Class In Session with Norton Young

As our month of membership love rolls right along, we introduce to you another AIGA member we can’t say enough about, Norton Young. Keep reading to learn a little about Norton, then keep the party going as we swoon our way through February and right up to our Open House on March 5, at Metal Toad.

Norton Young is the Academic Director of Design at the Art Institute of Portland, and has been since 2003. As a student, Norton earned a BS in Organizational Behavior, an MFA in Visual Arts and a Culinary Diploma in the Art of Cooking. But as you’ll quickly realize with Norton, he believes that a good student never stops learning.

Norton, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us.

First of all, what prompted you to join AIGA? Or, what about it is important to you?
Mentors, resources, generosity with information, and a mission to help creative citizens prosper.

Sounds a lot like your job description, as an educator at the Art Institute of Portland. What principles do you try to impress upon your students, to prepare them for a career in the creative industry?
Become an active observer. You don’t learn anything from what you already know. Open you eyes to every facet of design and culture around you and around the world. Don’t be small-minded. Be obsessive with your questions and committed to solving problems differently. Be relentlessly inquisitive.

Sound advice. Do you see students take that to heart? Or, what practices do you recommend to put those principles into action?
My advice to students is to write every day. Keep a journal, take notes, draw. Look at the world around you and see how people really talk to one another. Never accept “not possible” as an answer.

What are the most fulfilling and most challenging aspects of your job?
Keeping students focused on the prize—that of becoming a designer with something to say.

Well our industry is certainly better off for your efforts. It sounds like you take a lot of pride in your work; did you always want to be an educator?
I have always been driven to make information visible.

Norton Young

Tell us about your first job in the creative industry?
Designing newspaper ads for the major record labels in Los Angeles.

So, what is it about the creative community that made you want to be a part of it?
Their inventiveness. The Portland creative scene is so refreshingly self-directed and yet wildly collaborative.

As an educator, I’m sure you’re always processing new ideas and information, have you attended any inspiring or thought-provoking events lately?
Last year’s WebVisions had a talk given by Brian David Johnson. Each of us can actually change the future.

That’s definitely thought-provoking. How would you change the future, given the chance to work on your dream project?
A nationally connected solar-powered transit system

And if money weren’t a factor, what would you be working on?
I would be on the Oracle America’s Cup sailing team.

Where do you turn for inspiration, or to decompress?
Cooking—so I suppose the answer is the stove.

What is a non-professional goal or dream?
NY: Spend a year in San Sebastian working in a Basque Pintxo (“peen-cho”) bar. Pintxos are the Basque equivalent of Spanish tapas.

What’s some of your favorite fare in our foodie paradise?
Food cart: Burrasca (28th & Ankeny). And for coffee, Coava on SE Grand

Impressive endorsements, coming from a culinary scholar.

When guests visit form out of town, where do you have to take them?
I have 2 places: VINO wine bar and Mt. Tabor.

Ok, last question. If you could interview any person, living or non-living, who would it be, and what would you want to ask her/him?
Stefan Sagmeister—Can I come work for you?

Well we’re not sure if Sagmeister is hiring, but if you decide to open that Pintxo bar in Portland, we’ll be first in line.

Thanks to Norton Young for taking the time to chat with us. You can check out some of Norton’s work on Flickr. If you’d like to get more involved with AIGA, chat with Tina, our Membership Chair, and make sure you subscribe to the AIGA blog to catch the next Featured Member Interview!


By Thomas McCracken
Published February 24, 2015
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