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IU alum Peg Faimon designs the future at new School of Art and Design

Oct. 19, 2016

Peg Faimon has a vision for the new School of Art and Design at IU Bloomington.

The founding dean wants to lead students from imagination to the marketplace.

Peg Faimon

Peg Faimon comes to IU from Miami University in Ohio, where she served as chair of the Department of Art.| PHOTO BY JAMES BROSHER

In August 2016, the Department of Studio Art and the Department of Apparel Merchandising and Interior Design formally joined to form the new school. 

The School of Art and Design aims to provide a complete creative education by fostering creative thought, honing art and design skills and offering practical preparation as students move into the larger world. Beyond that, students benefit from a liberal arts education.

"The fact that we are a school in the College of Arts and Sciences is very important to me, and it's important to my faculty," Faimon said.

She comes to IU from Miami University in Ohio, where she served as chair of the Department of Art. She continues to work in her practice, Peg Faimon Design, and wrote "Design Alliance" (2003) and "The Designer's Guide to Business and Careers" (2009), in addition to co-authoring and designing another book.

"First and foremost, I would say I am a builder. … I have always been one," she said.

Initially, her design career was centered on typography for printed materials.

At the time, graphic design was rapidly shifting away from an analog jumble of processes, tools and materials: typesetting, hot wax, ruling pens and bottles of ink.

Faimon stayed atop the waves of change as design shifted into something made with computers, and again as design became something made for the computers themselves.

"When I became a teacher and an educator, I moved into building curriculum, and I always saw all those things as design," she said.

Even in her established department at Miami, art programs needed to be built and rebuilt. "I was always in some sort of a building project," she said.

Faimon said she first became an administrator so she could make the greatest difference for students. "I saw the impact I was having in the classroom and loved that, but when I became an administrator I saw that multiplied by all the faculty I was helping."

When she learned IU's School of Art and Design was searching for a dean, she saw it as an amazing opportunity to continue building at a higher, broader level.

A key reason she accepted the job was that her strengths and values as an arts educator aligned with goals for the new school and what the faculty had begun. "You can't really impose your vision on people," she said.

Visual problem-solving is becoming more highly valued, she said. "You hear a lot about the creative economy these days. You hear a lot about design thinking. … Those things come out in the education we're providing."

At IU, Faimon has big plans.

The new dean is eager to collaborate with other academic disciplines. She is meeting with people in The Media School, the Kelley School of Business, the School of Informatics and Computing and the Maurer School of Law's Center for Intellectual Property Research.

Lawyers in the area of design law need to understand how designers think, she said. Makers need to know how to protect their intellectual property, too.

"If we can get this content into our classes for the designers and the artists, they will innately value their work more because they'll already be thinking about themselves as professionals," Faimon said.

She also is interested in refining and adding minor programs, so students from other disciplines can get their training in art and design at some depth.

And there is collaboration within her school as well. Instructors from different areas are team-teaching introductory classes like "Branding: Merchandising and Graphic Design" and "Surface Design in Jewelry and Fashion."

In the years before she became a professor, before she received an MFA at Yale, Faimon was an undergraduate at IU, earning a BFA in graphic design.

Being back feels natural to her: "It's just like it's meant to be."

Her husband, Don, is an optometrist who received his schooling at IU. Because they started married life here, they sometimes came back for anniversaries. And like many alums, she said they harbored the distant fantasy of returning to Bloomington to live.

In October 2015, they returned with their children. "It was a gorgeous weekend, and it all felt just really, really natural," Faimon said. "It felt perfect."

She said the fall getaway was secretly a time of sleuthing.

Faimon wanted affirmation that the university was the right fit, and that Bloomington was indeed an accepting place for her entire family. She has two children: daughter Lillyanna, a second year at Miami, and Lilith, a high school senior, who is transgender.

"My kids really liked it, and we had just a great weekend," Faimon said.

"And so then I thought, 'OK, this is a good sign. I'm just going to jump in.'"

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