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Choosing the Right Design School

Choosing the Right Design School

Keith O'Brien / CMYK

Preparing Students for an Ever-Changing Industry

What is your design program teaching you?

In the late 1990s, more than a dozen graphic-design experts came together to lay out, once and for all, the difference between what design-education programs offered and what a student needed to learn in order to succeed in the field. As many design educators saw it, such a discussion was long overdue.

Graphic design was evolving. New technology literally had changed the vehicles for communication. Almost anyone with a good computer, access to the Internet and an interest in design now could do with desktop publishing what graphic designers formerly had done only with years of skill development and an office full of equipment. The tools of design, once controlled by professionals, suddenly were free for the taking. And with more four-year universities promoting graphic-design programs and two-year schools opening at every turn, graphic designers of the 1990s sought to make distinctions among the choices.

According to Ric Grefé, executive director of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, it was Meredith Davis, director of North Carolina State University’s College of Design, who proposed creating standards for design education. Grefé agreed. A big believer in education, Grefé didn’t want to see all students prepared in exactly the same way in schools across the country, but he did recognize the need for standards. “The issue is not about the tools,” says Grefé, “but about acquiring the judgment to use those tools effectively. People come in [to the marketplace] with really good technical skills. It’s the judgment.”

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