Western Philosophy: A New Story for a New Generation
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Dennis Packard, Philosophy Department
In the fall semester of 2015, Dr. Packard approached me after class one day when he noticed from the class roll that I had a minor in visual arts. He came to me with an offer to help him do graphic design for a textbook he was making, an offer which I gratefully accepted. After securing funding for the project through the generosity of the ORCA grant I received, we set to work creating a textbook that would tell the story of Western philosophy in a way it had never before been told.
With the help of another research assistant and ORCA grant recipient, Sondra Sasser, the three of us formed a small team to get this text put together and organized so we could send it out to publishers. Sondra’s duties consisted of work writing and researching for the book, and my duties involved creating artistic assets for the book. The funding provided by the ORCA grant I received permitted me to work the hours necessary to work on the project and be compensated for my work. Some of the things I did for this project included creating diagrams and illustrations, designing overarching color patterns and design schemes for the book as a whole, doing print layout and design for the Google doc, creating illustrations for the front cover and chapter headers, and researching copyright usage for the pictures we wanted to use in the book. I was also asked to put together a demo PDF file with hypertext links that we could send to publishers. That way they could see the scope of the project and would want to take us on for publication.
At the start of the project, we were in discussions with a publication house about getting our book on the markets. Although this cooperation didn’t work out in the long term, we have been diligent about pursuing other publication houses in that one’s stead. We’ve queried some half a dozen to a dozen publication houses from university publishing to more non-fiction publishing, and we are currently in discussions with a few of them about the future possibilities for our textbook.
In the end, I’m not incredibly worried about the rejection we’ve faced thus far. J.K. Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book series was rejected a number of times before being accepted for publication and developing into a worldwide phenomenon. Publishing a book generally entails rejection, and perseverance is the key to seeing any results come about from one’s efforts. I still believe that the concept for this textbook is an excellent one, and that the things we hope to do with this project could help people learn about philosophy in new and exciting ways. We haven’t seen many people use outgoing hyperlinks in their e-books to supplement the material in the book, and this could be a huge breadth of knowledge just waiting to be explored. Just think of how many internet sources could be referenced directly from a textbook! The possibilities of learning are all but endless.
The ORCA grant I received permitted me to work the number of hours I needed to create the assets I needed to create, and to help make this book the best that it could be. This project will live on past the scope of this ORCA grant, and one day when we do find a publisher for the project, it will all be worth it as we share our beautiful textbook with people who want to learn about philosophy. This book has the potential to do a lot of good in the lives of the people who read it as they learn to think in new, exciting ways. I like to think that my artistic contributions will help further this aim and will help enlighten the people who read it. This seems like as noble of a goal as any to have.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to work on this project. It has been an excellent learning experience and a good example of what it’s like to work as a commissioned artist as a part of a team. This was a valuable experience that will serve me well as I enter the workforce when I graduate in four months. Best of all, a textbook with beautiful visuals exists now, a testament to the many hours I and others have put into this project. I hope one day it will be able to be shared with the world.