DAAP Welcomes New Interim Dean
A design professional with years of industry experience, Robert Probst brings an international perspective - both personal and professional - to his new role as Interim Dean of UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning.
Date: 9/10/2007Robert Probst's prestige as a designer is recognized around the globe. After all, he is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale, a worldwide group of 300 of the best professionals in graphic design.
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley and Dottie Stover
Membership in this group is by invitation only. Potential members cannot apply, and Probst is one of only about 50 designers in North America who are part of this distinguished organization.
He also has filled a national leadership role with the Society for Environmental Graphic Design, has been active on the group's board, has led the SEGD's Education Foundation and is an SEGD fellow.
What is, perhaps, surprising about Probst's leadership role is that he says he didn't necessarily plan out his career which has included professional industry experience in the United States, Germany and Switzerland. Nor did he necessarily plan to head the University of Cincinnati's internationally ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning when he first came to teach here - for a one-year appointment - in 1978.
He explained, "I came here as a visiting instructor almost 30 years ago because I wanted to learn more about this culture. I knew that would help shape and hone my design career in Europe. I wanted to learn more about the education system. I planned to stay for one year as a sabbatical from the professional design firm where I was working at the time."
Instead, Probst stayed in order to build both an academic and an industry career side by side - while overcoming many challenges. The first challenge: He came to teach at UC, however, he had limited English language skills.
"My wife, Alison, is British and did speak English. So, she came to class with me every day to translate. But, sometimes, I could tell she wasn't translating what I'd said, but was inserting her own design ideas because she is a designer also. So, she and I would have the arguments in front of the class - in German of course - and the students just loved it. I would tell her to say exactly what I had said, but she would refuse because she didn't always agree with my design philosophy. I'm sure we were the best entertainment going," recalled Probst.
Despite the language barrier, Probst found that he loved teaching and that, in time, he loved DAAP even while pursuing a professional career that saw his work put on permanent display in such wide-ranging venues as the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Museum of Design in Zurich and the International Council of Graphic Design Associations Hall of Fame in London.
At the same time, he enjoyed great success in teaching, and in 2001, he became Director of the School of Design, a position he held until being named the college's interim dean earlier this month.
It's a role he plans to positively relish for the coming year. Stated Probst, "Our college has advanced to a level of international prominence to where we are forging connections and partnering with industries who are also at the highest level. In terms of research, service and practice, DAAP's industry connections are second to none. It's the always increasing quality of our programs that has, to me, been a continued inspiration. I've always loved this college and enjoyed what we are doing here."
In the future, Probst plans to especially tend to growth in DAAP's international reach and scope. A native of Germany who attended school at Europe's premiere graphic design school in Switzerland, he knows what it is to live and work in a mix of cultures - and the industry trends driving design globalization.
Thus, he is actively seeking to grow international opportunities for the college. DAAP has always had international cooperative-education opportunities for students, allowing for work abroad. But recently, the college also formed exchange programs with three European schools, and the college is studying the prospect of opening programs in Southeast Asia - Singapore to be exact.
"The language of design is an international language. That is why our students need greater opportunities in Asia and Europe. The greater their cultural fluency and experience, the more likely they will be to shape and lead the design, architecture, art and planning professions and to create breakthroughs that mean better lives for people all around the world," said Probst.