• Ashwini Muralikumar

Teaching & Learning design

Women & Design // WID Insights

As someone that’s an introvert and loves working alone, I never knew that I would ever love to teach. So far, it’s been the most fulfilling experience of my life.



As someone that’s an introvert and loves working alone, I never knew that I would ever love to teach. So far, it’s been the most fulfilling experience of my life. In the summer of 2018, I came back home from design school. I did 2 internships that year and the next summer I started working part-time at a coaching institute. I remember the day I had to teach my very first class. The only thing that came to mind was, "Man, I’m going to learn so much!"


In the last 2 years of teaching at this institute, I have witnessed so many talented students take their first steps into a career in design. The talent is just out of this world. In all honesty, some of the work I’ve seen has inspired me and pushed me to learn more. I know it feels like it should be the other way around but, nope, not at all. I’m someone that always believed that another’s success doesn’t mean less for me, it means more for everyone else and growth for the field. And let me tell you, the future is bright! I am seeing it and I’m learning from it.


I was never a great student in high school. I didn’t have the best grades but when I did end up applying myself a little I made it through fairly well. I was only ever excited to learn at my first class in university. I didn’t know a lot about design, but I knew I could draw and that it was going to be fun. And it was. So when I did get the opportunity to teach design, I didn’t think twice. I wanted to share everything I had learned and more. But most of all, I wanted to see some great talent! There’s nothing that you cannot achieve with an open mind and an optimistic spirit. I remember being that way my very first day at university — it was like I had finally found my place. The education was great, the teachers were also mostly great. I was very mindful of the way the teachers behaved. After all, they were my role models. And a lot of times I was unhappy and let down. Going into this job, I knew I needed to do better and see potential in every student I interacted with. I knew I needed to be patient, positive, and kind. Hopefully, I’m still all those things online as well. Because the lack of support sometimes really hurt my learning experience. It was not all bad — there were some great moments too. Our teachers pushed us to be the best at everything design had to offer. For that, I’m very grateful! Thinking about it the other way around, I can understand where each teacher was coming from. They were doing the best they could but, we need to do more.

My approach to teaching is simple. Always come from a place of learning to be better. I went to them as if they were my friends or colleagues and I was thoroughly inspired. There was a lot of peace in letting them be themselves and express their experiences through design. It brings more unique perspectives to the world. Don’t standardize things, no 2 people are the same so why should they be learning the same things? Give them open briefs, ask them questions and let them have some fun! I think over the years learning has become more competitive than fun. It’s all about getting to the top of the class, only then is your work valuable. These beliefs around learning have given me and so many others severe anxiety and fear of failure. Think about it, is your career supposed to give you nightmares? No, it’s supposed to fuel your dreams. We need to reimagine this score-based learning system to one that celebrates each individual for exactly who they are. If you want a career in dance, you should be celebrated just as much as the kid who wants a career in science, don’t you think? We should all approach learning with a belief that everyone has something to offer. What the system does today, is categorize students based on potential — the good, the bad, and the hopeless. They also have premeditated practices on how they will treat each of these students in a classroom. The good have it the best and the rest don’t exist or worse, have to go through some pretty negative things.


Teaching is supposed to be very compassion-driven. What I’ve observed is the opposite. We need to be more accommodative to people’s differences and build an environment that is safe, that lets them flourish. Everyone also learns differently. While some do better under pressure, some do their best work in a peaceful environment. There’s always more you can do to make learning environments better — let’s take initiative and speak up whenever you can.





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With 🧡 Team WID.



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