"Visual design isn’t as much something I do as it is who I am."
Michelle Hoch knows good design. As a Loerie Award Winner, former Art Gallery Director, and Creative Director with over 12 years of experience under her belt, she's well-versed in Graphic Design, Art Direction and branding. Now a freelance consultant, she uses her suite of skills to shape the visual landscape of international brands and stories around her.
We're thrilled to have her as Head Teacher for our Visual Design course in Berlin, where she's eager to share her fiery passion for great design, and why it matters, with her 2018 class.
Michelle Hoch – Head Teacher for iX Visual Design 2018
What are you working on now? Tell us about an exciting project that you’ve recently completed or are currently involved with.
I am currently working with several start-ups in helping brands establish their visual presence. I recently designed a concept restaurant in Cape Town called ‘The Chicken Shop’, which has becoming increasingly popular as Cape Town’s first charcoal rotisserie. I work with an array of clients; from urban landscapers to coffee shops, leather makers, chocolatiers, NGOs, bakeries and even marketing agencies. I really enjoy gaining insight into so many different and varied industries; ultimately having an impact on the visual landscape I live in.
What do you enjoy about Visual Design? How is it different to Graphic Design?
I see graphic design as an important component of the greater subject of design. Visual design, on the other hand, is communication through visual forms, and includes, but isn’t limited to, graphics, photo, video and illustration. Visual design isn’t as much something I do as it is who I am. I care a lot about aesthetics - it's built into my identity.
Why did you decide to get involved with teaching and how do you continue to keep things fresh?
There is so much mediocrity in our visual landscape. I’ve worked with so many marketers and brand people who really don’t have any grasp on what makes design good, and why it even matters. I have a fiery desire to share more on these subjects with people who care. Both my parents are teachers and my brother is a lecturer. It’s safe to say teaching is in my blood. As far as keeping things fresh goes, when we open the fridge again and again and the same stuff is inside each time, we may need to go to the store. Unfortunately people generally want what they’ve already seen. It’s important to find a new grocer from time to time. You got that metaphor, right?
What are you looking forward to about iXperience this summer?
I’m looking forward to meeting young bright minds from around the world and opening a visual dialogue with each one of them - learning just as much as I will be teaching. I also can’t wait to see and experience Berlin!
How do you see the Visual Design industry changing in the next year to five years? How should professionals and would-be professionals equip themselves now?
Design has become disposable because of the speed at which we’re consuming content. What used to sit on the kitchen counter for days is now simply terminated with an upward swipe. Our work as designers has become more important, because there is just so much clutter. As a new designer, I’d suggest arming oneself with tech skills, sure. If reaching your target consumer means learning VR, learn VR; but quality content - in whichever dress - is still king. It’s important to distinguish that the new words we’re hearing are merely means to reach the consumer and these mediums are changing constantly. Acquiring a strong sense of visual understanding is applicable across the board and will always be relevant.
What skills will iX students have after graduating from your class?
The course is broad, but we’ll be focusing on branding, so students will leave able to interpret the needs of a client, conceptualise and create a logo as well as visually impactful creative assets. It is my hope that my students will be visually aware; constantly noticing, questioning, and improving their surroundings.
What’s one piece of advice that you have for the iX class of 2018?
Be a sponge. Take in as much as you can and really just allow yourself to be challenged. Don’t be defeated by the fear and hype of a blank canvas - make as much as you can and embrace criticism. Better yet, seek it out.
What would students be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a qualified yoga instructor and I was an art auctioneer on cruise-liners for two years.
What are your ‘desert island’ books or movies?
I think if I had a copy of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, a VHS of Mrs Doubtfire and a few books by Dr Daniel J. Siegel I’d be pretty sorted. When can I go?
What song do you know all the lyrics to?
Most Missy Elliot circa 2003. And the whole Flight of the Concords Soundtrack.