Faculty Spotlight: Assistant Professor Mario Bocanegra
Mario Bocanegra, an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD), is still fairly new to Auburn, having joined the faculty in January of 2022. “I love the city of Auburn and all the welcoming people and new friends,” he stated. “I am excited to be a member of this highly creative faculty, who truly demonstrate their commitment to their creative research and love of teaching.”
Bocanegra was a student at a community college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when a professor there suggested he consider a career in graphic design. “He prepared me to apply to the competitive design program at Oklahoma State University, and I have never looked back,” Bocanegra said. He was accepted to the program at Oklahoma State and went on to earn both a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design there. He spent two and a half years as an Assistant Professor at Eastern New Mexico University before joining the SIGD faculty.
He currently teaches second-year studio courses as well as Typographics I and Image II, and he also supervises students’ independent studies. One of his independent study students, senior Catherine Moore, was recently chosen for an Honorable Mention by Graphis, an international publisher of books and awards for the visual communications industry. Her title sequence design work will appear in upcoming print and digital copies of the Graphis New Talent 2023 book.
Bocanegra says that he enjoys teaching sophomores and then observing as they advance through the program. “Seeing how they grow in their craft and conceptual thinking is fascinating,” he said. “As an educator, I enjoy teaching students to be inspired by everything around them and to refine their visual language to create beautiful solutions capable of informing and delighting a specific audience.” In his current second year studio, he has been guiding his students in the creation of package design, incorporating the laser cutter as a way to produce high-fidelity prototypes. This coming summer, he will be teaching Photo Communications for the second time. He designs this course in a way that allows students to collaborate with one another and experience free-thinking image making techniques. “This course emphasizes process-driven methodologies, which is part of my creative research,” he explained. “The students invent and learn from experimental processes to discover and author a work mode for visual inquiry.” Bocanegra presented the outcomes of last summer’s class at the 2023 annual conference for Foundations in Art: Theory and Education in April and will present again at the Motion Design Education Summit in June.
Not only is Bocanegra busy with teaching and research, but he is also continues to create. His areas of interest include motion design and collage and process-driven image making. For his latest typographic series, entitled “The Alphabetum,” he photographed weathered acrylic marquee sign letters by shooting through objects with transparent, reflective and porous qualities. This work was featured in Slanted Magazine #40: Experimental Type and was awarded the Spirit Award in Graphex #53 at the Art Directors Club of Tulsa. Another recent work is his design of an animated poster for SIGD’s juried show this spring. Bocanegra won a UCDA Excellence Award for his poster promoting the Photo Communications course as well as an Honorable Mention for his “Layered Landscape” Spring 2023 Showcase poster. Both “Layered Landscape” and his Photo Communications poster received 2022 American In House Design Awards from Graphic Design USA. “Graphic design allows me to visualize complex ideas and solve problems by synthesizing form and content,” he stated. “I feel blessed to work with highly passionate and talented students.”