Reactions by Upper Level Instructors to Structured Basic Design
Assignments are too limited, rigid and look like
what was done last year.
is viewed as being too technical; and drawing exercises
such as ellipses or that which is descriptive of structure
are too mechanical.
structured Basic Design program is a rehash of Bauhaus with
an inference that it is outdated and irrelevant.
students education does not really begin until they
are enrolled in the major.
Basic Design programs stifle creativity and there is insufficient
opportunity for individual expression.
My experience and observations tell me that a majority
of American students are responsive to the challenge of a
demanding educational program if they believe it will benefit
them. This is particularly true for mature and serious students.
Most students who survive a strong Basic Design program do
well over the balance of their education, and a high percentage
of them are working professionally five and ten years after
graduation. This is not the case with students from weak introductory
a few instances, Graphic Design has done a more credible job
with Basic Design than any other discipline. Within the best
Graphic Design programs, Basic Design is better understood,
there are less students, the program is focused and basic
tenets are reinforced throughout the entire educational experience.
state of visual education in American educational institutions
has regressed to levels that are both tragic and pathetic.
It is highly doubtful that there are more than five to ten
creditable programs in Basic Design throughout the entire
country at this time. And the majority of these are internal
to Graphic Design programs. The roots for the dissolution
of visual education in this country are found mainly in universities.
the short term, perhaps the best step toward improving visual
education would be to separate service courses from programs
in the majors. Use the general introductory program as a service
course for the university. Allow students to enroll in the
major the first year, and hope for the best. Each discipline,
or division of disciplines, would be responsible for an introductory
program. This would require additional faculty lines, space
longer range solution would be to draw up a plan for a credible
professional education for artists. Institutional policies
as they pertain to visual education would also have to be
redefined. The plan would be implemented in incremental steps,
over a period of years. My experience of working with art
faculty on committees leads me to believe that the plan should
be formulated by a small, select group of outside consultants.
It makes no sense for the people who are the problem to be
the ones to recommend a solution.
approach would be to establish a separate, elitist professional
program in addition to the existing one. The new program would
incorporate the most desirable and favorable concepts leading
to an effective visual education. The current program would
retain its liberal arts emphasis and provide service courses
for the university. Over a period of time, faculty lines and
resources would gradually be transferred over to the professional
programs, and eventually, it would become the program.
Some of the contributing
factors have been
Putting visual arts into the liberal arts context rather
than treating it as a professional program. Administration
funding programs on the basis of enrollment numbers rather
Open admissions where students enroll in classes based on
their place in line at registration rather than on individual
Accept too many students into the department in relationship
to budget, faculty lines, facilities and space. Unlimited
enrollment simply does not work in visual education.
Lumping elective students with majors in studio classes. Reduction,
if not actual elimination, of student performance standards.
In many respects, grading has become meaningless at the worst,
and inconsistent at the best as many teachers in Art give
every student an A or B.
Many universities do not allow minuses or pluses in the grading
system seriously restricting the distinctions that can be
conveyed to students regarding performance.
The university policy of repeating basic courses in the Spring
semester. This detracts from the education of students enrolling
in beginning courses during the Fall semester as teachers
must repeat rather than teach new courses during the second
The policy of repeating courses every semester encourages
students to drop in and out of the program at will which interrupts
the educational sequence and extends the period of time in
school. Both of these factors are detrimental to the best
interests of students.
Over reliance on graduate assistants for teachers.
On most university campuses, art history has become irrelevant
to studio arts. Much less credits in art history courses should
be required, and they should be part of the humanities requirements.
Art and design history work best when taught in conjunction
with studio courses.
Excessive use of multipurpose classrooms without sufficient
dedicated space for individual student workstations.
Organizational structures where there is no appointed leadership
for each discipline.
Equal Opportunity Employment with institutional quotas for
women and minorities that often inhibit hiring the most qualified
Too many graduates of weak university visual art programs
going on to teach at other universities compounding an already
Art schools hiring university graduates to gain academic respectability,
and in the process corrupting professional programs traditionally
associated with independent schools of art.
University regents or trustees putting substantial funds into
performing arts centers and museums rather than into instruction
in the arts.
Administration putting pressures on individual teachers for
professional accomplishment or research ahead of teaching
and educational quality.
Student evaluation of teachers and the merit system are also
contributing factors. The problems are not with the demands,
but in how administrators choose to define and use them.
Tenure is definitely a problem for fields such as art
and design. A teachers sense of security should be grounded
in abilities and self-confidence rather than an artificial
security such as tenure. Programs in art and design require
a flexibility that is seldom possible within a tenure system.
The problems for visual education today are so severe and
institutional practices and policies so ingrained, it is doubtful
that change can take place. There are few if any sources for
teachers that understand visual education even if institutions
wanted to reform programs, practices and policies.