- Professor of Graphic Communications
- Teaching at Cal Poly since 1999
- 30 years of experience in printing industry
- Students love for humor and hands-on teaching method
- Hot-air balloonist and blogger
Brian Lawler has been teaching Graphic Communications at Cal Poly since 1999. His passion for the subject and humorous personality are what make him a popular favorite among students.
Lawler’s credit as a great professor was confirmed in 2010 when he won the Educator of the Year Award for Higher Education from the Electronic Document System Foundation.
The Oakland native developed his passion for printing when he was just a child. His mother taught him how to use an old-fashioned printing press that they kept in their basement and he instantly fell in love. Lawler ditched lemonade stands for his own “company” called “The Teenage Printing Press” and made money by creating greeting cards for customers.
His adoration for printing is still evident today.
“It’s fascinating – everything is printed. It touches everything everywhere,” said Lawler.
In 1964 he visited Cal Poly’s campus with his parents and immediately knew he was destined to be here. Lawler remembers standing outside the Graphic Communications department building and thinking, “I’m gonna go here”, and he did. He graduated in 1975 with a degree in Graphic Communications.
Lawler says that he never intended to become a professor, it just happened. In 1999 he was asked to teach one class a week at Cal Poly.
“It was like the drug dealer on the corner saying the first one’s free,” said Lawler.
And he’s been hooked ever since.
Lawler takes Cal Poly’s motto, “learn by doing” seriously. With the exception of Intro to Graphic Communications, all of the classes that Lawler teaches are extremely hands-on. Students create projects from scratch and even learn how to print greeting cards on an old-fashioned printing press. Lawler believes that it gives the students a greater appreciation for the art of Graphic Communications if they connect with its roots.
Lawler encourages his students to aim for high-profit printing instead of slicing pennies. He describes trying to always beat your competitor’s price as “flogging yourself” and thinks that it detracts from the quality of printing. Lawler teaches students that by creating unique and upscale products they will earn profit.
With 30 years of experience in the printing industry and an extremely extensive knowledge of the industry, Lawler gives students a realistic view of the career field. “He is extremely knowledgeable and experienced in the Graphic Communications field….we learned about printing domains that I had taken advantage of prior to his class,” said freshman Graphic Communications major Reina Garcia.
Lawler’s students agree that he creates an engaging environment for learning.”He made getting into my major interesting,” said freshman Graphic Communications major Molly Hitchings.
Students also enjoy the humor that Lawler brings to the classroom, saying that it keeps the class entertaining while productive.”He’s really funny and personable and willing to help you whenever you need it,” said Hitchings.
Lawler said that his goal as a professor is for students to leave the class with some practice, experience, and knowledge of how to learn more.
“I want to expand horizons,” said Lawler.
Along with being an adored professor, Lawler holds a second occupation as a blogger for WhatTheyThink.com where he writes about the printing industry.
Lawler is a hot-air balloonist and is a co-owner of a balloon. He also enjoys woodworking, photography, and is a big Giants fan.