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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.