smart young people abstain from sex and know their status.") but no way
to spread the word. Osborne designed t-shirts with that slogan, manufactured them, and distributed
them to the people in a Malawian village that has been devastated by AIDS. The shirts are now
ubiquitous in the village, and GAIA's message has started to spread.
For Osborne, assignments like this are just a part of his quest for personal growth and the
pursuit of big ideas. As Sheri Kuniyuki (one of Michael's students) said, "He's shown us that no
matter where you are in your career and in your life, you can always do more."
For more information on our Graphic Design and Industrial Design programs, please visit our
Graphic Design and
Industrial Design School pages.