The Foundation Experience

by New Idiom


Foundation year is a time of great intellectual and personal growth for most students who go through the program. It is a period of time when one attempts to learn everything he or she can about design. Students from a variety of unique backgrounds come together to immerse themselves in foam modeling, sketching, InDesign, photography and other digital realms.

Below are a series of quotes and anecdotes from some of this year’s foundation students (class of 2010) having recently completed their first semester:

Nikki Pfarr, Van Vuong, Daniel Erwin, Ruth Nechas, Matthew Swift, Ann Hintzman, Scott Mioduszewski.

Foundation is crazy, but in a good way. It’s exciting to see my own design skills and techniques improving as classes progress, and I’m developing an entirely new approach to solving design problems. I really enjoy the curriculum, and the icing on the cake is the great group of people who are in the program with me - I love my classmates’ enthusiasm and humor.

- Nikki Pfarr

Foundation memory: I guess the greatest part of foundation for me is having instant friends. I moved here without really knowing anyone, and having friends who were instant lunch buddies was extremely comforting!! Also, telling our life stories over and over again, I think we all know everyone’s story by heart and at this point we have all distilled our stories down to one sentence bios.

- Van Vuong

My favorite experience last semester happened just about every time I walked into a bookstore. Thanks to Tomoko and Greg’s class, I am no longer intimidated by the racks of art and design magazines - now I could put almost any of them to shame with nothing but a dull razor and a box of crayons. And because of the constant stream of critical evaluation that Grimes and Mike Beebe drilled into my head, I find myself thinking, “Waaaaat!? What is this?” when I’m looking at the store’s imperfect architecture, interior design, printed collateral, products, and business model. It’s not that I like to see these retailers fail - bookstores are among my favorite places. I like this experience because it’s comforting to think that the value and meaning of things I create won’t get lost behind a veil of myriad shoddy details.

- Daniel Erwin

Before I even attended a class, I was terrified by the rumors that foundation would be my hardest year at ID. Then, a few months into the first semester I was at a white board working on my third iteration of “taco salad” for an intense game of Pictionary and I noticed a few of the first years in the Systems class on the verge of tears. I guess it’s all relative.

- Ruth Nechas

May my gravestone bear an immaculate grid structure.

- Anonymous

As many instructors have already pointed out, one of the many strengths of ID is the diversity of the student body. I would be hard pressed to articulate this diversity more clearly than referring directly to our class discussions. We have an uncanny ability to engage in tangential dialogue. Similar to ideas during a brainstorm session we do not discriminate against unusual or irrelevant comments during class discussion. This description really should be extended to include our instructors as well. There is no way of telling what lessons we will learn by the end of a given class. Most likely we will learn a majority of what our instructor has intended as well as whatever random topic surfaces during our discourse. Going to class really is a bit of an adventure as you never know what to expect. In the span of a few minutes the critique of a photograph of a marina can and will transition to a discussion regarding the origin of the terms abracadabra and hocus-pocus. It can be confusing and at times frustrating, but for the most part it is just fun and awesome.

- Matthew Swift

You know the saying, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”? Well, with one semester of foundation under my belt I officially have a little knowledge and with that am unable to plan my wedding. The big items left on my to do list are invitations and a photographer. Before foundation I would have happily selected whatever worked within my budget and not given it a second thought. Now I am haunted by voices saying things like, “Is it better with that bright thing on the edge?” and “Why did they put that in a box?” My budget is no bigger, but now nothing is good enough. Tomoko and Gregg have instilled in me an aversion to swirly fonts and center alignment that eliminates 90% of invitations; and as any Grimes disciple knows, weddings and anything eight-year old girls are rumored to like are just not the subject of a good photo. I wish I could go back to the days when I didn’t know what leading was and thought sunsets were pretty, but I guess I’m going to just have to hope that second semester makes me good enough to do it myself.

- Ann Hintzman

Intro to Photography: my introduction to John Grimes
The work was definitely challenging, and each class had its own persona, like a crazy cousin that you like to be around because he’s fun, but need to get away from after a very short amount of time. But Intro to Photography is a particularly interesting class. All Foundation alumni can probably agree that it can tax a student’s brain like no other. Sure, it teaches the fundamentals of composition and color strategy; it introduces us to the seedy world of user observation by having us sneak around taking pictures of unsuspecting people on the street. It even teaches us how to take a product shot for something we may want to put in our portfolio, but the most important thing the class taught me was being a student of John Grimes.
Professor John Grimes is a notably colorful character that roams around ID teaching classes, advising students, and apparently climbs onto fire escapes to take architectural photos. But any incoming student will eventually come into contact with him, especially considering he is the Foundation advisor. Every student will get to know and love professor Grimes in their own way and will eventually have their own “Grimes-Story” (I could totally make a TV show with that title and it could just be a half hour of John Grimes telling juicy anecdotes).

John Grimes:

Used to eat butt steaks with pressmen
Knows microphones by sight
Can tell if a photo has been cropped 9 times out of 10
Is fashion-forward (he can spot a cheap suit a mile away)
Was frozen to a tripod in 1968
Hung out with famous photographers
Will make fun of any photo subject, even if it’s himself

- Scott Mioduszewski