Peter Yue // PSU Adjunct Professor

Posted on Oct 23rd, 2008 by Command Save


Adjunct Professor Peter Yue and his urban forest poster. More work at the end!

Please tell us a little about your education.
I went to public school all around town. I'm a local around here and
from my understanding that's a rarity. Yep. Oregon's own, home grown.
Just like Billy Jack Hayes. And if you don't know about Billy Jack
Hayes, you don't know Portland Wrestling. Portland Wrestling =
Portland, Oregon. Let's just say I watched it during my burgeoning
days. A lot.

I went to Sunnyside Elementary School, Mt Tabor Middle School and
Benson Tech. I took art classes through public school. Remedial stuff
like finger painting and crayons in kindergarden.  I really took an
interest in it and I loved it. I learned a lot by going to the
library myself and checking out all the drawing and art books. I
looked through them over and over and over again. Photography books
and science books were chosen a lot when I would go on my weekly treks
to the library.

Also, just playing around the school yard and thrashing around on a
skateboard. Taking photos. Going to the local comic book stores.
All of it added to my formal education. Reading Heavy Metal magazine.
I later found out that messing around on a sunny day was just as
important as learning at a desk in school.

The high school that I went to was really cool. It was a technical
high school. Vocational Clubs of America and Health Occupations, that
type of thing. It seemed like any other high school in the area but
it was a nerd high school under the surface. They had facilities for
Communication Arts, Drafting, Engineering, Radio, Mechanics,
Construction and Architecture. You could be a gearhead or a person
who could swing a hammer and build a house. At the time you could get
college credit when you took specialized senior level classes. I
loved all the photography, silk-screening and built my first
electronic bulletin board. I majored in Engineering Drafting when I
was there. In reality, it was mostly drawing on drafting boards, CAD
and CAM. I was on track to become an engineer.

I went to Oregon State with that in mind. Entering my third year of
engineering school was difficult. I didn't want to sit behind a
computer all the time designing circuits. I wasn't really into it and
I would have seen myself as a mediocre engineer. I had a friend who
was going to Portland State and we majored in the same stuff in
high-school. He went into the graphic design program at Portland
State and he seemed like he was having a good time. I just remember
having a conversation with him about graphic design while sitting on a
cardboard couch that he made for art class.

So I switched majors and loaded up on photography and design classes.
There were many times where I wished I could just  study and take a
test, rather than do all the studio classes. I ended up having enough
credits for a photography major and a graphic design major. I didn't
have any other time other than art. I slept for about 4-6 hours
everyday. I think I almost died.

How did you break into the field?
Going to school and doing a few couple of internships. I pretty much
got a design job right out of school. I started working two days
after graduating. I really should have taken a few days to rest and
enjoy graduating.

Please tell us a little about your design work history.
I work at Wieden Kennedy as a Senior Designer. There are a few
co-workers that were my former students. I'm molding them into my
image. I was at Nike for a short stint working in Nike Brand Design
in Beaverton. It was the Sport Culture/Active Life group.  Before
that I was an art director for Bonfire Snowboarding for about 4+
years. I was at a small PR firm before working at Bonfire. My first
job out of school was at a small ad agency doing graphic design.
There were really talented group of people at the time but the place
started to go down the tubes real quick after they laid me off. I'd
like to think I was the glue that held the whole place together, but
they had their own problems before I arrived.

I've also been freelancing on the side and working on some personal
projects. Ultimately, I've gotten my schooling through experience.

What is your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is to be a guide to the students. Not like a
weird spirit guide or a shaman, but a person who can offer them tools,
honest feedback, examples, and my own experience. I'm not long winded,
so if a student really wants to learn they have to ask questions and
do some extra credit reading. This is a generalization, but when you
are in college you should be able to do simple math, read, write have
the basic facilities to learn. Students need to find their own voice
even in a beginning design class. There isn't a secret recipe to
being a good designer. It's just like being an engineer. Go ask
Milton Glaser. Art is work.

