Future Design Careers: What You Need To Know Now

I’ve often heard it said that today’s college students are studying and preparing themselves for jobs that don’t exist yet. Could that really be true?

Technology has changed everything.

The folks at Fast Company interviewed a dozen leaders in the design world to get their take on where we’re heading, and what design careers to plan for. No plan is perfect, but 5 Design Jobs That Won’t Exist In The Future clearly identifies some of the changes future designers should expect.

I asked Tom Gattis, Dean of the School of Design at CCAD for his opinion on how design fits into our continually changing landscape. Clearly, it’s a high priority issue for him. “Reflective of what’s happening in the marketplace, [design] disciplines are changing daily,” he explained. The basic technical skill set of the past is today’s minimal requirement to gain entry. “UX and graphic design are morphing together. Product designers and graphic artists all have to have the breadth of knowledge to work across what used to be discreet disciplines.”

In other words, design fields are simultaneously merging and broadening.

Schools across the country are adapting to meet the needs of industry. They’re integrating their creative disciplines, including more social science and research into the curriculum, exposing students to international cultural norms, and incorporating business basics that today’s employers demand. They’re also providing learning opportunities that extend well beyond the studio and classroom. The skills of “collaboration, professionalism, and networking,” are all important interactions that make for better professionals and employees, stated Tom. Employers are looking for an “amalgamation of skills beyond just being creative,” he added.

The bottom line brings good news: the world is waking up to the problem-solving value that designers bring to the table. Creative opportunities lie ahead!


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Industrial Design: A Different Art Major

By Carla R. Gonzalez

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

Knowing how to guide your creative student can be difficult, particularly if they show an affinity for both the creative and mechanical (robotics, systems and engineering, new technologies), and have an interest in design trends, cars, clothes, or gadgets. All these interests are relevant to Industrial Design. According to the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA) website, “…Industrial Design is the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value, and appearance for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer.” So while a creative student may be hesitant to choose an art-based college or career, it may be worth researching art and design colleges that have programs in Industrial Design or related fields like Product Design, Transportation Design, Toy Design, or even Fashion Accessories Design and Shoe Design.

CCS Product Design student work

CCS Product Design student work

The career possibilities for graduates of such programs are widely varied and can range from designing home and kitchen appliances to cars and motorcycles, athletic gear, fashion and leather goods, watches, bicycles, furniture, and more. The best design students are often those who want to find ways of improving functionality. They understand the positive impact good design can have on user-perception, functionality, and desirability, and they have an interest in consumer trends and marketing. Industrial designers help develop a brand’s physical identity and build customer loyalty through design and user experience.

national endowment for arts 2013Potential design students need to know that not all design majors need to spend years learning to paint. What they will do is develop their ability to draw and communicate visually and to conduct research to develop innovative designs that meet current and future societal needs and wants. Industrial Design programs teach how to design digitally in 3D, design for an audience, create and print 3D prototypes, connect design to user experience, and work collaboratively with craftspeople, advertisers, and graphic designers. Many programs offer career preparation by integrating corporate-sponsored projects with real-world design problems into the studio classroom. They give students the opportunity to get in front of professional designers, adhere to real deadlines, collaborate, and engage in a healthy dose of friendly competition; all essential to understanding how jobs in the design industry really work. Industrial Design students can be assured that there are jobs out there, and that the demand for better, smarter, and more beautiful design won’t likely diminish any time soon.

College for Creative Studies is one of the top Design Schools in the US based on Alumni Success by LinkedIn. Carla R. Gonzalez is the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at College for Creative Studies. She can be reached at cgonzalez@collegeforcreativestudies.edu.

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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.

Cleveland Institute of Art: Small and Mighty

If you’re a basketball fan or looking forward to the next Republican National Convention, you already know that Cleveland has been headlining the news lately. For those unaware, LeBron James and the Republicans have each chosen the city to play an important role in their futures. Art students should consider it as well. I toured the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) early this spring, and can tell you that even on a rainy day the sparkle of this small art college was obvious. The institution is perfectly located among some of the city’s greatest cultural icons and uses them to its advantage. Neighbors like the Cleveland Art Museum, Severance Hall, and the Museum of Contemporary Art act as natural extensions of the CIA campus, offering its 570 undergraduates a lot more than what first meets the eye.

