Jon Kolko on Finding Joy Changing Careers From Business to Teaching

In Chapter 3 of 21 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, design educator Jon Kolko answers "What Do You Enjoy Most About What You Do?"  Kolko discusses making the transition working as a design professional to teaching design at the school he founded.  He discusses the rush he gets in the classroom and across parts of the "ivory tower" experience such as reading, researching and writing about complex problems. 

Jon Kolko the founder and director of the Austin Center for Design.  He has authored multiple books on design, including "Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving."  Previously he has held senior roles at venture accelerator Thinktiv and frog design and was a professor of Interactive and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  Kolko earned his Masters in Human Computer Interaction (MHI) and BFA in Design from Carnegie Mellon University.


Erik Michielsen: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Jon Kolko: I loved everything about design. I just love being a designer doing creative design work, making things. I've sort of transitioned in the last couple of years. So being called an academic has always sort of stung me like ah, that’s bad. In the last three years, I've decided that in fact, I am an academic and it's good. And so, I think in the same sort of excitement and personal rush that you get from doing creative design work. I also now get from teaching. And so, that’s sort of have been a revelation to me that it's okay to live in an intellectual ivory tower to some degree as long as you make that ivory tower accessible. I don’t feel bad that I enjoy reading and writing and thinking about complex problems. And so, for me, that’s been something that’s been making me really, really happy recently is any time I can spend actually teaching in a classroom. Weirdly, I'm spending less and less time teaching in a classroom because as the Austin Center for Design is more successful, there's more administrative crap to do. I don’t mind doing the crap. It's called crap because it's not fun but it's also not bad because it's still my baby. I'm still really enjoying it. I could see in the future that would definitely be something for somebody else to do but for the time being, anything that’s related to teaching and design is really, really giving me a lot of pleasure.