Management Design Education page 2


Requirements for
a Professional Program in Graphic Design
Effective instruction requires adequate resources and qualified personnel. Student enrollment is restricted to those exhibiting potential to succeed with retention based on performance so that students who complete the program are qualified for professional practice. An educational program in Graphic Design to have credibility is best characterized by the following standards.

There has to be a limit on the number of students enrolled in Graphic Design. This is determined by how many students are required to fill two sections, usually a total of thirty-six to fifty students. The most consistent instruction occurs when the same teacher(s) handle both sections of a course.
Students should be selected for admission to the program by the faculty, and not result from who can register first. With normal attrition, the entering class of no more than thirty-six to fifty each year provides a total number of about one hundred to one hundred and fifteen Graphic Design majors in a three year program. Graphic Design programs should be no larger. In a sound program, attrition over a threeyear period averages 40% to 50%.

Ideally, there should be a student/teacher ratio of 1 to 12 and no more than 1 to 18. This ratio is established by dividing the number of full-time faculty members into the number of students. The variety of educational requirements for Graphic Design dictate the need for more course credits and a larger faculty than are customarily found in most state university liberal arts programs. Four to six instructors is a reasonable number of staff for programs ranging from seventy to one hundred and fifteen students. The faculty is usually supplemented by part-time instructors or visiting lecturers. It is quite common today to have part or fulltime technicians on staff, especially so because of current reliance on computer technology.
Graphic Design is a transdisciplinary educational program requiring instructional expertise in several distinct areas of study. Teacher specialization should cover some combination of basic design which includes color, drawing, two and three dimensional design; letterform design, typography, production, professional practices and marketing; technical training including computers and sometimes photography, film and video. An effective educational program is achieved by hiring individuals with complimentary areas of expertise that combined form a comprehensive educational experience for students.

There should be appointed leadership for the Graphic Design program with a written description of responsibilities. There needs to be someone in charge of the program to plan and coordinate, to keep records, to deal with administration and to speak for the program. It is essential to have procedures for evaluating leadership so that if it becomes ineffectual, it can be promptly replaced. At most state universities and small liberal arts colleges, there is only a Head or Director for the entire Department of Art which includes some combination of foundations, fine arts, crafts, printmaking, photography or other disciplines in addition to design. In this situation, Graphic Design operates without institutionally defined leadership which is detrimental to any professional program.

Majoring in Graphic Design should result from faculty acceptance into the program rather than as a declaration by students. Only Graphic Design majors should be enrolled in classes. Acceptance is based on student application and faculty screening of applicants. I always kept a few openings with more flexible requirements for minority and handicapped students. B.A., B.S., A.T.E. and other elective students should be taught separate from majors. If administration wants elective classes in Graphic Design, then it is their responsibility to make staff, space and resources available to teach Graphic Design for non-majors.

Introductory level classes for Graphic Design should be taught in the Fall semester only. By limiting the number of students, and restricting entry to Fall semester, students are in effect being accepted for the entire program barring failure or withdrawing of their own accord. As a result, the students stay together as a group throughout the program, and my experience has been that this cohesion greatly enhances the educational experience for all students.
Not repeating introductory level classes during the Spring semester frees teachers to offer other courses in Graphic Design without requiring additional faculty. It also discourages students from dropping out for a semester because they would have to wait for an entire year to get back into sequence.

There should be a minimum of forty-five credits or the equivalent in Graphic Design courses to reasonably prepare students for professional practice. Studio classes should be three hours in order to be effective. It is most beneficial to have at least one threehour studio class scheduled three times a week, particularly at the Sophomore and Junior levels. This provides flexibility for teachers to offer more than one course within the same time slot. For example, basic design might be taught for two periods and drawing or color in the third.

State universities make excessive use of multi-purpose space, rotating a variety of classes through a single studio. One exception to this practice is the graduate program, but even graduate students sometimes have to share space. There should be fixed workspace for Seniors. If possible, it is beneficial also to have fixed workspace for Juniors. With assigned workspace, students are more apt to work on projects after hours and on weekends. Each level of students learn from observing work done in the other classes. Even Seniors are responsive to what Sophomores are doing. This creates a situation where students at all levels interact with one another informally as well as during classtime, and they benefit from interaction. Fixed workspace also affords a home base that students identify as their space. Student experiences at state universities tend to be unrelated with courses scattered over campus and unfamiliar teachers and classmates in many classes. This leaves students feeling like transients and disconnected from the institution. Having a fixed area where students can identify, bond and feel secure is stabilizing and promotes productivity. It works best for Graphic Design students if all studios and labs are contiguous, and that there is some combination of fixed and multi-use space.

Most Graphic Design students require a number of tools that are difficult to carry around. With assigned space, including provision for storage, students spend more time at school in the educational environment. Students require open access to technical facilities at school such as photo labs, reprographic copiers, computers, printers, etc. This is best accomplished by labs with adjacent fixed work stations for students.

Resources are defined as space, equipment and operating budgets dedicated to Graphic Design.

State universities tend to centralize technical facilities by university, college or department while art schools and private universities with professional programs allocate facilities to programs which in turn are supplemented by larger centralized laboratories. Graphic Design requires technical workshops with access restricted to majors. This is especially true today because of dependence on computers for instruction and production. It is absolutely essential that Graphic Design have its own computer laboratory with appropriate software and supporting equipment. Other equipment with restricted use might be some combination of reprographic copiers, waxing machines, printers, binders, cutters or trimmers, and sometimes, photo facilities.

Operating budgets for Graphic Design are usually much lower in liberal arts programs than in professional ones. Operating budgets are rarely planned or based on needs. Budgets are more likely to be arbitrarily set by what is available or established by precedent. The prevailing practice is to grant the same amount year after year without regard for any changes that have taken place in costs or program. Most art and design faculty have grown complacent or cynical and do not engage in planning or submitting budgets each year. When there is a need, faculty members go to the Department Head or Dean who control substantial discretionary funds and plead their case. Granting or denying funds is often dependent on personal relationships rather than need. The practice fosters paternalism in place of reasonable assessment or planning. Graphic Design requires a realistic operating budget based on the number of faculty, students and program. Maintenance, replacement and purchase of equipment are high priority concerns. Materials and supplies follow close behind as major items in defining an operating budget.

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