Renowned designer Dakota Jackson brings his legacy to the classroom

Tags: Faculty

Have you seen “Wynton Marsalis: A Youngarts Masterclass” on HBO? The series chronicles the jazz legend mentoring three young musicians. I couldn’t change the channel.

There’s something magnetic about seeing a virtuoso draw the potential out of his charges, about seeing an icon become vulnerable in order to deconstruct the process that makes him brilliant.


On the first day of Dakota Jackson’s master class at SCAD, becoming vulnerable meant telling his students that he gets jealous of other designers. He also admitted to being intimidated by the first assignment he’d issued them.

Don’t be fooled. Dakota is one of the most ingenious American designers of the 21st century. 

Like Wynton’s, Dakota’s class took cues from a piano, the new Arabesque grand piano he created for Steinway & Son’s 160th anniversary. Despite 40 years of experience, Dakota said he didn’t jump right in to designing it. There was a process he followed, a series of investigations about acoustics, dance and music. This is the kind of study he’ll require of his seven undergraduate and graduate students before allowing them to design a thesis work in the spring.

“The way I work, you are a skydiver, but I am on your back. I’m going to make sure that you land softly,” he reassured them.

Jackson’s relationship with SCAD started in the early 1990s. Craving more interaction with students, he decided to bring the ethos of his studio – his method – straight to Savannah in the form of an intensive course for furniture design students.

The Dakota Jackson Master Class will take place over three quarters between SCAD Savannah and New York City. Field trips to Steinway & Sons Factory, the Met, MoMa, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Library, among other stops in Jackson’s stomping grounds, will bring his lessons to life.

Maybe they’ll run into Wynton and his musicians along the way.

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