Michigan Proud

In Ohio, it’s known as that “school up north.” You know, the one that shall not be named. Blame it on superstition and a decades-old rivalry.

Stamps logoThe reality is that the University of Michigan (UofM) deserves more than just a mention. It’s one of the best higher education institutions in the country. An outstanding comprehensive public research university, it is always near the top in comparative college rankings. It has a unique visual arts program, provides a global focus, an active student life, and is set in a charming college-town, in a beautiful part of the country. Oh yeah, and they have this Big 10 football team.

UofM is a big place: 27,000 undergraduate students big. All that prestige and size provide excellent resources for the intimate Penny Stamps School of Art & Design (Stamps); 550 undergraduates intimate.

Lithography demonstration

Lithography demonstration

Stamps students earn a BFA or a BA in art and design, not in any individual area. The school’s interdisciplinary approach is based in the studio and is designed to educate students across mediums, preparing them for careers that will require knowledge across disciplines. Stamps exposes them to the bridges between those mediums and gives them the freedom to shift their focus along the way.

Another distinguishing feature is the university’s dedication to creating citizens of the world. Program requirements include time spent studying abroad and a semester engaging with communities other than their own. The latter can manifest itself in a number of ways including teaching art to elementary school children in Detroit, working with veterans or working with chronically ill individuals.

The school maintains a strong focus on careers as well, engaging every freshman from the first semester through senior year. Support services help with resume building, interview skills, internship guidance and more, all while communicating that a successful career is each individual’s responsibility.

Students inspired to learn something new should apply. Stamps is seeking independent thinkers who are open to new ideas and ready to integrate their expanding view of the world into their creative futures. If that’s your son or daughter, I highly suggest you give this school a good, long look.

College Tour: Art Center College of Design

In early April, I toured the Art Center College of Design in California. Set in a single modernist Ellwood-designed building that spans a ravine in the hills of Pasadena, the aptly named Hillside Campus is a visual study in contrasts. Harsh steel and glass are surrounded by eucalyptus trees and fragrant sweet jasmine.

Art Center walkway 2

Ellwood Building Walkway

It’s difficult to gain acceptance into this selective school, often ranked at the top of many college search lists. The reward for getting in is hard work and readiness for the real world.

As one admissions representative said, “you’ll never work as hard in industry as you do here.” Kit Baron, Senior Vice President of Admissions explained the reasoning behind the schools demanding curriculum and structure, tying it to the college’s core mission. Art Center “was founded not as an atelier but for industry, to listen to what client’s want,” she said. Translation: the school educates and helps students transition into the job world.

An example of the school’s strength is their Transportation Design program, which is constantly ranked #1 internationally. That stellar rating is reflected in the fact that every major automotive manufacturer has had an Art Center alum as a design chief or leader. Think about that; every major automotive manufacturer.

Class time

Beyond transportation, Art Center has 10 other undergraduate programs leading to BFA or BS degrees. Students are guided and challenged by approximately 400 faculty members, most of whom are also working artists. Classes are taught on the semester – or term – system, with three terms per year. A completed degree is based on eight terms, which means that students can graduate in fewer than three years. Most don’t though, typically taking 4–6 years to complete their education. There is no foundation year here, meaning students must be focused when they begin, but they’ll get to spend more time dedicated to their majors.

The smartly and strategically structured Illustration Department is the largest on campus. Five tracks exist within the department, directing students towards entertainment arts, motion, design, fine arts, or surface design. Each has a unique focus, requiring a different set of skills to work in their respective industries.

One of the hottest new majors trending across the country right now is Interaction Design, and Art Center has it. New due to our tech-focused world, it’s the study of apps and interfaces.

model shop projects 2

End-of-year model shop projects

Beyond the Ellwood building and adjacent Sinclair Pavilion for relaxation, there isn’t much else to this campus, reinforcing the focus on creating art. Students live down the hill, in off-campus apartments. A short drive away is South Campus, where Fine Art and Illustration students study, alongside graduate and community programs. The school’s long-range plan includes building dorms there in three years.

Art Center is not for the indecisive or inexperienced. Applicants already have a defined proficiency and a sense of direction. Prospective students apply directly into a major. The college accepts students on a rolling basis with just a few admissions deadlines.

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Is Fashion Your Passion?

Display at The Fashion School Store

Display at The Fashion School Store

Fall is in the air. And so is fashion. Just as my fall sweaters are beginning to scream for attention, Marc Jacobs, Alexander Wang, and Michael Kors are parading their Spring/Summer 2015 designs at New York Fashion Week. Even Serena Williams is in this game. What’s a girl to do?

