JFKU Introduces Cutting Edge Creative Strategy Degree

As technology continues to advance at an exponential rate, it is driving increasingly rapid changes in our workplaces, lifestyles, and culture. And this trend shows no signs of slowing any time soon. To the contrary, many experts predict that the current rate of technological development will not only continue but actually accelerate in coming years. Facing this challenge, how do we ensure that the skills we develop today will still be relevant tomorrow?

Nowadays, changes in both hardware and software technology often occur too quickly for traditional education and training to keep pace. This means that those looking for sustained career success must be able to adapt quickly and effectively to change while continually seeking out innovative, creative, and new approaches to problem-solving. Achieving this career dynamism requires one to maintain both a wide-ranging knowledge base spanning multiple disciplines and a diverse collection of skills incorporating elements of art, engineering, business, and science.

John Banks, Program Chair for JFK University’s MA in Creative Strategy, has spent much of his professional life exploring these issues while also dealing with them first-hand in his own career. Starting in the 1980s when he co-founded the computer graphics company Rising Star Graphics, Banks has been at the forefront of digital media since its very beginnings.

“Being interested in technological tools in the early days meant adapting and innovating tools that were meant for other purposes,” Banks recently explained. “For example, cool imagery on computers often came from adapting medical and industrial image processing software.”

The recipient of a Mellon Foundation Fellowship, Banks has made the harnessing of emerging technologies in producing new forms of expression a centerpiece of his life’s work.

When I was a grad student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, we had all these tools like photocopiers that we took apart and used in unique ways. We explored the possibilities aside from their intended uses,” he said, adding, “We did this with minimal instruction and had to develop a fearlessness about trying new things.”

At Rising Star Graphics, Banks quickly discovered that teaching others was a key component to the success or failure of his endeavors. “Keeping a company alive meant being ahead of the curve and learning the value of teaching others how to adapt to change,” he recalled. “Teaching was always the centerpiece. Your clients had to learn the same approach or they wouldn’t succeed. They would have a tool that worked for a couple of years and the techniques that went along with it. If they didn’t follow our lead and keep up with the constant change, they floundered or were outdated.”

Prior to developing the Creative Strategy program at JFK University, Banks previously served as director of the MFA in Emergent Media program at Champlain College, as well as Program Lead for Digital Entertainment, Chair of the Media School, and Interim Dean of Media & Communications at National University.

“Once I focused on teaching, I saw that if the students didn’t understand not only the tools, but also how to adapt to the next version of the tool, then they couldn’t excel. It was a logical step to look more at the underlying process than the rote knowledge of operating a particular tool or software.”

Bringing together emerging technologies with principles of creative design and interpersonal communication, Banks designed JFK University’s new Masters of Arts in Creative Strategy program to provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the ever-evolving social, mobile, and interactive economy. By combining visual design, coding, and communication, the program gives students the tools they need to advance entrepreneurial, social and business goals in the 21st century.

Beginning Fall 2017, the program will immerse students in a hands-on, multidisciplinary exploration aimed at furthering their understanding of the process of change and how to harness it in the development of innovative new solutions. Early courses provide students with important foundational skills across a wide suite of design tools, while introducing core concepts of key disciplines like interactive design. Students learn not only how to create media content but also how to exploit effectively the interplay between design and the user experience.

More advanced courses expand the emphasis on experiential learning, with students taking their newly acquired skills beyond the classroom to gain experience in real-world problem solving. Working directly with external clients, students hone their ‘hard’ technical skills, while also developing ‘soft’ skills such as effective communication, an entrepreneurial mindset, and the ability to manage a project through to completion.

This blend of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills is central to the program’s philosophy. Studio courses such as Design Studio, Maker & Electronics Production Studio, and Programming Studio instill ‘hard’ skills, beginning with an introduction of core concepts before moving on to the teaching of actual production techniques. The program’s seminar courses, alternatively, build ‘soft’ skills while exploring the theoretical underpinnings of emergent-media studies. These courses include the Entrepreneurial Leadership Seminar, the Change & Disruption Seminar, and the Psychology & Neuroscience in Art & Media Seminar. Throughout the program, students also are steeped in the importance of narrative, while learning the tools necessary to shape and share their messages across multiple media platforms.

With an innovative, cross-disciplinary approach, JFK University’s Masters of Arts in Creative Strategy Program gives students the tools they need to navigate the ever-changing professional landscapes in an expanding array of fields. Graduates will have the skills and experience necessary to pursue careers as project managers, design consultants, entrepreneurs, or creative professionals across a wide range of industries.