How to Make Art School Work for YouWhen I was in school I had a graphic design professor ? a very smart individual who graduated from Yale and whose expertise was fonts. I spent two hours a day for an entire semester building fonts with a pencil and a clipboard. As the professor did not know how to use a computer, he did not require any of his students to either. This class was boring, but what was worse is that it was completely useless.
Rarely is a real company going to pay for a font. They are going to pay for business cards, logos, web sites, CDROMs and commercials but not a font. Many professors at prestigious schools with good reputations are relics of a past age. Graphic design requires technology, and technologies change and adapt. Oftentimes those that teach graphic design remain stagnant and enforce archaic concepts and methods. Academic graphic design is much closer to fine art than commercial graphic design (the type that makes money).
Avoid classes with names like "The History of Byzantine Graphic Design," "The Stencil as Design Tool" or "Dimension in Design."
You should design your schedule around your portfolio, your web site and your resume. The best classes are those that teach software and can provide tangible art that employers will want to see. Look at the want ads and then look at your schedule. If the class teaches or requires Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, Flash, or HTML then take it immediately. Look for teachers who have worked in the world of graphic design and understand concepts like deadlines, client needs, and real world application.
The most important way to jumpstart your career is by establishing a web site early and constantly adding to it and improving it. Your web site should be the crown jewel of your arts education. If you can improve the site each year by adding flash animation or streaming video then you will have a job magnet when you are ready to graduate.
A college degree is a wonderful thing to have, but sometimes software certification is more important for finding a job. A Flash developer certification from Macromedia can lead to a job much faster than a graphic design degree from even the best university. Software certification can open doors that a degree cannot. You have four years of art school to learn and improve yourself. You will never again have the time and resources to pursue certifications. The best part is that you can probably receive academic credit for anything that you do if you just fill out a little of the correct paperwork.