Origins Yale Years page 4


Within the graphic art studio, there was a great deal of interaction between undergraduate and graduate students. Combining undergraduate with graduate students and holding critiques in the studio opened up all critiques and discussions to all students. Admission policies permitted individuals to be accepted into the program who had not previously taken art or design. The main criteria was that they were bright, motivated and knowledgeable in their field. Albers’ correspondence with Lustig during the first year suggests that at the time, most if not all the students were from fine arts. I recall that my class for fall of 1953 included four students who came from unaccredited art schools (three advertising design majors and one printmaker), one from a technical school (photography), one was a pre-med student at Amherst who took the Yale summer program and changed school and major, one had a journalism background with no art or design experience, the others I do not remember. According to Dean Sawyer, upper administration at Yale was never enthusiastic about his admissions policies for graduate students in the Division of the Arts. Administration continually questioned the academic credibility of students accepted into professional programs.

During the early years, Dean Sawyer on several occasions accepted students directly into art programs. While serving as an Examiner for the Honors College at Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut during 1949, Sawyer was so impressed with Norman Ives that he immediately invited him into the Yale program. Sawyer accepted me from the Minneapolis School of Art while on a lecture tour through the Midwest during 1953.

Dean Sawyer was a close friend of Dana Vaughn, Dean, and Ray Dowdin, Chairman of Art at Cooper Union. The three men believed an alliance to be in their common interest. Particularly so because Cooper Union enrolled many talented students from the New York High School of Music and the Arts. At a later date, Ray Dowdin was to direct the Yale Summer Program.

It was the mid to late 1960s before graduates from graphic design programs regularly applied at Yale. It is my impression that as time went on, policies for acceptance into Graphic Design changed. More minority and foreign students were accepted, and almost without exception, each applicant had an undergraduate degree in Graphic Design. The earlier strategy for admissions into Graphic Arts at Yale had been to create an environment that would nurture Graphic Designers without predicting which students would eventually develop into designers. I think the policy of accepting talented students from a variety of disciplines was lost over a period of years, and in my opinion, it took something very vital away from the overall program.

As the reputation of the Graphic Arts program grew, so did the number of applicants. By the mid sixties and afterwards, this number swelled to several hundred each year. It is a credit to the program and Yale University that no matter how many applicants, the number of students accepted did not change, and the evaluation and interview of applicants remained scrupulous.

The prestige and resources of Yale University itself were powerful forces in shaping and enriching the design program. Yale University attracted the best teachers, critics and students. The reputation of Yale added considerable luster to the credentials of graduates when they sought employment. The prestige of Yale University induced industry to provide corporate support and become involved with its Graphic Design program.

The success of the program also reflects the strength of leadership and vision in the Dean’s office at the time that art at Yale University was being redefined and new programs adopted. It is my impression that support for Dean Sawyer by higher administration cooled within the space of just a few years. Dean Sawyer was soon replaced by Boyd Smith from drama as an Interim or Acting Dean. He remained in office until 1958 when Gibson Danes was hired as Dean. However, momentum from the first few years of the new programs conceived by Dean Sawyer continued for a decade and more.

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