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Design education doesn't happen in the typical university
lecture hall or laboratory. It takes place in studios (literally,
places for work) and through seminars (organized discussions
characterized by informality and high interaction). Learning takes
place through the analysis of problems and possible solutions using
composition, typography, photography, images, and space. Students
use materials and processes from basic hand skills to computers to
Another difference is that design education is project-based
rather than subject-based. Teachers create projects to reveal
certain visual or communication principles or the nature of certain
kinds of problems or media. Students learn by doing. From early to
late in the curriculum, projects become more complex as students
build on past experience. From the university's perspective, design
education is expensive because it requires that teachers spend time
with students individually. No student is anonymous in a design
Another aspect of design education is the group critique.
“Crits” take place at different stages in a project and provide an
opportunity to step back and reflect on the project, to exchange
critical or supporting ideas, to clarify intentions, and to develop
the ability to discuss or even defend one's own work—a necessary
skill that will later be important with clients. The critique helps
students to deal openly with criticism while it trains them in the
important verbal skills of explaining the reasons behind their
solutions. They must go beyond “I like it” or “That stinks.”
Critiques help students to internalize standards of excellence, to
develop a shared vocabulary for discussion, to learn to incorporate
useful suggestions from others, and to evaluate their own and
others' performances. This process helps students to separate work
from self and to acquire the maturity and perspective needed in
order to benefit from intelligent criticism. The critique is a
basic exercise in critical thinking.
Graphic design exists as a response to the need to organize the
flow of communication in society. The designer creates the visual
interpretation of the message from client to audience. The ways in
which the designer chooses to present this information depend on
training and on the designer's own personality. That's why design
schools spend as much time on the student's path to a satisfactory
solution as they do on the solution itself.
Design school students are immersed in problem-solving
activities. They think spatially as well as verbally; they work in
teams and individually; they get things done. As a
project-oriented, highly interactive process, design education
fosters dialogue, resourcefulness, and a constructive direction for
these creative students.
Graphic Design: A Career Guide and Education Directory
Edited by Sharon Helmer Poggenpohl
The American Institute of Graphic Arts
Designers need to master a wide variety of skills and concepts.
Section: Tools and Resources -
How can you find the design program that's right for you?
There are probably as many kinds of designers as there are kinds of
design, so how do you know whether a career in design might be
right for you?
As part of a range of professional development
opportunities, AIGA offers webcasts to help designers get inspired and learn new
Section: Events and Competitions -
As a design student, learning how to give and receive feedback is an essential skill that extends beyond the classroom. Here are some tips for students (and instructors) for participating in a critique.
Section: Tools and Resources -
college, graduate, teaching, advice, education, student work
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