Teaching Practice

Central to my teaching practice is the belief that making is the interface through which designers engage with the world. This view looks beyond industry and empowers students to see themselves as creative participants, able to take an active role in the shaping of their surroundings through self-initiated design action.
    In order to engage students directly in this view of design I use an agile studio model where the course becomes an open inquiry that is structured around learning objectives with no fixed design outcomes. This media-agnostic approach together with a non-hierarchical class structure allows students and faculty to collaboratively engage in critical observation, grounded research, and cultural reflection in order to identify opportunities to create contextualized design outcomes.
    In this model faculty become facilitators, creating a dynamic environment where students develop an awareness of the contemporary realities of the discipline yet are inspired to see beyond industry models of practice and empowered to develop individualized practices that offer new possibilities for the future of graphic design.
These approaches are an attempt to engage with a reality where graphic design continues to evolve across a range of what used to be hard disciplinary boundaries. The designers of the future will need to be collaborative, literate in a range of domains, while still maintaining an expertise relevant to graphic production. Orienting students to this requires a meta-literate approach, equipping them to develop an awareness and fluency with a range of non-traditional tools, techniques, and conceptual frameworks related to research and making.
    This approach aims to create a supportive curricular environment that fosters the development of diverse individualized design practices that are capable of navigating contemporary industry expectations, are oriented to the future of the discipline, and empower students to become creative citizens, cultural participants, and active forces in the shaping of their worlds.

Student Works

Please note that the following work is not attributed in order to maintain the anonymity of the students and protect their ability to explore culturally and politically sensitive topics.

Critical Phenomena

This project is a semester long inquiry within the Core Studio 1 course. This course is part of a series of four core studio courses that act as the spine of the BFA curriculum in Graphic Design. The primary objective of the Core Studios are to guide students through the process of building their own individualized design practice over four semesters. The first course in this series, Core Studio 1, engages first semester sophomore students in a process of contextual observation, grounded research, and cultural criticality. Faculty facilitate a semester long open investigation where students identify contextual/cultural phenomena, shape those phenomena into critical points of view, then investigate how they can engage with those phenomena as graphic designers.

This project required students to observe an existing contextual phenomenon using writing as a tool for documentation. Observations where then developed into topics, conditions, and written thesis statements. These statements were eventually turned into visual compositions limited to carefully considered photography and typography meant to capture the subtleties and complexities of the topics (images in right column).
    The second phase of the investigation tasked students with investigating how they might engage with their original phenomena as graphic designers through the creation of tangible artifacts (images in left column).
Hammett, Levi., Maryam Al Homaid. Critical Phenomena (Class Project). Core Studio 1, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2019.

Graphic Objects

Many design disciplines are defined by the media they work with and types of objects that they produce. Graphic design is no different, having its historic roots integrating typography and graphics in poster design, later corporate identity design in the 1960’s, web design in the 1990’s, and more recently interface design. In many ways graphic design is still defined in relation to these products. This course intends to explore a different approach to defining graphic design, one that focuses only on the concept of ‘graphic’, independent of outcomes and media. The premise of this definition is that any object (physical or otherwise) can be considered graphic design if it is primarily graphic in nature. Using this definition, one can begin to look at objects like textiles, jewelry, toys, and other products as potentially falling within the discipline of graphic design.
The project at top uses typography and textile design to explore the value of a life. The project at left engages with the war in Yemen through the lens of contemporary toy design. And the project at right reinterprets traditional palestinian graphic motifs into a set of tableware that celebrates the sharing of a family meal that is so integral to palestinian tradition.
Hammett, Levi. Graphic Objects (Class Project). Graphic Product Design, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2017 - Present.

Tiled Totes

This course explores processes for combining graphic design principles with various fabrication techniques in order to create a range of graphic products. These explorations allow students to extend the possibilities of their design practice beyond the traditions of the discipline.
These graphic bags were produced by sophomore students in the Graphic Design department. The students were tasked with designing a single vector based shape that could be tessellated into a continuous pattern. Students then fabricated these shapes using plywood cut on a laser cutter. The wood tiles were adhered to fabric tote bags which were stitched by each student in order to create the graphic products displayed here.
Hammett, Levi., Maryam Al Homaid. Tiled Totes (Class Project). Imaging 2, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2019.

