Guest Post: Pratt & Fashion Design

It’s fashion show season at art and design colleges across the country. So what’s it like on the inside? I asked Pratt junior Landry Low to give us her perspective.

DSC_0063 -a close upOne of the biggest benefits to going to school in Brooklyn is the fact that I am in one of the major creative hubs, not just in the United States, but also around the world. We have everything at our fingertips – between our close proximity to the other four boroughs and what is available in our own backyard.

I live on the first floor of a brownstone apartment, a short 15-minute walk down the street from Pratt Institute. My roommate, originally from Barbados, is a communications design major (focusing on graphic design). We walk to school together most days, always commenting on how lucky we are to be in such a beautiful neighborhood with a diverse community, rich with culture. Our campus itself is a sort of oasis in the city – complete with expansive lawns, scattered with a constantly changing collection of sculptures. As an Arizona native, I have a special appreciation for the nature on our campus (as most of the nature I’m used to only comes in shades of brown). Whether its tulips and cherry blossom trees in the spring or the colorful foliage of the changing leaves in the fall, our campus is a showcase for the natural beauty that the East Coast has to offer.

I usually try to get to campus a bit early to eat breakfast on the lawn with my friends and cats (we have 16 cats393634_4324009334870_272715025_n -a that live on campus!). Most of my classes start at 9:30 and each meets once a week for a three-, four-, or six-hour time block (with a lunch break splitting up the 6 hour classes). I typically stack my days so that I have two-to-three classes a day, which opens up the rest of my schedule for work. Through work-study I work as a campus tour guide in admissions and as a shop technician in the metal shop.

My favorite day of the week is Tuesday, as that is when I take my six-hour Shape & Form class (a construction based class that is taught in conjunction with our design class). Every other week during spring semester, our department brings in professional fit models for us to fit looks on from our junior thesis collection. This is in 1000896_10201399309767694_1501697596_n -apreparation for senior year, when we’ll spend both semesters developing, creating, fitting, and presenting a final thesis collection. Our entire class is involved in the process – we take photos, videos, and notes for each other, allowing us all to participate, collaborate, and communicate our ideas not just visually, but verbally as well.

As a junior Fashion Design major, I take a four-hour design studio class (Fashion Design), a six-hour construction class (Shape & Form), as well as another four-hour design class (this semester it’s Cut & Sew Knitwear). DSC_0715 - aAfter that, I am free to apply my remaining credits to two liberals arts classes of my choosing, still leaving room for another elective which I can take from any department in the school. I have taken classes in all different areas including Metal Fabrication, Welding & Forge, Intro to Electronics, Woodworking, Perception and Creativity, and Astronomy. One of the best parts about going to a school like Pratt is that I have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills that allow me to create complex cross-disciplinary work. Not only does my own work improve through the implementation of various skills, but I also find that my work has grown dramatically through the collaborative work that I have done with students in other majors as well as in my abroad studies.

Drop me a line if you’re interested in posting about your favorite college art program.
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Declaring A Major

Untitled by Daniel Well 2011 Foundations Exhibition

Untitled by Daniel Well
MICA 2011 Foundations Exhibition

Back in the day when I was a university student (go dawgs!), we didn’t need to declare a major until the end of sophomore year. That gave us plenty of time to try out different interests. For me, art history preceded textile design.

Expectations are different today; and programs vary. Some colleges require students to declare a major as part of the application process, while others offer a semester or two to decide.

I spoke with representatives from four art colleges and found four different approaches to the “when to declare” question. Foundation courses play an integral part of each methodology, providing students with additional exposure to 2-D, 3-D, 4-D and art history courses. Some colleges also engage freshmen in a choice of studio electives.

The College for Creative Studies (CCS) requires that students select a major with their acceptance into the college. Amy Armand, Director of Recruitment Services, explained that for undecided students “a semester of exploring often puts them a semester behind,” requiring scrambling to catch up. The good news here is that CCS readily provides counseling for the “best fit” for a major, based on each student’s portfolio, goals, and current work. That means you can still change majors once you’re on campus.

Pratt applicants also apply into a specific major. However, the college does accept “undecided” students. According to their website about 15 percent of students apply “undecided” each year. Michael Barry, Admissions Counselor and Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions, explained that some programs are larger than others, causing those who declare their major after starting classes might “get closed out due to space limitations.” An example: the Graphic Design program is larger than the Industrial Design one. If you want to declare ID after you’ve already enrolled, you can do it, but it may cause timing and class sequencing conflicts down the road.

According to Lucy King, Associate Director of Admissions, at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the first semester of freshmen year is pretty intense. It requires hard work in drawing, design and spacial dynamics, giving students experiences to self-discover “what makes sense and comes naturally, what comes as a struggle, and whether or not they enjoy that struggle.” Following that intense semester – in March of their freshmen year – RISD students declare their majors.

