Lewis Glaser, M.F.A., retires as a professor and chair of the Department of Design. He shares his dynamic 35-year career in the graphic arts at the College of Fine Arts.
A Spark of Inspiration
Glaser’s graphic design journey began in middle school when he bought Bob Dylan’s “Greatest Hits Vol. II.” Included in the album was an illustration of Bob Dylan designed by Milton Glaser. “It was pretty cool that somebody with the same last name as me was creating posters for Bob Dylan,” Glaser said. The poster hung in his room for years and sparked a keen interest in design.
Art was the closest thing Glaser discovered to graphic design in high school. He enjoyed the class but wanted to explore the relationship between visual and verbal content he noticed in television, retail packaging and advertisements. “I can still remember the commercials and jingles going back to the early ’60s that stuck with me more than the TV programs.”
One day, Glaser’s art teacher invited an alumnus to present coursework from the college where he was studying graphic design. The student discussed:
- Thumbnails: a small, quick sketch to work out a basic idea
- Roughs: a more accurate visual to finalize details
- Finish: a work that is complete
“I remember thinking, wow, why aren’t they teaching us this kind of stuff?”
Glaser ended up at a university with a strong design program and enrolled in a course during his first semester.
“I realized it was meant for me and never looked back.”
Becoming the Department of Design Chair
Glaser arrived at TCU in 1987 and was one of two faculty members in the graphic design program at the School of Art. His colleague retired a few years later, and Glaser inherited the title of coordinator of graphic design and oversaw the program’s 40 majors. In this role, Glaser focused on controlled growth in the student and faculty population to build academic excellence, course offerings and mentorship.
By 2014, the graphic design program had 200 majors and six full-time faculty members. Glaser’s goal was to transition the program into a department to support the highly specialized curriculum and continue preparing students for their creative careers beyond TCU.
The Department of Design was founded in the fall of 2015 with Glaser as the department chair. The interior design program joined in the fall of 2019, and the department reached 13 full-time faculty members and almost 300 students.
He is proud of the department’s 100% placement rate, with many seniors securing spots at leading global agencies well before graduation. A senior success story Glaser recalls is Kristen Keiser ’12, who worked for Pentagram Design, the world’s largest independent design firm based in London, New York, Austin and Berlin. “It’s the holy grail of design jobs, and she was hired right out of school, which is unheard of.”
Glaser firmly believes and has always taught his students to remember that “gradual improvement is preferable to delayed perfection.”
Industry Recognition and Awards
The equivalent of academic publishing for graphic design is peer-adjudicated awards. Glaser has earned recognition from almost every global professional venue during his career at TCU. His highlights include receiving awards at the national level from Graphis and the American Advertising Federation (AAF).
Graphis was founded in 1944 in Zürich, Switzerland, and is the oldest and most highly regarded design competition promoting work from leading talents in design, advertising, photography and illustration art. Glaser’s work has been selected for full-page reproduction in multiple volumes of the hardcover, internationally-distributed “Graphis Design Annual.” Glaser also received a National ADDY award from AAF, the advertising industry’s largest competition and highest honor recognizing creative excellence.
Lewis Glaser’s Advice to Emerging Graphic Designers
- Follow the golden rule. Treat everyone you encounter the way you would like to be treated. As cornball as that sounds, it is the key to success in business and in life.
- Learn to experiment. Formulate hypotheses, test them and be willing to let go if they don’t work.
- Listen to your professors. Pay attention to everything your professors tell you. They are good at what they do and are here to help you succeed.
- Deliver professional excellence. Put in more than the minimum required effort. Learn to think critically, ask questions and draw conclusions.
- Accept ownership of your work. Take responsibility for your own actions and decisions. When you leave school, no one will care about things being someone else’s fault.