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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 Instructor and Student
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 assignments.

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.


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