I've learned from my own teachers and tried to adapt their techniques
into my own process. People learn differently through their senses.
Some people learn visually and through lecture. Others learn by
doing. And some others need an analogy to help them understand a
concept.  If the person is serious enough to pursue the career, then
they should put in the time. Generally, 10-15% of people in class
become designers. The others find other work that makes them happier.
Also, I try not to judge a student on their design at the start of a
project. Some people are late bloomers and some others plagiarize,
but I get an idea of how a student works when you look at the history
of their work.

My philosophy is: come up with an idea, ask questions and work hard.
Embrace chaos and work hard to organize it in your design.

What classes are you teaching this year?
Helping out in ART 471 with Chris North, Lis Charman, and Greg Parra.

Who/what inspires you?
Projects. I need a task or a situation to build towards. That's how
I work. Sometimes I create my own projects so I can come up with
solutions. Always building upon my old ideas. I have a few black
books that I write and throw in ideas. I spend a week churning out
stuff that I like and put it away. For example I wanted to come up
with as many fabric prints that could be used on New Era hats. I've
put those away and will bring them up later for projects. I revisit
them months later and pick 1 or 2 gems in the dross.

It's almost like reworking an oil painting. Sometimes oil paintings
are slow to dry, so you can work and work and work the paint.  Sort of
like a Jasper John painting; adding more layers  to the paint and
build a texture.

Faith based work is also amazing to me. There is so much
craftsmanship that goes into the name of religion. All the major
religions have monuments that melt the mind.  There is so much art
that has been created. Just the sheer volume of it done in the name
of a god is stupefying.  Notre Dame, The Great Buddha, The Taj Mahal
(not the Trump one), Byzantine artwork, the list goes on and on.

My childhood. Dreams and childhood memories are a deep interest to me
as well.  All the feelings that I've felt when I was 2 till 10.  Every
person has been a kid.  So we can connect each other with those mutual

My wife and my kids and the natural world.
Please share some links to sites that inspire you.
Found imagery.  Cool stuff
Makes half the advertising in the world look lame because an algorithm
can do some of the same stuff.
A nicely designed hip-hop magazine.
Arty-farty.  Good inspiration.
Sort of like Wacky Willy's here in Portland.
One of the most amazing photographic stories out there.
Looking into the minds and spaces of stylish people.  Yuppies.
The department I work in.
Miranda july's stove top.
Jonathan Harris's cool stuff.
Enough said.

Any advice for working on advertising and large scale projects?
Making artwork and designy things are nice, but one should come up
with a concept that can be repeated in all forms of media. Hire a
writer and don't do what the competetor is doing. You're going to
look like a Johnny Come-Lately. And tell the truth in advertising.
Find one point of difference and develop a hundred ideas for it.
Hopefully, you'll come up with something that nobody else will. And
develop those writing skills. Just because you can read or write
doesn't mean you're a Jack London. And if you can't read or write,
find somebody who can write well and collaborate. I can't stress that
enough. Two brains are always better than one.

A rule for large scale projects? Generally, a bad idea executed well
is better than a good idea executed poorly. It's obvious that a good
idea executed perfectly will leave a good impression. So start off
small and don't bite off more than you can chew. As Paul Rand would
say, "Don't try to be original just try to be good." Just keep with a
simple, singular idea.

Any advice for coming up with strong conceptual solutions?
Come up with 100 ideas. Throw away 97 of the lame ones and from those
3 seed ideas, come up with some more. Basically come up with as many
ideas and do what you think is good. Sounds simple, but it's harder
than you think.

Drawing and making lists the old fashioned way with pencil and paper.
I personally think you come up with more ideas and work faster when
you scribble and sketch. Quick thumbnails are the best way. Need a
user interface for a website? Draw ten or fifteen of them. Need a
layout for a brochure for a z-fold but trying to decide upon a
typographical solution, royalty free stock photos, illustrative
imagery and not sure how to use it all? Draw it out. Think by

Get away from the computer and create an analogue collage. It might
look better and you'll get better results than trying to replicate
stuff on the computer. And don't do drugs because it's a lame
substitute for traveling and meeting interesting people.

please share with us links to sites that you reference for inspiration?
Watch some films or TV shows on your computer in high res for free.
Another Google buy-up that is useful to find stuff.
There's actually good stuff from video and film makers.
Adobe has something like this too.
Get schooled on the national archives.

and my favorite