More Tools You Can Use

Cooper-Union

Cooper-Union

Finding the best art college fit requires research. That’s obvious. But often times it’s difficult to know what information you’re searching for. And then there’s the challenge of knowing where to find the answers. That’s where Art.College.Life. comes in. I love exploring and examining what each college has to offer, and then sharing it with you.

In my searching I’ve found that more and more colleges are beginning to list their complete course catalogs online. The benefits to parents and prospective students are simultaneously simple and significant. They provide the opportunity to explore an area of study before you actually explore an area of study – if you know what I mean.

Each college has a different set-up and some provide more extensive information than others, but the basic material is the same: an overview of what is actively taught in each class, the number of credits earned, and any required prerequisites.

University of the Arts

University of the Arts

The chance to peek across the threshold before you actually step there is often tempting, and in this case it’s informative. Students can gain a better understanding of what they’ll accomplish in each major and each course. If a subject matter isn’t enticing for you, here’s a way to know what to expect ahead of time. Or maybe it’s a subject to steer clear of, meaning you might need to consider a different major. Providing a more detailed view of what’s to come creates opportunity for clearer understanding and better planning. A great tool when you’re trying to find the best fit in a college art program.

Here’s an example of some of the course curricula available online:

Cleveland Institute of Art

Maryland Institute College of Art

Massachusetts College of Art & Design

School of Visual Arts (ex: Film & Video)

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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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Good Things Come In Small Packages

450px-Art-Academy-of-CincinnatiThe Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC) is a sweet gem tucked into the burgeoning Over-the-Rhine district of Cincinnati. I got the chance to visit in late spring, right after classes ended for the semester. But even then, the creative vibe of the school was still readily apparent. Amy Scarpello, a 2010 sculpture graduate of the school, was my tour guide.

The college moved to its current location in this trendy neighborhood in 2005. The campus core is comprised of two renovated warehouses, united by a light-filled stairway. A LEED-certified green building; it oozes creativity and culture in an urban environment.

AAC prides itself on its petite size and intimate, interdisciplinary education. According to Amy, the small student body of only 220 students makes it easy to build lasting personal relationships with peers and professors alike. Typical studio classes have 15 students and academic classes have around 18. Upper level courses are even smaller.

A 1:2:1 structure provides the core of the college’s curriculum. Year one unites freshmen as they take all foundation coursework together. A fine artist and a designer team teach the first studio course, exposing students to varying perspectives and disciplines from the get-go.

Limestone slabs in the printmaking studio

Limestone slabs in the printmaking studio

Years two and three afford opportunities to explore different media, dive deeply into a major, and gain proficiency. However, the emphasis is still on interdisciplinary learning. Students are required to take five studio courses within their major and seven outside of their major, providing them with the tools to express themselves across a multitude of visual languages, and from a variety of different vantage points.

Year four brings everyone back together again for seminar coursework, with the first semester taught by a fine artist and the second taught by a designer. Liberal arts classes are sprinkled throughout the program, with writing as a constant throughout.

Major areas of study include art history, drawing, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture (including ceramics), and visual communication design. Beginning this fall the school will add new classes in animation and film video.

One of the unique features about AAC is its plethora of off-campus experiences. In addition to internships – which are required for all students – the college provides access to art schools across the country and abroad. The New York Studio Residency Program gives selected students the chance to study at the School of Visual Arts for a studio-intense semester, and the AICAD Mobility Program offers the opportunity to learn at another AICAD school. The cost for either of these programs is a real bargain, as tuition is the same as attending AAC for the term. The college does not have its own study abroad program, but does help students connect to a qualified one outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, AAC scholarships are not applicable for outside programs.

Campus culture is all about engaging students – in creating art and with each other – from the beginning of their four years to graduation. One of the cool facts I learned about the school is that freshmen orientation purposely takes place on Final Friday when gallery shows are up throughout the neighborhood.  While walking around, freshmen get a chance to mingle with other students, orient themselves to a new community, and see their futures.

Tools You Can Use

English: The main building of the School of Vi...

School of Visual Arts, New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new website exclusively devoted to college graduation rates.  College Completion, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is designed to provide comparative graduation results for institutions across the country.  Since I seldom find national rankings and listings that let me easily compare art schools, I was delighted to stumble across this site.

