Meet Josh Silverman, Visual Design Instructor at General Assembly San Francisco

Josh Silverman

Transforming Lives Through Design

After growing up with a penchant for doodling logos and typography, Josh Silverman went on to pursue formal training in graphic design and has since lent his creativity to Twitter, IBM, Harvard University, Maurice Sendak, The City of Providence, and more. He’s now a Visual Design instructor at General Assembly’s San Francisco campus.

How would you define visual design in two sentences?

Visual design is one of the layers in effective communication design, regardless of product, platform, or medium. I put a strong emphasis on creating work that matters to you and presenting it so that it matters to your audience.

What do you love about design?

The power to make things understandable; the opportunity to convey ideas, helping people achieve clarity and simplicity.

What’s an example that embodies the best of what visual design can and should accomplish in real life?

Effective design transforms lives, moves product, enables informed decisions, and empowers individuals to make a difference. I’m always a fan of appropriate aesthetics, but tell me why you’re doing what you’re doing, what motivates you, what inspires you, and why you’re doing the work you are doing.

Why should someone learn essential visual design skills at GA?

There’s social time and ample space to work, meet, and collaborate, along with great community programming and inspiration.

What personal qualities will set someone up for success in visual design, both in class and as a designer?

Listening, empathy, patience, collaborative tools, bias toward outcomes, kindness. I don’t like to think about superstars (or unicorns or the like); everyone is uniquely different.

What was your path to becoming a teacher and leader in visual design?

I was invited by the chair of the MassArt design department, Liz Resnick, to teach an Intro to Design class. Then I taught at Lesley University’s College of Art & Design and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Why did the opportunity to teach at GA appeal to you?

I enjoy that GA treats its courses like products: always improving, tweaking the variables, allowing instructors to integrate feedback they’ve received along the way, and checking in frequently.

How would you describe your teaching philosophy?

Listen, respond, and always be inclusive.

What has been your favorite memory as a GA instructor?

They’re still being created! I love hearing from former students about where they are in their careers.

How do you help struggling students break through to meet or go beyond their minimum GA course requirements?

One-on-one time, working with them to hack their preconceived mental constructs, patterns, and behaviors.

How do you push high-achieving students to go beyond the minimum GA course requirements?

I think they push themselves — I set the opportunities and they deliver.

What is the best way to get practical, real-world experience in visual design?

Volunteering! Getting involved!