If fashion is your design passion you have a lot of top college programs to consider. Make sure The Fashion School (FS) at Kent State University is one of them. Located in northeastern Ohio, it’s consistently ranked among the best fashion programs in the country. In 2013 Fashionista.com called it “one of the top American fashion schools [that] keeps getting better.” And the esteemed Council of Fashion Designers of America ranked it in the top ten.

The program offers a BA or BFA in Fashion Design alongside a BS in Fashion Merchandising. And, if you’ve got your eye on an advanced degree and the business world, consider combining your BS with an MBA. This new, five-year program offers graduate level coursework in fashion theory, design management, and fashion research methods from the university’s College of Business. What a great way to launch a career…

When I sat down with J.R. Campbell, Professor and Fashion School Director, he said the school’s success and popularity have them bursting at the seams (no pun intended!). Since their founding in 1983 they’ve grown to a student population of over 1500.

Kent St fashion design school (7) chalk boardWhy so popular? Kent State offers the benefits of a focused, stellar program in a state university setting. That translates into acquiring the skills you’ll need to succeed in a down-to-earth environment. Students gain conceptual, technical, and production design knowledge as well as the problem-solving capabilities required to be successful in today’s fast-paced design industry. Resources are abundant, and include:

An extensive library collection of fashion, historic costume, painting, and decorative arts;

The Fashion School Store in downtown Kent, which sells clothing designed by Fashion School faculty and alumni, creating the opportunity for direct customer feedback in a live retail environment;

A satellite campus in the heart of it all, New York City’s Garment District, with studio and study space for 120 Fashion School students each year; and

Graduates with a high degree of confidence and a reputation for job placement over 90%.

What type of student will succeed at the Fashion School? According to Campbell, “motivated, focused, driven, passionate, and willing to work hard.” So, what are you waiting for?

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Which Animation Program Is Best For You?

Does location matter?animation - bart simpson

In this case it might. The 2014 list of top Animation college programs is out from Animation Career Review (ANC). Coming as no surprise, those at the top of the list represent some of the best art and design colleges in the country. And, three of the top five are in California. Why, you may ask? The answer is Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks.

For many designers and fine artists, college location may not play a significant role in your future career. Companies recruit graduates from across town and around the globe today, so students have flexibility. However, as you narrow down your college search, considering proximity to future jobs isn’t a bad idea either. Studying and learning in a geographic environment with accessibility to numerous professionals working in your field will provide added value. Having a high concentration of internships, networking opportunities and potential jobs in your backyard can only prove beneficial to your future.

animation - disneys frozen2ANC’s top five programs include:

Cal Arts
USC
SCAD
RISD
UCLA

I have to add that while researching this topic further I found a 2013 ranking of top employers by Fortune Magazine. To my knowledge, Fortune hasn’t published a 2014 ranking yet, but I thought this was worthwhile to share, especially since it highlights Dreamworks Animation studio.

 

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3 Resources Close To Home

colored pastels 2It starts in high school, or even middle school; that panicky feeling parents get as they consider their teen’s future. What college will my child attend? What will she study? What type of career can it lead to? And – here’s where the panic kicks in – how do I help him find the right place?

When my kids were beginning high school I felt like I needed to know all the answers to these questions, and more. Truth-be-told, I didn’t know where to start, and didn’t know which questions would help move me forward instead of just adding to the panic.

With that in mind, here are three places you can begin your own research. They’re simple, easily accessible, and right under your nose.

1. High School Counselor

These tireless advisors are true advocates for your children. Given the responsibility of guiding students through high school, they offer the ultimate in academic, personal, and developmental support. Traditionally they work with each student for four years, which gives them the chance to truly know your child and help with the transition to college. They’ll offer specific college suggestions based on your child’s strengths and interests, provide advice on grade point averages and standardized tests, and assist with the quagmire that is today’s application process.

2. High School Art Teacher

Your high school art teachers are tour guides for your child’s artistic exploration. They introduce students to the basic principles of art and design, and expand their comprehension of the subject by engaging students with a diverse variety of artistic styles, artists, and media. As up close observers they’ll assess your child’s artistic skills, guide for strengths, and make suggestions in the form of medium, career, and even school choices.

3. Neighbors

If you have children in high school then I’m guessing you have friends or neighbors with college age children as well. Although they haven’t walked in your exact shoes, they’ve been down this road before and should be a wealth of information. They can make recommendations based their own experiences and offer up personal tidbits that you might not have heard of otherwise. Most importantly – for that panicky feeling – they’ve survived the process, and lived to talk about it.

As a parent, you’re the one with the front row seat to your child’s artistic strengths and passions. If you want to know how you can guide them to the best college fit, start talking. Even asking “where do I begin?” or “how did you begin?” will get you going. After you’ve started these conversations I’d suggest you start checking out some colleges, but we can talk about that next week.

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