Within the Discipline
in the 1950s, schools relied on two-year preliminary general
program of studies, allowing the last two years for concentration
in a major. During the 1960s, general interdisciplinary studies
were reduced to one year. To a great extent, because of the
weakness of first year Foundations, most programs relied on
a second year of theoretical studies within the discipline.
So there were still only two years left for practical education
in the major. By moving the first year program into the major,
it is conceivable to add one additional year to practical
studies. However, to be effective there must be restricted
enrollment, ideally two sections, experienced faculty who
share a common educational philosophy and a sound program
of study. This is perhaps the most ideal solution for design
are a few institutions that accept students into the major
in the Freshman year. Perhaps the best known is the School
of Design at Carnegie Mellon University. The School accepts
about forty-five students each year into the Freshman design
program where they are divided into two sections.
the time I was there (1977-1983), the program was divided
into drawing, two- and three-dimensional design, color with
a one hour orientation class. Color sections rotated at the
end of the first semester and all other courses continued.
All instructors were full-time tenured or tenure track faculty.
There was fixed space allocated to the program. The program
was highly effective and added another year to practical studies
in design. I would expect the program has changed by now.
Into the Major
majors conduct a second year of basic studies within the context
of the discipline. It is at this point that screening occurs
and enrollment is limited at many, but certainly not at all,
institutions. The criteria for screening applicants into the
major varies greatly from program to program. Some rely entirely
on SAT scores or class ranking, others on some combination
of portfolios, reviews, testing, and one even requires a four
hundred word essay on why they should be admitted.
programs rely on a relatively open enrollment and selective
retention, and perhaps this is the single most reliable process
for identifying students suitable for the program. The composition
of accepted students is not based on any intrinsic abilities
of students, but rather it is shaped by the values of the
people making the selection. Consequently, a student accepted
into one program might be rejected by another one.
have tried all the above mentioned procedures for evaluating
students and none of them were any more reliable than another.
My best clue as to who would be a good student was to find
work in the portfolio that took a great deal of time and effort
to do. My favorite was a large crow-quill pen and ink drawing.
To find a quantity of work in the portfolio done outside of
school was usually an indication of student commitment.
A short survey was made of twenty eight students in
the current Sophomore Visual Communications class. They had
gone through a multi-section entry level foundations program
in the School of Design At Arizona State University. A rough
approximation is that there were 8 to 10 sections with 20
students in a section. The program was a general foundations
for Industrial, Graphic and Interior Design. It was taught
by a combination of instructors and graduate students from
the three different disciplines.
there is nothing from the survey that can be considered definitive,
it is revealing as to how students perceive their educational
experience in the Freshman year. At the end of the year, roughly
90 students from Foundations applied to the Visual Communications
program and 38 were accepted. They submitted a test and portfolio.
faculty member from Visual Communications assigned to Foundations
was perhaps the most experienced and capable instructor on
the foundations faculty. It is interesting to note that of
the twenty six students from the class surveyed, 57% were
from that teacher's section. Because of the high number of
students from that section, it will be reflected in the overall
percentage of responses to survey questions.
begs the question that in accepting students into the major,
is it possible that students with lesser ability coming from
a strong section might look better than a student with more
ability coming from a weak section?
of the Survey
How would you rate what and how much you learned
in the Foundations program on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being
high? Answers: 1 - 4 (25 %), 5 (7 %), 6-10 (68 %)
Within a multi-section design program, was it your
experience/observation that the educational quality for sections
was: extremely unequal (44 %), reasonably equal (54 %), equal
Where do you feel instructors placed emphasis? Answers:
problem objectives (39 %), what it looked like (32 %), work
done on time (28 %)
What do you feel contributes most to learning? Answers:
program of study
(7 %), quality of teachers (89 %), space/facilities (3 %)
Percentages were not carried out to the decimal point.