Subversive Visual Language

This investigation tasks students with researching a range of existing visual languages connected with macro and sub cultures. The students then analyze both the formal and connotative aspects of the language in order to pair the visual language with a contemporary issue. This project has been conducted over multiple years in a variety of courses at VCUarts Qatar.
Hammett, Levi. Subversive Visual Language (Class Project). Various courses, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2010 - 2015.

Procedural Mashrabiya

These wood panels designed by Junior students in the Graphic Design program are a formal exploration inspired by the Islamic patterns used in traditional Mashrabiya. Each pattern was generated through code, with students utilizing low level graphic operations, combined with randomness and parametric variation to result in the emergent graphic forms displayed here. The final patterns were then cut into wood using a CNC router. Led by VCUarts Qatar Graphic Design faculty: Levi Hammett and Leland Hill.
This project was exhibited as part of the Patterns of Change exhibition in the Project Spaces at VCUarts Qatar in 2017.
    The project was also selected to be adapted into a VIP gift for the 20th Anniversary Gala celebrating 20 years of VCUarts Qatar.
Hammett, Levi., Leland Hill. Procedural Mashrabiya (Class Project). Print 1, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2017.
Emans, Denielle., Basma Hamdy, Levi Hammett, & Leland Hill. Patterns of Change (Exhibition). Project Spaces, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 31 October - 27 November 2017.
Hammett, Levi. & Leland Hill. 20th Anniversary Gift (Product). Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts Qatar 20th Anniversary Gala, Sheraton Hotel. Doha, Qatar. 7 May, 2018.

Emergent Book Design

This sophomore level project tasks students with creating a book that documents a collection. Students begin by expanding on the idea of a collection as a system, a taxonomy, a set of rules. They then explore collections ranging from the tangible to the intangible including collections of physical objects to collections of ideas. Once a collection is identified students are required to identify existing writing on the topic in addition to cataloging the items in the collection through written and photographic information. This material is then compiled into a book using computational methods to generate a simple grid and populate that grid with content according to layout algorithms the students design. The result is a collection of graphically innovative and contextually relevant design books.

Hammett, Levi. Emergent Book Design (Class Project). Typography 2, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2015 - Present.

Cultural Exchange Formats

A collaborative project between VCU Graphic Design in Doha, Qatar and VCU Graphic Design in Richmond, the United States. These postcards act as an interface for cultural exchange between students studying the same discipline yet coming from vastly different contexts and geographical locations. Students from both campuses engaged in critical research investigating their home cultures and personal experiences before designing a series of three postcards representing aspects of themselves and their cultural backgrounds. The postcards were then exchanged between the two groups of participating students.
This project was led by Leland Hill and Levi Hammett from VCU in Qatar and Jamie Mahoney from VCU in the United States.
Hammett, Levi., Leland Hill, & Jamie Mahoney. Cultural Exchange Formats (Class Project). Print 1, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2017.


Impermanence: Using Graphic Design to Explore Representations of Faith in Islam.

Unfinished Yet Not Incomplete: Exploring the Role of Users as Participants in the Creation of Meaning.

Same Same but Different: An Elemental Study of Doha’s Urban Landscape.
A thesis exploring contemporary identity representation in the Arab region.

Art & Co.
A project that explores the artist as commodity by making a brand that sells a series of commercial products with illustrated portraits of modern artists.

This course began as a re-designated and redesigned section of the existing Senior Studio course. It is designed to provide a comprehensive BFA thesis experience that focuses on teaching students to build a cohesive body of work around a relevant topic, to construct a critical framework around their work, and compellingly articulate the significance of their work through a written abstract, printed thesis book, and final exhibition. This new course has been taught since 2013 with excellent success, resulting in a number of students choosing to continue their research in MFA programs, and some to begin entrepreneurial endeavors based on their work in the course.
This course was taught for two semesters by professor Peter Martin in 2010, and then discontinued. It was revived in 2013 by myself and redesigned to focus on the issues outlined above. In 2013, and 2014 it was taught solely by myself. In 2015 it was co-taught by myself with Law Alsobrook, and in 2016 I co-taught the course with Michael Hersrud.
Hammett, Levi., et al. Thesis (Class Project). Senior Studio, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar. Doha, Qatar. 2013 - 2016.
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