An Interview with Professor Boyarski


Dan Boyarski is the former Head of School, and is currently Director of Alumni Relations. Dan received his master degree in design from Indiana University and did post-graduate studies at the Basel School of Design, Switzerland. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in typography, interaction design and time-based communications. View Dan’s full profile.

We’ve heard rumors about retirement. Can you amplify?

Yes, I started a phased retirement this academic year. It’s a generous option that Carnegie Mellon provides faculty who wish to exit slowly. It allows one to teach half their load for half the salary, and one can do this for up to four years. That looked more attractive to me that waking up one morning and realizing I wasn’t teaching any more.

Why now?

I started teaching design as a grad student at Indiana University in 1970, and have been teaching ever since. I’ve been at CMU for 31 years, so that’s a pretty good run, don’t you think? As I approached my 65th birthday two summers ago, I decided I could use a change of pace and seriously considered the options I had. I finally decided on the phased option for the soft exit it provided. So, I’ll be teaching two courses this fall semester and be off in the spring semester.

So you’ll be gone in the spring?

I won’t be teaching regular courses, but I’ll continue meeting my three grad advisees who are working on thesis, and continue work related to being Director of Alunni Relations, which I enjoy. Terry asked if I wanted to stay in that post and I said yes. What this means is that I don’t have to be on campus everyday or every week. I hope to do some traveling and maybe even some teaching or consulting elsewhere. We’ll see.

Do you have plans of what else you’ll do in this phased retirement?

When I went on a year’s sabbatical leave after being Head of School, I explained then I was seeking a change of pace, scenery, and cuisine. I think that applies here, as well. My wife and I enjoy traveling to new places and exploring what they offer, from museums to restaurants, from architecture to landscapes. We enjoy getting lost and discovering people and things not meant for tourists. I’ve also been focusing on personal work for many years now, a visual exploration of form in photo collages. This work is quiet work, almost like a meditation on form and composition, something I do when I need a break from “my job” at CMU. I like what’s been emerging, so that spurs me on to do more.

Anything else?

I could give you the obvious answers like, sleep in, read books that I’ve been meaning to read, broaden my music appreciation, cook, take walks, and so on. Less obvious answers might include continuing to archive kinetic typography projects done by students over the past two decades. We started doing time-based typography in the mid-1990s and these examples need to be catalogued for posterity. At least I think they should be. One challenge I’m faced with is how to extract digital files from storage devices like SyQuest disks that can’t be read anymore. I hate to think that we’ll never see that work again simply because the requisite technology doesn’t exist anymore. (frown!)

As you begin your phased retirement, what will you miss?

Well, since I’m still teaching, and that’s what I love doing, I’m not worried about missing much. When I finally do retire after four years, then I predict I’ll miss the teaching and being in touch with students most. That’s what has keep me “young” all these years. Working with new students each year, answering their questions, and watching their progress has inspired me and kept me going. Also, keeping in touch with alumni and observing how they’ve used their design education to do good in the world has been gratifying. That’s something for all design faculty to be proud of.

Anything you won’t miss?

The meetings. (pause) Okay, having said that, I have to admit that many faculty discussions I’ve been part of over the years have been perceptive, challenging, and inspiring. They’ve helped shape my thinking as a teacher and a faculty colleague. As one of my peers pointed out years ago, our job is to raise challenging questions, for ourselves, our students, and the profession. That keeps us all on our toes.

Date Published: 
Friday, September 27, 2013