This article is not about tuition or location but other factors that may influence your decision to choose a particular college or university. Although tuition and the school’s location are not to be dismissed. There are also general points to examine that apply to any college program. For example, does the school’s mission statement reflect an inviting atmosphere? Or, is there something in the school’s history that attracts you. These generalities are worth consideration; however, it is important to examine the specifics of the respective school’s graphic design program.
The following is a short menu of what to consider as you research colleges offering graphic design.
A curriculum is a series of courses that build upon each other towards mastery in a subject. Is there a clear core curriculum of required courses geared towards the discipline? How many liberal arts courses are required, and how do they relate to the core? Does the major have sufficient courses covering the technology involved in design? In addition, do you have the computer skills to master different software packages inherent in a graphic design curriculum?
Coursework for a typical graphic design program may include Art Orientation, Introduction to Visual Arts, Foundations of 2D, 3D and 4D Imaging, Digital Imaging, Drawing, Computers in Visual Arts, Photography or Digital Photography, Introduction to Graphic Design, and Typography. You will also study the various software programs used in the creative process.
The school’s program should include courses in Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, Adobe PageMaker, Quark XPress, and other graphic design and painting tools. Your school may provide a MacBook Air or Pro or another computer system for you as well as give you the required graphic designer software. If not, you need to come prepared with the appropriate hardware.
Another factor is the school’s faculty. You can ascertain the qualifications of the graphic arts professors from the school’s site. Look at what each instructor has accomplished in this field. Does part-time faculty, full-time faculty, or graduate students teach most of the courses? How many teachers have a Master of Fine Arts or equivalent degrees? How many have a doctoral degree?
Internships are a valuable means to gain experience, connect with people in the industry, and add to your future resume. You should determine if the internship is part of the curriculum. If so, do you receive credit for it? If not, does the school provide the resources to obtain an internship? Students typically complete an internship during the summer between your junior and senior years. However, this can vary with each school.
Many graduates receive full and part-time job offers from the organizations where they first took their internships. The upside of internships is that employers prefer to hire graduates who have this experience, which significantly reduces the amount of on-the-job training required.
The ultimate goal of earning your degree in this disciple is to land a respectable job upon graduation. This is another important criterion to consider. Does the school have career services? There are colleges where students begin career planning during their first year. Throughout sophomore and junior year, career services assist students in resume writing, refining skills, and finding suitable employers. In the senior year, the university may hold on-campus interviews and hosts job fairs.
The Professional Association of Design (AIGA) recommends selecting a school accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD). Accreditation signifies a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between the work of individual institutions and the work of the entire community of institutions that prepare artists and designers at the collegiate level. NASAD institutional Membership means investing in the stature and health of our own profession, in the maintenance of conditions and resources necessary for student learning, and in a system of national review and accountability.
This is another one of the criteria to take into account. AIGA encourages the formation of student groups at colleges and universities. These groups are a way of encouraging students to take the first step in demonstrating a commitment to graphic design. The goal of the student groups is to involve students in the local design community, create a community of their own, and help them build leadership skills. A student group at a university automatically becomes affiliated with the chapter nearest to it. The faculty advisor is the liaison between the students and AIGA and is responsible for the formation and maintenance of the student group. In return for the extra work required of the faculty adviser to run a successful group, AIGA provides the adviser with a complimentary membership at the Supporter level for taking on the responsibility of starting and running the student group.
You will find a complete list of AIGA local chapters at this link.