Friday, January 29, 2010

Graduate Degrees in Visual Art

Spring is coming, and all young people’s thoughts turn to… “I graduate in 3 months – NOW WHAT!”

For ARTISTS thinking of Graduate School be forewarned that grad school might make the last 4 years seem like a walk-in-the-park. You will likely not only be expected to create high quality professional artwork (and a lot of it), but at this point your will also likely be working to support your self, as well as potential working as a teaching assistant.

If you are certain you have the passion and fortitude for another round in your education (and let’s face it, the financial aid!), clearly define your career goals before applying for that new string of letters after your name.

There are several advanced degrees in the creative art to consider. You are advised to fully research differing requirements at school to which you apply. If any academic administrators find errors or omissions in this information, please let me know so that I can make corrections.

Here is a brief overview of graduate level degrees in the Visual Arts.

MA (Master of Arts) — Approx 36 credits.
Portfolio required for admissions.
The MA is for the student who wants to improve in the practice and making of their art with a focus on historical and theoretical studies. In most cases public school art teachers who already have an art education teaching degree need to get an MA in order to keep their certification, as required by their school board.
Show of artwork may or may not be required. Thesis may or may not be required.

MFA (Master of Fine Arts)Approx 60 credits.
Portfolio required for admissions.
The MFA is currently a "terminal" degree in the USA. An MFA is required in order to teach at the college or university level. The MFA is a practicing degree for artists who want to improve their skills in art making and teach creative arts in higher education.
Thesis and show of artwork required.

SHAMELESS PLUG for my graduate alma mater, Marywood University in Scranton, PA:
Marywood offers an MFA in Graphic Design and/or Illustration. This low residency program is a 3-year program. For 4-summers you will spend 2-grueling weeks on campus in classes. Several independent art projects are required yearly, along with a historic thesis on the topic of the student’s choosing. (I wrote about how the advertising industry targeted agricultural markets). For 1 week every April and again in November, the students go on study tours – usually in New York and other major cities - to visit the offices and studios or renowned designers, illustrators and agencies. Significant Coursework included: Histories of Graphic Design & Illustration, Children’s Book Illustration and Marketing Your Art. Visiting instructors included Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Guy Billout, Ed Benquiat, Louise Fili, Lisa Cyr, Alexander Gelman, Christoph Neiman, Paul Sahre, Rafal Olbinski, Ed Sorel, and Ted Lewin. Manhattan Study Tours included: AIGA, Barron’s Magazine, Penguin Books, RGA, Saatchi & Saatchi, Society of Illustrators and Vibe Magazine.

The Marywood Creative Professionals MFA program is not for the faint of heart. It is very rigorous, but provides an education of the highest caliber. For me the additional reward of the wonderful friendships that I made with other artists is beyond compare. And now when I watch The Office, and Michael wants to go to Coopers, I can say – “I’ve been there!”

PhD (Doctorate of Philosophy)Approx 60 credits
Portfolio not required for admissions. An MA is required to apply.
This degree does not involve the making of art. PhD's can be earned in Art History, Art Education, and Art Therapy. Visual Culture or Visual Rhetoric, Media Communications and Popular Culture programs are appealing to Graphic Designers. This degree is for those who want to write about art intensively, work at art museums and teach art history in higher education. They may also be school administrators.
Dissertation required. Art show not required.

EdD (Doctorate in Education)Approx 45 credits beyond an MA.
Portfolio not required for admissions.
This degree is for those who already have a master's degree and want to teach in public schools and/or become educational administrators. EdD may be earned in Art Education.
Comprehensive exam and dissertation required.

DFA (Doctorate in Fine Arts)Credits undetermined
Portfolio required for admissions. An MA may be required to apply.
This degree is not well known in the USA, but has been established as the terminal degree in arts in Europe. There are few schools offering this degree in the USA, and those that do exist were established within the last 5 years. There has been a recent push among colleges and universities to require faculty to have a DFA. This requirement has come under considerable controversy since The Chronicle of Higher Education ran an article "How Educated Must an Artist Be?" in 2007. Just be aware that changes are a brewin’.

For High School students - In a future entry I will write about the differences, advantages & disadvantages of attending an Art School vs a Liberal Arts College.

It is recommend that you look at schools that best suit your interests and offers the degree that will best meet your long term goals.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Redundancy of Design Goals

Less than 2 weeks into the New Year, and already many resolutions have been broken, but as any good consultant or coach will tell you, a resolution is not a goal.
Consider this anecdote: “In 1953, researchers studying goal setting surveyed the graduating seniors from Yale University on their goals and aspirations for the future. They discovered only 3% of the graduating class had specific, written goals and objectives.

20 years later, when they tracked down the same graduates, the researchers were astounded by the results. They discovered that the same 3% who engaged in goal setting activity and had clearly written goals when they graduated in 1953 were more successful, and worth more in terms of wealth than the other 97% put together. The same 3% also tend to have better health and relationships than the other 97%.”
(Guide to Self-Help Techniques)

FastCompany verified that the famous Yale Study of Goals is an Urban Legend. It’s unfortunate that it never actually happened, because it is such a inspiring story. But that doesn’t mean goal setting doesn’t work. As a compulsive goal setter and educator I encourage students to set goals. Their teachers, too.

From Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins, all motivational gurus stress that successful a goal must have a several definite components. Most critical, a goal must be achievable, specific, and have a deadline. There are many sites that offer great information on goal setting. The Affluent Artist is especially good for anyone in creative fields.

The first lecture I give to students in my Intro to Digital Design course is about the meaning of design. Looking at the definition of design, it means “intentional planning.” It has nothing to do with Macs or Adobe. It’s about the thought process behind something.

Because I have a nerdish interest in etymology, here is the definition of DESIGN (Oxford English Dictionary)

• verb
1 conceive and produce a design for.
2 plan or intend for a purpose.
— ORIGIN from Latin designare ‘mark out, designate’.

The Visual Thesaurus created this beautiful word map of the word DESIGN. In addition to creating these incredibly useful maps for only $20 a year (buy the software for $40) the images are beautifully designed, as is the elegant functionality of the interface itself. What more could a logophilactic designer want?

So here is the redundancy...


To be a designer is a to be a goal setter.
Or at least someone who aspires to be a good designer must become a goal setter.