CIA student work

CIA student work

The college’s tag line is “Creativity Matters.” Clearly they take this principle seriously, for it’s at the core of the integrated opportunities available here. Students begin with a typical foundations year. During spring semester they prepare a portfolio and apply to a major. Then the fun really begins! Offerings include a full spectrum of fine art and design majors, each with its own creative possibilities. Consider Industrial Design (ID): CIA ID students have the opportunity to explore real world opportunities with Engineering and Computer Science majors of neighboring Case Western Reserve University (Case). Through Case’s think[box], students from diverse backgrounds come together to design, develop, and potentially commercialize their ideas. This is cross fertilization and creativity at its finest! Not interested in ID, but want to reach beyond your art courses? No problem; all CIA students can take Case classes – up to two per year at no additional cost.

Another blended opportunity is Biomedical Art (Biomed). One of only two undergraduate programs in the country, CIA’s Biomed major combines illustration and digital media with biology, anatomy, and histology. As preparation for future careers in botanical or medical fields Biomed students get up close and personal at the nearby Museum of Natural History and Cleveland Botanical Garden, and observe procedures at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

Biomedical Art senior project: Melissa Logies

Biomedical Art senior project: Melissa Logies

Classes and studio space are pretty equally divided between the Gund and McCullough buildings, about a 10-minute walk from each other. Come fall of 2015 that will change, as a “new Gund” is currently under construction next door to McCullough. Students will benefit from new, roomier studio space and easier access to classes.

Another capital improvement is the Uptown Residence Hall, opening this fall. It’s a freshmen only dorm, of two-bedroom, two-bath suites. The good news: each suite is equipped with full drawing tables. The bad news: having your own bathroom means you get to clean it yourself. Upperclassmen have the benefit of their own studios on campus, so their living quarters don’t have a separate drawing area. The college’s dining plan is hosted at Case, and offers options to include purchases at restaurants and grocery stores in the University Circle neighborhood.

CIA is situated in a thriving, energetic neighborhood, and offers a creative environment for students to study and explore. I’d suggest heading to northern Ohio to explore it for yourself.

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In A Buckeye State of Mind

Student work - Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

Student work – Department of Art 3-D Foundation course

For many, searching for the right college begins with the question “art college or university?” The two choices lead to very different college experiences. And, true confessions here: I attended a state school and came away with an exceptional education. (Thank you, U Dub!) Unfortunately, I don’t live in Washington anymore, but Ohio offers some outstanding opportunities as well.

The Ohio State University (OSU) is one of the largest land-grant, research universities in the country. I thought they only did “big” in Texas, but OSU proves that theory wrong. Think 49,000+ undergraduate students, ½ million alumni, and 175 majors. Those numbers translate into significant opportunities and support for the Departments of Art, Arts Administration, Design, and Art History.

I’ve had the chance to tour both the Art and Design Departments, and I came away impressed. You won’t need a portfolio to gain acceptance into the university. However, you’ll need one for acceptance into one of the 10 majors these two departments provide. With guidance from professors and your foundation classes you’ll create one during freshman year (Design) and your sophomore year (Art) to compete for acceptance into your major of choice.

Industrial Design class

Industrial Design class

The two departments reside in buildings adjacent to each other, providing plenty of opportunity for cross-pollination. Both are competitive to gain entry. Only 80 students are accepted into the Department of Design’s Pre-Design program, which is narrowed down to 54 after freshman year. That equates to 18 new students each year joining one of three majors; Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Visual Communications. The end result is small classes with highly motivated students who graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Design, and excellent career opportunities.

The Department of Art is slightly larger but no less competitive. Students complete five foundation courses before gaining acceptance into the rigorous and challenging program. Those admitted earn a BFA in Art and Technology, Ceramics, Glass, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, or Sculpture in a traditional studio environment. Also available is a Bachelor of Arts in Art, a more general degree for students wanting a career related to the arts.

Internships are highly encouraged, especially following sophomore year when students have more confidence in their skills. Study abroad opportunities are also encouraged, providing the chance to learn from other cultures and gain an international perspective.

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