The New Graphic Design Major @ Curry College

January 20, 2010 at 5:11 am Leave a comment

Challenges // Curriculum: humble beginnings / Part One

Here I go. I chose to leave an established BFA program in Graphic Design to pursue building a brand new BA program in Graphic Design at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts. Curry is a small liberal arts college, gearing up for NEASC accreditation in 2012. This is a great opportunity for the college to re-evaluate Gen Ed. requirements, additionally all departments produce an assessment and outcomes documentation.

The GD Major at Curry is four years young, and has been in a steady growth cycle since it’s inception:
2007: 7 students –> 2010: approx. 40 total

With the current state of Curry, change is inevitable. The combination of NEASC accreditation and infant GD major make Curry a great case study for re-evaluating graphic design pedagogy within a BA structure. My only experiences are teaching in established BFA GD programs (MassArt, UMass Dartmouth)—the challenge of creating a robust and focused BA program seems a unique challenge. Many of my colleagues and friends from established BFAs questioned my decision. I am hopeful. I believe the opportunity to explore a complete other and learning experience will prove invaluable.

This process will have multiple challenges and facets. My goal is to document the process, however I am starting this blog with one semester already under my belt. It just occurred to me that I should be documenting and sharing this experience to others who might be facing similar challenges.

Initial Challenges:

  • Curriculum
  • Space
  • Technology
  • Students

I. Curriculum
The GD major requirements already has some good foundations in place—such as Basic Design, Drawing, Light and Color, and a Graphic Design History course. However, some of the courses are driven by applications—such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign—which could be refocused in name and curriculum. The following outlines the current sequence for classes:

FA 1000 // Introduction to Fine Arts / 3
VA 1770 // Basic Design / 3
VA 1800 // Drawing / 3
VA 1790 // Light and Color / 3
GD 2970 // History of Graphic Design / 3

Major Requirements:
VA 3950 // Design Concepts / 3
GD 2770 // Graphic Design / 3
GD 2738 // Digital Imaging: Photoshop / 3
GD 2760 // Computer Graphics: Illustrator / 3
GD 2766 // Desktop Publishing: QuarkXPress / 3
GD 2769 // Desktop Publishing: InDesign / 3
GD 3775 // Typography and Production / 3
GD 3300 // Portfolio and Presentation / 3
GD 3980 // Fine and Applied Arts Seminar (Capstone Course) / 3
GD 4050 // Independent Studio / 3

Major Elective  – Choose one of the following:
GD 2072 // Computer Art
GD 2768 // Web Page Design
GD 2797 // Digital Photography
GD 3520 // Computer Animation for the Web
GD 3770 // Computer Graphic Design

Requirements in Related Areas – Choose two of the following:
VA 2720 // History of Photography
VA 2910 // History of Visual Arts: Paleolithic to Gothic
VA 2920 // History of Visual Arts: Renaissance to Contemporary
VA 2930 // Contemporary Art

GD 3450 // Graphic Design Internship

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Fall 2009 semester I taught Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. This was quite an adjustment after having taught paradigmatic GD courses like “Information Architecture I + II;” “Typography I, II, + III;” and “GD I, II, III, IV”…

After consulting a supportive GD colleague (thanks, Tony) we devised a plan for these courses to introduce more conceptual thinking; while fulfilling the technical implications from course titling. I simply added to the course titles toward focusing the content, and created two sets of goals and objectives:

One for “Design” and another for  “Technology.” The courses were informally re-named to the following:

Illustrator: Icons, Symbols + Information Design
Principles for Organizing Typography
Meaning, Sequence, and Sense

Subtitling the courses now allowed the curriculum to be project-based (versus simply focused on teaching the tools) while using each tool for it’s intended purpose. The challenge of putting these courses within context really excited me—and it has worked out to be a realistic stop-gap solution until courses can be re-assessed and re-named in (hopefully) the near future.

The next post will sample course goals + objectives, assignments, and examples of student works from the classes.


Entry filed under: BA Design Program Progress, Design education.

10 Laws of Design Education (or, Design Educator Etiquette)(or, rules I like to live by) Indesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop: Curriculum and Approach

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