More College Tour Tips for Visual Artists

Boston College

Boston College

Teenage artists and designers are like everyone else this time of year. They’re anxious for spring and the accompanying warmer weather that gets everyone outside. I’d suggest guiding – and prodding if necessary – those thoughts of outdoor escape towards touring colleges. Spring break and summer are optimal times to explore as a family.

I’ve toured a lot of colleges and universities, and have found these few fundamental tips can turn touring time into very worthwhile experiences. Share them with your teen ahead of time and you’ll have some very successful touring!

Ask questions. In information sessions, while on tour, and of anyone you see. Remember that tour guides are paid cheerleaders. Listen to them, but keep in mind that random students will give you their unbiased view. Professors will have a completely different perspective. (For what it’s worth, parents are the ones asking most of the college tour questions. Getting your teen to speak up will keep them engaged and get noticed by admissions reps. File that under demonstrating interest!)

Take the tour! Getting oriented will help you and your teen visualize the layout of the land. How far is the dorm from the studio? Is the campus integrated into the surrounding city? Or does it have a defined border?

University of Washington textile studio

University of Washington textile studio

Get lost. As an avid traveller, I often find the most wonderful gems when not on a planned tour. The same rule applies to wandering around college campuses. I’d pay special attention to studio spaces; your teen will be spending the majority of her time there. Make sure to include off-campus spots too.

Document it. This is the voice of experience here. Even if you only visit one campus at a time, you will mix places up. I guarantee it! Make sure your teen records his thoughts and impressions with words and photos. You can thank me later.

Looking to learn more about college searching for art and design? Follow us on facebook and twitter

Fashion at the Oscars

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

Bear with me. I know we’ve turned the calendar to March, but I’ve got February on the brain. February, film, and fashion that is. Blame it on the Academy Awards.

Elegantly styled, cool blue and soft yellow dresses blanketed the red carpet at this year’s Oscars, but what caught my attention was contrary to the glamour and gold. It was Mad Max: Fury Road, winner of this year’s award for Best Costume Design. The distressed clothing in the film, intended for survival in a dystopian society, is proof positive that not everything about apparel design needs to focus on beauty.

Welcome to the world of Costume Design! Fashion Design’s first cousin doesn’t respond to the needs or whims of each passing season. Rather, it answers to a production house, director, or actor. Costume designers are imagination specialists. Instead of focusing on style and looking to set future trends, they typically reflect the past – or a fictitious future in the case of Mad Max – and gain inspiration from a specific time or place.

Both are storytellers, using fabrics and soft materials to express their point of view. Yet they each target a different audience. Fashion designers integrate their knowledge of textiles and clothing with what’s happening in the world around them, using current events and trends as their inspiration. Their intent is to generate sales and clothe the public.

University of Florida

University of Florida School of Theatre & Dance

Costume designers communicate the story of one individual at a time, informing us of a character’s lifestyle, wealth, and social status by the clothes on his back.

Most colleges and universities teach Costume Design as part of the Drama department, giving students full exposure to the world of theatre. If your teen has a passion for fashion, but also loves the stage – or history – make sure you include Costume Design as part of your college research. Each of the colleges listed below offers a BFA in Costume Design.

Break a leg!

Interested in learning more about art.college.life.? Follow us and comment on facebook, twitter, and Pinterest.

Carnegie Mellon University: School of Design

Touring Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in autumn is a great idea. I was fortunate to visit last week when the trees were starting to sparkle in all their autumn glory.

This private university’s persona is larger than life, but its undergraduate student body is a very manageable 6200. I’ve toured the campus before, so got to focus on the College of Fine Arts this time around, meeting with representatives from the School of Design and the School of Art.

School of Design

School of Design

The School of Design (SOD) has a stellar reputation. I often recommend taking rankings with a grain of salt, but these you should consider. LinkedIn named the school Best for Designers (October 2014) and Design Intelligence named it among America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools (2015).

