Chicago native Laurie Eastman is currently busy teaching college level classes and developing design work for clients. She currently teaches at Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago (Web Design & Interactive Media department) and at DePaul University (graduate New Media Studies program). With decades of experience, it was a treat to hear Ms. Eastman’s perspective on design, career, gender, and inspiration.
Jacquie: Please tell us about your work.
Laurie: I teach college level classes in web design & interactive media. I also do freelance web design work.
What inspired you to choose your career?
I guess it depends which career you mean. I’ve always been into computers. I started programming in BASIC in second grade, and in high school I learned Pascal. So it was probably inevitable that I would choose a career involving computers.
If you mean my career as a college instructor, that inspiration came from my own teachers. My son had died suddenly in 1997, and I slipped into a deep depression shortly afterwards. In 2001 I decided to enroll in a degree program at a design school. During my four years as a student, I encountered two or three instructors who were passionate about design and were able to spark that sort of passion in me. When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2005, I was determined to teach and to try to convey that same sort of passion to a new group of learners.
Do you feel that genders are equally represented in your field of work?
Again, it depends which field you mean. In academia, yes. In the web industry, no. It’s still a male-dominated industry. I have at times been the only woman in an office full of men, and the attitudes many men in this field have towards women are appalling.
What would draw more women to careers in graphic art and design?
I think many women are drawn to graphic design careers, but fewer are drawn to web design and development. Part of this may be due to the same sort of educational bias that has been documented in schools, where girls are often subtly discouraged from going into math and science fields. This attitude is so entrenched in our culture that a recent study published by Harvard University found that 70% of the subjects surveyed said they related “science” to “male” and “arts” to “female.”
So what’s the solution? It requires a complete change of attitudes in our society. This has happened before; not that long ago, women were expected to stay home while men worked outside the home. That attitude gradually shifted, and so too will our attitudes about women’s performance in areas like computer programming and web development.
Do you identify as a feminist? Why or why not?
You know, I’ve never really given it much thought. I support equal rights for women, especially reproductive rights. I suppose that would make me a feminist then?
What do you like the most about Chicago?
There’s always something exciting happening here—concerts, theater, street festivals, museum events, etc. There is never a dull moment! And with our public transportation system, it’s easy to get wherever you need to go without needing to own a car. I live in a very culturally diverse neighborhood where everyone looks out for everyone else regardless of ethnicity. But I think what I love most about my city is that Chicago is where my friends are.
Who inspires you the most?
My students are a constant source of inspiration for me. I am continually amazed and humbled at the level of work that some of my students produce. It’s exciting to watch their growth from undergraduate to successful working professional.
Please share some parting wisdom with us.