News | Product Design

Ken Hughes is retiring from KPU after almost 44 continuous years in post-secondary design education

His preference for teaching design rather than continuing to practice in a studio, started with a short stint at teaching English to school kids in Norway, in 1967. As a Londoner, he was trained as a graphic designer at London College of Printing and the Royal College of Art by faculty trained at the Bauhaus, Swiss design schools (Basel and Zurich), and post-war British designers. Design in those days was presented by these wonderful people, as a mission to improve the world, as well as a career.

The late Walter Jungkind (formerly President of GDC and ICOGRADA) invited Ken to take up an assistant professor post at the University of Alberta, teaching typography, and helping to establish a new undergraduate Visual Communications Design program, in 1970. At that time he was the youngest assistant professor on campus.

Just as his five-year tenure there was getting predictable, he was offered a teaching post in the Graphic, Fine and Performing Arts at Douglas College. Shortly after arriving he became Chair of that Division and oversaw the subdividing of Douglas and the emergence of the brand new Kwantlen College.

After seven years, and with that transition complete, the late Dean Emeritus Tom Hudson offered another wonderful opportunity: a faculty post at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Within a year Ken was appointed Chair of Design where he remained for the next 25 years. Far from static, ECUAD the institution constantly morphed bringing fresh challenges. One of the highlights for Ken was the assigned task to research and propose two new design programs in 1988: the first Industrial Design Program in BC (1998), and a new digital direction for graphic design - Electronic Communication Design (1998). He also lead the revamping of the long-standing Graphic Design program at regular intervals.

In 2007, he was amazingly offered another new opportunity back at Kwantlen during its transition to a polytechnic university. Here he has been Coordinator of GDMA, and for the past few years, designed and coordinated the new Product Design program. So throughout his career, he has opted for situations that combined teaching with administrative roles, and encouraged professional practice. For him, design is education; education is design.

His design practice has completed communication projects for cultural, social, educational, and political purposes in Canada and the UK. He also worked with Design British Columbia for ten years developing interdisciplinary design curriculum and resources for the public K-12 school system in BC, supported by government and private grants.

Ken has completed several sabbatical projects on design education and typographic letterforms, presented papers at conferences, given lectures, and written articles.

In his upcoming retirement he plans to develop his studio practice designing inscriptions, continue his research into the social context of alphabets, travel more frequently back and forth to Europe, and further his life-long participation in choral music.

The following are some examples of Ken’s inscriptions.


The Wilson School of Design would like to extend our heartfelt thanks for the multitude of contributions Ken Hughes has made to learning at Kwantlen. His contributions to teaching, program coordinatorship, curriculum development, numerous committees, mentorship, and his hearty laugh will be greatly missed.

Iryna Karaush has taken over as Program Coordinator for Product Design effective January 2014.