2019 SEGD Educator Award: Robert Probst, Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning
The SEGD Educator Award recognizes an individual for demonstrating innovation in the theory and practice of design education that not only integrates the needs of the industry but serves to advance the field. Recipients foster the development of the next generation of designers through creative and innovative curriculum as well as the promotion of forward thinking research and scholarship in the field.
Since 1978, Robert Probst, FSEGD has been teaching at the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, University of Cincinnati. He was named Director of the School of Design in 2001. Under his leadership the School received recognition as one of the global leaders in design education. In 2008, he was named Dean of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. In 2010, he was selected as one of the nation’s top twenty-five design educators and administrators by the Design Futures Council, and, in 2011, under his leadership the university received the designation “Ohio Center of Excellence for Design and Innovation.”
The scope of Probst’s work spans a wide range from two-dimensional graphics, promotional and identity design, multi-dimensional interpretive exhibition work, architectural signage and environmental design to wayfinding systems and product development. His academic and professional work is featured in numerous national and international publications, he has received many awards and has lectured at institutions and international conferences. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Ohio Arts Council, the Cooper-Hewitt National Museum for Design in New York, The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo,The Museum of Design Zurich, and the ICOGRADA Hall of Fame, London, (International Council of Graphic Design Associations).
He served on the Board of Directors of SEGD for four years and as President of its Education Foundation for two years. In 1996 he was named an SEGD Fellow.
We recently caught up with Probst and asked questions about his career in design education.
What led you to a career in design?
From my early childhood to this day, I have always enjoyed expressing myself visually. As far as I can remember, my relatives and teachers encouraged and supported me towards a career path in visual communication; I never considered another journey.
What courses and topics do you teach and why?
My teaching spans a wide spectrum, from the beginner-level to the masters-thesis: drawn design, communication design, history of visual communication, capstone projects
and interdisciplinary workshops. I always enjoy the interaction with students of all levels and all disciplines of design, architecture, art and planning.
What role has design education played in your life?
My whole life has been design education. Fortunately, I was able to attend renowned institutions: the University of Essen in Germany and the famous School of Design in Basel, Switzerland. Armin Hofmann launched my professional career in Otl Aicher’s studio, perhaps the most prestigious design firm in Europe in the 1970s. From there, I was recruited to the University of Cincinnati as a one-year visiting instructor and my education continues here to this day—more than 40 years.
On the professional side, I established a design firm—Schenker, Probst, Barensfeld—later known as Firehouse Design Team. Academically, I advanced from Instructor to Assistant, Associate, and then Full Professor. Administratively, to Director of the School of Design and finally Dean of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
Privately, I am supported by my wife Alison, a brilliant design educator. Together, we raised three creative kids: a Content Strategy Director at Facebook, an Urban Planning professional and an Artist in Los Angeles.
What have been a few of your favorite student projects, and why?
I enjoy the challenge of problem solving and strategic management. My favorite student projects were always broad in scope, conducted with diverse groups, interdisciplinary in nature, sponsored by a client and based on a timeframe and a set budget.
How did your relationship with SEGD or SEGD members begin?
Intrigued by the multifaceted membership of the organization, I remember attending a regional SEGD conference in Baltimore in the 80s. There, I presented new branding and wayfinding systems developed for the Cincinnati Zoo and our Uptown Communities and met many designers that I admire—Deborah Sussman and Lance Wyman for example.
I was also invited to join the SEGD family, which I happily did and am still part of!
Congratulations to the 2019 SEGD Achievement Award winners!