Webster Voices - Noriko Yuasa | Webster University

'A Safe, Inclusive Environment Where There Are No Stupid Questions'

Noriko Yuasa, MFA headshot

Noriko Yuasa, MFA

Professor, Graphic Design
Department of Art, Design and Art History
Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts

Helping students “find their internal voice and locate the universal connection with others.”

Born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, Noriko Yuasa came to the United States for college…and then decided to stay. Fascinated by typography and immersed in the professional world of graphic design, the opportunity to share this passion with students drew her into the world of teaching. With experience in branding, editorial design, package design, product design and advertising, her diverse background helps her teach students visual language and systems for culturally centered communication.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Engaging. I think it comes from my introduction to the American style of education, which is so engaging and interpersonal. I came to the United States just to study English – or so I thought at the time – but when I took a drawing class I discovered the power of drawing and visuals as a communication medium.

And visuals are so evocative, it helps students find their voice. In our lab we brainstorm, talk things through, investigate our personal history, and help each other find that internal voice and locate the universal connection with others.

What makes teaching at Webster distinctive?

Certainly the opportunity to teach in a very personal way and give students that attention to help their self-discovery. In design I find that is very important. A safe, inclusive environment where there are no stupid questions. I want to be the one who helps students find what’s not working – because outside, in the industry, they don’t tell you what’s not working…the client just doesn’t call you back!

Noriko Yuasa posing by brick wall

How do you translate your passion in life to the classroom?

I try to get students to not lose their own passion for design even if it is a difficult project. For class projects, students must collaborate and get to know each other or the subject of their project. It’s important that they learn how to understand and impact people since they will be working for clients. So we might have to talk about our backgrounds, or religion or politics to understand each other. Because working for a client, it doesn’t matter “if you like it” – that’s subjective. You have to keep going back to the core concept.

So, in learning about those topics in depth for projects, we see the world through design. We are not just making things look pretty, we are investigating ideas and figuring out how to convey them in an effective and beautiful way.

What else is special about Webster’s graphic design program?

Our faculty are of course great mentors, but we have mentorship from our alumni and the professional community too. We regularly bring in professional designers, often outstanding alumni, as speakers and as peer reviewers for our annual graphic design showcase.

On Facebook we have a group of alumni who are really active, and they help as mentors to our students, often welcome them for field trips. Our students see the beauty of design and also understand the realities of doing it as a profession.

What is the focus of your scholarship?

After finishing at the Art Institute of Chicago and then earning my MFA, working in New York City gave me this great intersection of emerging design in a multicultural background.

So I am always interested in developing visual language and systems for effective communication in culturally centered settings. For example, I used a faculty research grant to examine the different backgrounds of Japanese women in St. Louis. I interviewed women ranging from 20s to 80s in age, and it is amazing the different backgrounds, religions, interests…the temptation is to categorize them, yet you can see so much diversity even among Japanese people around St. Louis.

Noriko Yuasa, MFA

What are you most curious about?

I first got into design by falling in love with typography. Just the look, the styles and purposes of different typography…I think I see words differently than most Americans, and that informs my eye and how I approach design.

What is your favorite travel destination?

I miss home, so I go back to Yokohama every year. I miss the food, the way it brings people together and creates conversations. I like to cook, myself, but I like it even more when people cook for me!

I have also been taking my own kids to different sites around America. It’s important that they know what is out there, and also so that when we visit Japan and they tell family about “America” – that they realize that means so many things beyond the one place where they call home.


Noriko Yuasa with students at Graphic Design Showcase

DADAH Academic Programs

The Department of Art, Design, and Art History (DADAH) at Webster offers three core degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art, a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Art, and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Art History and Criticism.