Steve Stadelmeier, SOD Associate Head, defines designers as those who build things for the greater good; things that help individuals and companies tell their personal stories. Whether it’s the car you drive, the Netflix shows you watch, the graphics of your favorite app, or the layout at your favorite clothing store – they’re all influenced and guided by designers, and they all help you tell your own, individual story.

sophomore communications students

sophomore communications students

At CMU students gain that knowledge through a unique and interactive structure that mirrors real life. Freshmen begin studying across three concurrent areas: Communication Design (graphics), Product Design (industrial design), and Environments (virtual and physical). Sophomores continue in two of the three, juniors narrow it down to one, and senior year unites the entire cohort as they apply what they’ve learned to services and social innovation. Here, the application of design moves from focusing on one item to a grand and global scale. A junior explained it this way: “If you design a lawnmower as a sophomore, then junior year you’ll address the yard and lawn chemicals. Senior year you’ll question, “How can we change the system?” (Ex: how can we water lawns more efficiently to improve water usage?)

junior product models

junior product models

This is a rigorous program; with class time divided approximately 60/40 between design classes and general studies courses. That ratio is typically found at small art and design schools across the country, not large universities. Also similar to art and design schools, SOD teaches a number of design-related general education classes. Examples include design and economics or design and anthropology.

Applications – through the Common App – are directed to the SOD itself, not the university. Portfolios are a required part of the process. Images can be uploaded through SlideRoom as well as delivered in person. Personal interviews aren’t required but are highly encouraged.

Accepted students are the lucky ones. Approximately 650 applied to the program last year, with 35 matriculating. Graduates earn a Bachelor of Design (BDes), and according to Mr. Stadelmeier, all graduate with a job.

Want to learn more about the SOD? Drop me a note or contact the school directly. Have a preference for the School of Art? Stick around. I’ll share what I’ve learned next week.

A Passionate Future or a Practical One: Do Students Need to Differentiate?

Parents are frequently tested. It just comes with the territory.

Naturally, we want our college-bound teens to have fulfilling majors and careers. If their passion is in science, math, or engineering (STEM) then they – and we – are lucky. Those are the fields of the future we’re advised. That’s where the lucrative careers are and will be.

rightbrain-leftbrainBut what about our creative offspring, those wanting to study and build careers based in the visual arts? Can’t they also have fulfilling and lucrative careers? Should we advise them to follow their passions, or towards what’s deemed a more practical future?

The answers don’t come easily. Doubts and questions arise about the long-term consequences of following one’s artistic passion. Job opportunities seem fewer and the chance of making a living often seems questionable.

Young visual artists, designers, and their parents should know about a great opportunity that’s smack in the middle of the STEM world. It’s the junction where technology meets creative. An article in last month’s LATimes spells it out from the perspective of CalArt’s president Steven D. Lavine. “Arts educators and technology chief executive officers are acknowledging once again that the two fields not only work hand-in-hand but that technological advances are often nourished by arts-inspired creative methods and critical thinking,” the article reads. Bottom line: engineers, entrepreneurs, and those in the tech world need our creative kids.

I’ve waxed before about the need to merge right-brain and left-brain thinkers. Analytical and linear thinkers need creative designers who process information holistically, and vice versa. There is great value in combining these diverse perspectives. Visual artists naturally think outside the proverbial box. And, the skills they learn in college – beyond the artistic ones – of persistence, incorporating criticism into newfound solutions, and teambuilding are beneficial to solving the technical problems of today and tomorrow.

CalArts has promoted this cross-pollination for decades. Other colleges are recognizing the value as well. When searching for college options for your teen, make sure to inquire about each one’s approach to the collaboration of these two fields. You’ll find more opportunities for your teen’s future, and more peace of mind for yourself.

 

Want more art.college.life.? See what we’re posting on facebook, twitter, and pinterest.

Graphic Design Programs

GD USA is an excellent resource for those working in the field of graphic design. In January, the online publication spotlighted their top picks of graphic design students to watch. 29 talented individuals made the list as tomorrow’s trailblazers and game-changers. Their collective contributions and experiences are already quite impressive.

This month GD is following it up with a list of 35 colleges – the ones who’ve nurtured, supported, and guided the previously-listed top students, plus a few more outstanding schools. The list of programs is diverse, including non-profit, for-profit, art and design colleges, and public universities. It provides a clear testament to the wealth of quality graphic design programs across the country.

You may ask what is graphic design, and what career paths will be available to those studying it?

As far as careers go, the sky’s the limit. Graphic design is the sharpest tool in today’s design toolbox, used to communicate ideas and information. Through images and typography, graphic design informs, inspires, and persuades in every field imaginable. Science and technology, healthcare, entertainment, education, business, hospitality, and government all need graphic design to communicate, advise, and guide us.

If graphic design sounds like your teen’s passion, GD’s list is a great place to begin your exploration of “best fit” programs.

You can find more Art.College.Life. news on our Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest pages.