Organizationally, the site sorts schools as public, private, community colleges or for-profit institutions.  Data for individual institutions breaks out graduation rates by ethnicity and gender, identifies estimated spending per pupil, and also compares graduation rates, median SAT scores and student aid with a list of peer institutions.

The hiccups for those seeking information about art programs are two-fold.  First, if your intent is to include public schools in your comparison, you won’t be able to do it accurately here.  This site compares campuses as a whole.  The University of Michigan School of Art & Design is not broken out from general U of M statistics.  You’ll have to do that comparison manually, on your own.

The second hiccup is the site’s natural list of peer institutions.  It lists Monroe College and DeVry as top peers for The School of Visual Arts (SVA).  All three are private and for-profit institutions, but only SVA is known for its art program.  Also, the site doesn’t recognize all art schools; I couldn’t find Parsons.

Now comes the good news: the site does provide a custom field for comparing schools of your choice.  It took a little work to get my comparisons, but the process was pretty straight-forward.  I created a graph of six art schools in California.   Tools you can use - comparative chart - 6 california schools -lgThe result illustrates graduation rates for a 6-year and a 4-year period, the overall percentage of students who graduate, school spending per student, financial aid per student, and the percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.  A very useful tool if you’re intention is an art school in California.

Why

So why should you care about graduation rates?  The bottom line answer is finances – the college’s and yours.  High graduation rates speak to the support you’ll feel as a student – academically, financially and in your private life.  Plus, they have a direct relation to your economic success.  College graduates are more likely to obtain a higher paying job and have financial security.  That bodes well for the community as a whole and for the future of the institution, since alumni usually support their alma mater in one way or another.   Knowing that art students frequently take longer than the traditional four years to graduate, the four and six year rates provide added information for budgetary planning.

Where To Find The Next Generation Of Designers

Wallpaper Graduate Directory

If you haven’t caught it yet – it’s not too late.  Available December 13, 2012, Wallpaper* Magazine posted their most recent Graduate Directory online, highlighting top new design talent across the globe.  Besides ogling over the incredible creativity out there I was interested to see the schools these talented folks attended.  The results are impressive and a bit surprising.  The well-known standard-bearers are there along with those I didn’t expect to see with this crowd.  Clearly I need to broaden my horizon; I’m guessing others will too.

Initially launched in 1996, with the website added in 2004, Wallpaper* is based in the United Kingdom.  For many it’s a leading source of contemporary design, interiors, fashion, art and lifestyle activities around the world.  For those interested in a career in the world of design, it’s a knowledgeable and inspirational resource.

The Graduate Directory highlights “the next generation” of designers.  I suggest taking a close look.  The issue covers prospective up-and-comers in architecture, design, fashion, jewelry, packaging, photography, transport, travel and visual communication.  It showcases top talent about to enter the workforce in each field, and gives you a sneak peek into their talents.  The international list of schools provides a global view of program opportunities and includes a diverse group in the U.S.

A sampling of schools with noted students are listed below, with the area of design called out as well.

International schools

Royal College of Art, United Kingdom (design, transport)
ECAL, Switzerland (design, visual communication)
Guangzhou Academy Of Fine Arts, China (transport)
Moholy-Nagy University Of Art And Design, Hungary (packaging)
Beckmans College of Design, Sweden (design)
Royal Academy of Art, The Netherlands (photography)
Strelka Institute Of Media, Architecture And Design, Russia (architecture)
Institute for Fashion Design, Switzerland (fashion)
Shenkar College Of Engineering And Design, Israel (packaging)
Tama Art University, Japan (design)
ESAD Reims, France (design)
NBU, Bulgaria (packaging)

American schools

Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (architecture)
Cooper Union, NYC (architecture)
RISD, Providence, RI (design)
School of Visual Arts, NYC (packaging, visual communication)
Yale, New Haven, CT (photography)
Art Center College Of Design, Pasadena, CA (visual communication)
Parsons School of Design, NYC (design, photography)
Brigham Young University, Provo, UT (packaging)
Washington University, St. Louis, MO (architecture)

So, what does this say about US design students?  Well for one thing, we’re playing in the same league as the best in the world.  Our educational institutions are providing students with the skills and tools to successfully compete with leading contemporary designers across the globe.  Also of importance are the variety of outstanding design programs in the U.S. from which students can achieve their goals.