Career Guide

Being a designer?

There are probably as many kinds of designers as there are kinds of design, so how do you know whether a career in design might be right for you? First, you might take a look at the clusters of characteristics often shared by designers and see if you find yourself reflected there. Begin with the three most common traits designers share: interest in the visual world, curiosity about communication in all its forms and creativity. Continue reading

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Career Guide

What you need to know

Designers need to master a wide variety of skills and concepts. What follows is an overview of the nine categories of investigation you can find in most design programs. Not every category is taught in every undergraduate curriculum—the time is just too short. Each program emphasizes certain subjects and teaches others more broadly.

Designers at work shows different ways to practice graphic design and serves as a counterpoint to this overview of education. A practitioner does not develop expertise in all aspects of design but selects a special area of interest in a particular kind of communication problem. One designer may love print media and therefore prefer magazine or book design. Another may have a great interest in type design or want to design exhibits. Design education is a preparation for practice, so if a certain kind of design appeals to you, think about what kind of learning supports it. Flip back and forth between this section and Designers at work as you consider how your education can prepare you for a particular kind of design practice. Continue reading

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Career Guide

Design programs

There are hundreds of design programs in the United States, and their content and philosophies vary widely. This gives you a lot of options, but is also means that identifying the particular programs best suited to your needs and interests can be difficult. The following information can help you understand and compare your options.

Graphic design programs are found in a number of different kinds of institutions and in different areas within these institutions. You need to look carefully at each program; its curriculum, the ratio of hands-on design work to academic classes in design or other disciplines, and the type of degree awarded. You also need to assess your short-term and long-term objectives, the kind of college experience you want, and the kinds of career opportunities available after graduation. Continue reading

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Career Guide

Select a design school

How can you find the design program that’s right for you? There’s no easy answer to this question, but there’s bound to be more than one school that will suit your needs. To find them, you will need to ask many questions and to gather facts and impressions concerning curriculum, faculty, facilities, and student body. What you are ultimately searching for is a match beween your interests and abilities and the character and opportunitites provided by a particular school.

Begin by examining the subjects you will be studying–the curriculum. Review the entire curriculum of the graphic design program, course by course, including a short description of each course. What is the philosophy of the program? Does the curriculum support it? Do the philosophy and course offerings match your career intentions? What types of courses make up the major emphasis? Do the courses support the description of the major? Does the curriculum allow you a choice of electives? Can you have a minor or a double major if you choose? Who teaches the freshman courses: full-time faculty or graduate students? These freshman courses are among the most important ones you will take because they set the stage for your future development. They should be taught by the most qualified faculty. The curriculum is like a skeleton. In order to function, it should be more than a loose collection of unconnected bones, or unrelated courses. Continue reading

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Career Guide

Inside a design school?

Design education doesn’t happen in the typical university lecture hall or laboratory. It takes place in studios (literally, places for work) and through seminars (organized discussions characterized by informality and high interaction). Learning takes place through the analysis of problems and possible solutions using composition, typography, photography, images, and space. Students use materials and processes from basic hand skills to computers to create communications.

Another difference is that design education is project-based rather than subject-based. Teachers create projects to reveal certain visual or communication principles or the nature of certain kinds of problems or media. Students learn by doing. From early to late in the curriculum, projects become more complex as students build on past experience. From the university’s perspective, design education is expensive because it requires that teachers spend time with students individually. No student is anonymous in a design program. Continue reading

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