MassArt Foundations Class

MassArt Foundations Class

Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) students experience a full year of foundation courses before needing to declare a major. The benefit? “Sometimes students think they know what they want to study, but change their minds,” explained Greg Bartlett, Admissions Assistant and MassArt alum. A year of exposure to multidimensional art and design helps confirm their passions and direction. I didn’t ask Greg, but maybe he knows from his own experience.

There are benefits to each system. By declaring a major at the onset, you’ll be able to jump right in, and immerse yourself at the beginning of your college experience. Conversely, if you’re not 100% sure of your direction, taking a bit of time to decide will expose you to other paths which you might not have previously considered. Also, keep in mind that each institution is unique, and has sound reasons for their curriculum structure. I don’t know that one philosophy is better than another; it’s what works best for you. My suggestion is to add this to your list of decision factors as you research your options.

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Graphic Design Programs To Consider

clif bar logoGraphic design impacts our lives on a daily basis. You might even call it the daily deluge. It’s a part Facebook and the morning trip to Starbucks, the billboards and ads for the local restaurant or hospital that we absorb on the way to school or work, that afternoon Clif Bar or CocaCola, the FedEx or Amazon package that arrives on our doorsteps, and the movie and TV credits that introduce us to our late-night entertainment. It sets a mood and entices us to try something new.

 Prospective graphic design students have a wealth of college and university programs to choose from across the country. Degrees come in a variety of shapes and sizes, at art colleges, liberal arts colleges, and large research universities. Program titles vary as well, and are not always straightforward. Communication Design, Visual Communications, and Design and Technology are just a few of the programs I found.

amazon-logoSo how do you differentiate between programs and institutions? One tool at your disposal is Graphic Design USA’s 50th anniversary survey about the industry. Just out in October, it’s a good resource for identifying top graphic design colleges. Even better, it also delves into the most influential graphic design firms in the country, as well as favorite graphics projects and logos over the past 50 years. Basically it’s a ton of graphics fun!

 The magazine surveyed 10,000 working design professionals to get their results. Some of the choices aren’t very surprising, but I like the range, from art colleges to some of the country’s top comprehensive institutions. Here are the top 10. I hope you’ll seriously consider the full list as well.

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

Art Center College of Design

Parsons The New School for Design

Pratt Institute

Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Yale School of Art

California College of the Arts (CCA)

SCAD Savannah College of Art and Design

Want more information? I blogged about Graphic Design last year as well; I hope you’ll take a look.

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Location, Location, Location

LA palm treesWhere you attend college can have a huge impact on your education.  Are you looking for a small town or urban environment?  Want to be close to mom and dad, or far from them – on the other side of the country.  Wherever you choose to attend school will affect your experience.

But think farther down the road.  Where will you live as a productive artist after graduation?  That’s a tougher question to answer – but one to keep in mind as well.  Whether you find work after receiving a Bachelor’s degree or after completing a Master’s, if art is your world I’d suggest considering schools in the two biggest artistic scenes in the country; namely Los Angeles and New York City.

Connecting with your local art scene is a road to a broader perspective through show opportunities, contacts with other artists and prospective business resources, and just exposure to stuff going on.  You’ll gain from engaging with any city’s art’s community.  However, because of the size and diversity of LA and NYC, you’ll be ahead of the curve if you pursue your BFA or MFA in one of them.

Want to find out more?  Here are a few sources I enjoy to find out what’s going on:

Bill Bush and others post weekly as part of The Huffington Post’s Los Angeles Art Scene coverage.  LA Confidential focuses on the city’s changing art dynamic.  And the Los Angeles Times covers it all – including Hollywood.

For New York, keep up with New York Magazine’s art section, look into the blog NYC Art Scene for interesting exhibits and events taking place in the city, and don’t miss the New York Times Arts Beat blog.

NY taxicabsIn both cities you’ll find large and small programs to suit your needs.  Pratt, UCLA, California Institute of the Arts, and NYU are just the first that come to mind.  Then comes the easy part (ha!).  Do you prefer sunshine and beaches or Broadway and Times Square?

Summer Programs

English: The Art Academy of Cincinnati, locate...

The Art Academy of Cincinnati
(photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer  is a great time to relax, soak up some rays, and hang out with friends.  It’s also a great time to expand your artistic horizons through a pre-college summer institute or local art class.  Here’s a chance to hone your existing skills or test the waters to find out if art is the right path for you.  You’ll experiment with new media, build your portfolio, and make friends with the same focused interests.

Numerous summer programs exist across the country as commuter classes and residential institutes.  If you can afford it I’d suggest a residential institute at a school you’d like to attend.  Some offer credit, or even waive the portfolio requirement when you apply for their college program.

Residential institutes typically last from one to six weeks, and they give you the opportunity to live on campus and begin to get a taste for real college life.

While you’re searching, don’t forget to consider state schools, and those in your own backyard.  Classes near home could save you money and still introduce you to the world of college art.

Here’s a list to get you started:

OTIS, Los Angeles, California

California College of the Arts, San Francisco, California

Art Academy of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio

School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Pratt, Brooklyn, New York

and of course…

Paris College of Art, Paris, France