It takes work to become a famous artist or designer. In fact, it takes work just to become a mediocre one. But it is worth it. For those of you thinking about pursuing a career in art and design – or picking up some specific skills – there are multiple paths you can choose. The bloggers here at Design: A Beginner’s Handbook have years of teaching experience and we know that different people thrive in different situations. Whatever your personal circumstances you should be able to find a positive educational pathway if you spend a little time investigating your options.
Here are five different sources for art and design instruction. Any one of them might be right for you. Combining several might be your best choice.
1. Independent art/design schools
2. Art/Design departments affiliated with colleges and universities
3. Two-year community colleges
4. Classes offered by adult education programs
5. Tutorials and self-guided instruction in books, magazines and websites
Lets look more closely at each of those options. We will explore a different one in separate blog posts over the next few weeks.
Independent degree-granting art/design schools are almost always privately operated, small to medium-size institutions focused on teaching visual art and design. Some of these schools offer a wide variety of courses but most of them focus on – or have a reputation for – a few strong programs. For example they might be known for traditional painting, product design, illustration, fashion design or ceramics, etc. Before you choose to apply to an independent art school it would be wise to see if their specialties line up generally with what you want. Keep an open mind about this because you are sure to discover new areas of interest as you learn more about the field. In other words, make sure your interests are covered but be flexible about other areas where the school might also be strong.
Independent art schools are often located in or near larger cities where they can hire practicing artists and designers to teach many of their classes. This connection with active professionals is one of the major strengths an art school has to offer. Some independent art schools also have long term relationships with large, nationally known businesses and can offer internships working on significant commercial projects. These relationships with established business can help provide job placement possibilities after graduation.
You can generally assume that an independent art school will have rigorous expectations and that the competition from other students will be intense. High standards and hard work during your school years will pay off later when you enter the real world marketplace.
If you are interested in a particular independent art school spend some time exploring their website. Does it seem like a natural fit for your interests? Are you impressed by the examples of faculty and student artwork you see there? Are there famous artists/designers who are graduates of the school? How long will it take for you to finish a program and get a degree? How much does it cost and do they offer financial aid?
Here are some links to established art and design programs. The list is not exhaustive but does cover many of the major undergraduate schools in the United States.
Art Center College of Design – Pasadena, California
California College of the Arts – San Francisco, California
California Institute of the Arts – Valencia, California (outside of Los Angeles)
Cleveland Institute of Art – Cleveland, Ohio
Cooper Union – New York City, New York
Kansas City Art Institute – Kansas City, Missouri
Maryland Institute College of Art – Baltimore, Maryland
Minneapolis College of Art and Design – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Otis College of Art and Design – Los Angeles, California
Parsons School of Design (part of the New School) – New York City, New York
Pratt Institute – Brooklyn, New York
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) – Providence, Rhode Island
San Francisco Art Institute – San Francisco, California
Savannah College of Art and Design – Savannah, Georgia
School of the Visual Arts – New York City, New York
The School of the Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois