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Carrington College Blog

Faculty Spotlight – Meet Tim Sunderman

June 1, 2012

We’d like to introduce you to Tim Sunderman; Tim is the Graphic Design Program Director at our Emeryville, CA, campus.

An experienced designer and commercial artist, Tim has been teaching graphic design since 1989. He was hired for this job a year after attaining his bachelor’s degree in Illustration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Although Tim has experienced a couple of campus location changes and worked for a number of different names, he essentially finds himself in the same job he started 23 years ago.

“A year after I graduated I was hired by a college in San Francisco, it was in May 1989. Since then the ownership of the school has changed several different times — but this is still that same job that I applied for! I was head instructor back in 1989. It’s been amazing to watch the evolution; in 2000 we moved from San Francisco to Oakland, with another name change when we moved again in 2001 to this campus in Emeryville.”

Tim SundermanBack in 2001 Tim was head of the largest program at the school with nearly 115 students enrolled, but over time and with new owners, most recently Carrington College California, the campus has refocused towards allied health programs. Although Carrington’s not known as a graphic design school, the Emeryville campus retains an exciting Graphic Design associate degree program.

Tim continues with his freelance design work, and typically has 2 or 3 projects running at any given time. He is a multi-disciplined designer, but his favorite projects are company brand identity jobs where he may start by redesigning a logo, before rolling out a new design style across a client’s complete suite of marketing collateral from signage, to packaging, to brochures, to a website.

“In graphic design my teaching is only as good as my professional work, so I’ve always got freelance stuff on the board. As technology changes, you sometimes have to learn it on the fly. For example, when I started teaching the web didn’t exist! My skills were all by hand so the computer was perceived, especially by us artists, to be a bit of a monster. But now it’s become an irreplaceable tool, you can achieve some truly remarkable things.”

A native of Pittsburg, PA, Tim went to Penn State to study chemistry after high school, before switching to Philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. But while at school in the early 80s at the age of 21, Tim was bitten by the ‘rock star’ bug.  After 3 years he ditched college and travelled to California with 4 of his best friends from high school to start a rock band.

“It was funny actually…It was back in a time when I decided that if I was really serious about philosophy then I shouldn’t learn about it in school, I should learn about it from life. It wasn’t all about getting a job back then, obviously with Philosophy as a major, but it was about learning for the sake of learning. I’ve always felt pretty strongly about that any education is good education, and while a job is obviously important, education can sometimes be its own reward.”

A bass player and back-up vocalist in the band, Tim and his buddies had a couple of shots in the early to mid 80s before Tim realized that the life was not for him.

“The band was called ‘Inversion’. We played crunchy rock and a lot of new wave music. It was a fun time, but after 5 or 6 years I realized that depending on 4 other young men who want to be rock stars was not the most dependable plan for my life. Holding 5 guys together to keep us in one direction was tough so I quit the band and decided to go back college to study design and illustration at the Academy of Art. I still work with a couple different bands on occasion.”

Tim jokes that the only exceptional thing about his life is that it is “extraordinarily boring”, but what he really means is that he spends each day, as a rule, creating art and enjoying time with his family.

“I’ve been married to my beautiful wife for 8 years and we have 2 young daughters; all 3 of them are just wonderful! Every second I spend around them I’m happier than any other second I have.”

Tim does believe the old cliché about how rewarding teaching can be as a profession. As an instructor, when he sees a student go on to succeed, it really does give him a sense of fulfillment.

“I was down at the bookstore, I’m always looking for new art books, and I came across this book of rock art posters. In the book there was this great set of 5 or 6 images, and I thought to myself ‘wow these are wonderful — I wonder who the artist is?’  I read them name and it struck me –  ‘Wait a minute, that’s my student!’

I hadn’t spoken to him in 10 years, but his email address was in the book. I caught up with him and discovered that he had been doing some major work for some big time bands. It’s pretty rewarding when I think back to when I first met him, he was a kid drawing in a notebook.”

To give you a little more insight into the man behind the teacher, we asked Tim what book, movie and music he would want with him if he was to be stuck on a desert island, and who he would choose as a companion?

Desert Island Movie – “Anything by The Brothers Quay. They do a lot of stop-action/clay-motion work; they are twins from Philadelphia who now live and work in England. They are possibly the most visionary, progressive post-modern artists I’ve ever seen put anything on film.”

Desert Island Book – “I’ve been reading a lot of Shakespeare lately; I’m still trying to figure out what he’s saying! But my favorite books don’t have words in them – they’re picture books. I’d take something by certain photographers or artists, probably someone like Andy Goldsworthy.”

Desert Island Music – “That could be anywhere from Beethoven to Jethro Tull. But if I had to pick one, I’d go for a gothic band from New Zealand that was popular in the 90s. They’re called Dead Can Dance.”

Desert Island Companion – “This one’s easy, my wife.”

Thanks for your time Tim. Keep up the great work in Emeryville and keep on rockin’!


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