Lewis Franklin | LBCC

Lewis Franklin: Teaching both modern and traditional methods for the designers of today

photo of Lewis Franklin

Lewis Franklin was looking for a life change when he chose graphic design.

“I had been traveling up and down the west coast for years doing retail management,” he said, “And I just decided I was done.”

In determining what came next, Franklin explored his interests. “My partner and I were talking, and we kept coming back to two things: art and animals.”

Realizing it would take at least ten years to become a veterinarian, Franklin asked himself the next big question: How can I make a living doing art?

“Linn-Benton Community College had a nationally recognized program in graphic arts,” said Franklin. He dove in.

After graduating with associate degrees in fine art and associate of applied science in graphic design from LBCC, Franklin was hired by a marketing and design firm in Corvallis. He was just a week out of school.  

Franklin was working as the Macintosh platform lead while doing a bit of design work for Diamond Multimedia and teaching part time at another community college when he got the phone call from LBCC. The college’s full-time instructor Digital Imaging and prepress instructor had gone on medical leave; they needed someone fast. They offered Franklin the position.

When that faculty member retired, Franklin was hired on permanently. He has been with the college ever since—with three exceptions. An Army veteran, Franklin was deployed to Iraq twice and also for Hurricane Katrina with the National Guard. 

Franklin is the only full-time visual communications  instructor, though there are other full-time faculty in the Visual Arts Program. 

“I did not intend on being an educator,” he said.  “I didn't know I'd love it. I love it when the students move past your ability to teach them. I learn from them as much as they learn from me,” he said.

Franklin enjoys watching students develop their own style and seeing their projects at the beginning of their first year versus at the end of their second year.

“It's great to help them bring physical form to what they see in their minds. I can give a problem to five people and see five different solutions,” Franklin said.

Although the Visual Communications Program is working on a transfer option, most of the students complete a two-year associate degree and then go directly to work. Franklin’s former students have found jobs with local and national companies. Some are working at Disney and Nike, while others are at Oregon Web Press, Xtreme Grafx, NoDinx, Oregon State University, and other local employers. 

The class sizes are small—ranging from 10-20 students—which allows for a great deal of one-on-one instruction. He gets to know the students really well.

“I feel a huge responsibility for their future,” he said. Franklin teaches his students the full range of graphic design to ensure they are employable.

Franklin oversaw the creation of a new visual arts laboratory at the college. The new lab is a state of the art screen printing lab and a large open painting classroom. The output devices, computer hardware and software is top-of-the line industry standard. Through visits to Hewlett Packard, where the newest and most sophisticated digital web presses can be seen firsthand, Franklin introduces students to the latest printing methods.

“It’s amazing the level of customization they can do now. You could in essence send an individualized newspaper, with customized coupons, to every single household,” he said.

But Franklin is also passionate about teaching traditional methods and developing his students’ skills beyond computer design. “We teach using markers … we teach registration concepts using screen printing … and we do things like build boxes by hand.” 

Franklin is excited for his students to have a hands-on experience with the LBCC’s most recent acquisition for the program—a traditional Heidelberg windmill letterpress. 

The Heidelberg Platen Press was introduced in 1914 and manufactured between 1923 and 1985. The letterpress continues to have a large niche in the industry because no other press can indent the page, create an embossing, and giving it a tell-tale texture. “There is nothing quite like it,” said Franklin.

“We fill a niche that's unmet in education at this point … designing for output. We focus on the craft,” said Franklin. “We're in the Pacific Northwest and we have to teach to our aesthetic—which is gritty and authentic. A computer alone just cannot do it.”

Read more about the Visual Arts Program at LBCC.  

Interested in taking an art class? All classes are open to registration by members of the community.