Only a minority of students select a school on
the basis of program quality or choose one that fits their
interests. The majority of students base their application
on what they can afford or what is convenient. Sometimes they
apply only to schools they have heard about, a teacher or
friend has recommended the school, or someone they know attended
that institution. The reasons for picking an institution are
often superficial to educational goals. There is an assumption
by most students that one degree in Graphic Design is as good
as another, and it is of little consequence which school they
attend. This is a dangerous presumption in any form of professional
the years I have interviewed with countless students, and
sometimes parents, about what school they should attend. My
impression is that most students and parents are vulnerable
and they are like sheep going to be fleeced. They do not know
what questions to ask, and what they want to hear from a teacher
is the program at that university is the best one in the country.
questions that prospective students
or parents should ask:
Is enrollment in Graphic Design limited
to a specific number each year?
If enrollment is not limited, it is likely that there are
more majors than can be accommodated at one time and there
will be competition to enroll in required classes. This may
result in students having to spend one to three extra years
getting a BFA degree because of not being able to enroll in
required courses because they are full.
How many credits are required in Graphic Design for
Any number of credits less than thirty-two to forty in the
major is going to be insufficient preparation for a career
in Graphic Design. Ideally, there should be forty to fifty
How many Graphic Design instructors?
Any less that four full-time instructors means there is going
to be a limited curriculum and that the program is inadequately
staffed. A program with less than eighty majors can be effective
with four instructors. An ideal teacher/student ratio should
be about 1:15. There should be inquiry as to how many instructors
are part-time and there should be a reasonable balance between
full-time and part-time teachers.
Are majors taught separately from elective students?
If majors and elective students are taught together, it reduces
the class intensity and the educational experience for majors
will be less.
How many Graphic Design majors in the program?
Are majors determined by student declaration or faculty acceptance?
Any number greater than one hundred and fifteen means that
courses are taught in more than two sections. If different
teachers are instructing in different sections of the same
course, there are inconsistencies which compound as students
progress through the program. The overall educational experience
will probably be less.
Do advanced students have fixed workspace?
Seniors require fixed workspace and it is best if Juniors
can also have designated workstations. Fixed workspace contributes
to the learning environment and it is a significant factor
in student motivation and interaction.
What technical facilities are available and under what
Graphic Design majors require unrestricted access to computers,
xerographic and photographic facilities. Computer literacy
is a mandatory requirement for employment following graduation.
planning a career in Graphic Design and the program cannot
meet or come close to these conditions, applicants should
students are enrolled in a Graphic Design program and do not
have adequate space or technical facilities; if the program
is understaffed or leadership is not working, they should
complain! If the institution offers Graphic Design, they are
obliged to provide a reasonable educational program. Complaints
should be taken to upper administration as teachers and Depart-ment
Heads usually cannot make the necessary changes. The Pro-vost
and President are the appropriate offices to approach. The
conditions should be documented, preferably in writing and
restricted to basic issues. Complaints are more effective
when done through committee rather than by an individual.
Students should be firm and persistent because they are paying
tuition and have the right to demand an adequate education.
Often it is sheer persistence that is most effective in these
within most state university Graphic Design programs include:
one or two person faculties, no appointed leadership, insufficient
number of credits in the major, low performance standards,
inadequate space, budgets and technical facilities. Furthermore,
there are no limitations on student enrollment or screening
of applicants for admission into Graphic Design. The Graphic
Design program is required to accept elective or part-time
students from Fine Art, Art Education or the university at
large. Because of these conditions, educational quality and
student benefits can be expected to be relatively low.
the propensity for bureaucracy to preserve and enlarge, I
do not believe that state universities will undertake drastic
reforms. Art and design students, to a greater extent than
is necessary, will remain victims of state educational systems
for some time to come.