Art Center grad ID vs. Pratt MID

I’ve scoured past posts for this info but would love some up-to-date views, particularly from current students or anyone who’s hired a recent grad.

I’ve just been accepted to both of these programs and am working out my decision. My specific interest is in sustainable design and I’m trying to figure out which is going to be the stronger program in that area.

Also, I’d like to get a sense of how these two programs are viewed comparatively - what are their various advantages/disadvantages?

Is either program markedly on the up or on a downtrend recently?

And for anyone who recently chose one over the other, can you tell me why?


wow… two very, very different programs.

Do you have an undergrad in ID? Since you got into Art Center, I will assume that have a strong background in design, architecture, etc. in which case you will be in a small minority at Pratt MID. Pratt MID students are largely career changers. You can decide if that is good or bad for you.

About Pratt:

The program, from what I can tell, has recently gotten harder to get into – more people are applying. Overall quality of student work is going up. This may take a few years to be reflected in employers’ perceptions.

It is hard to define an approach because there is a wide range of approaches within the faculty. Your experience will depend on with whom you study. Look at the studios you want to take and get the syllabi for them, or talk to the teachers.

Criticisms: Purpose of program is unclear. The idea that you will be a designer when you graduate is not assumed. Some professors are not really interested in teaching design for designers but rather design as some sort of life skill that will help you whatever you decide to do.

On the posive side: There are good professors and the amorphous nature of the program may force you to find more of your individual approach. Emphasis is on creativity, innovation Рcreating a s̩xier version of standard commercial products will not win any favor.

I view Art Center as being more career oriented, having more of an interest in commercial design. Oh… and they have better facilities. Pratt is not wallowing in money.

Thanks, Viva. Great perspectives.

I actually don’t have a design background but have been self-teaching for over a year now, designing my own products for my portfolio. I’ve also taken a design drawing course at Pratt.

Once concern I have about Art Center is that it seems a bit insular - kind of far from LA and students seem to practically live in the studio. Pratt seems to have more of a design community around it.

You’re right, though, that Art Center’s facilities are better. I just saw them and they are really nice. Campus is nice too.

My interest is less in being a designer for a consumer products company and more in being a sustainable design consultant. It seems like Pratt’s generalist approach might be a better fit.

But, I’ve heard rumors that it’s very disorganized and sometimes difficult to get what you need out of the course.

From what you said, Pratt would be a good fit.

Regarding sustainability at Pratt: it is not currently as integrated into all courses and the actual operation of the campus (waste reduction, recycling) as it could be, BUT I think this will change quickly over the next few years. A new sustainability coordinator has been named and there is masive interest in sustainability. There is a big opportunity for someone who wants to help lead the way.

Your experience will depend so much on who you study with – talk to as many profs as possible. If you haven’t already, talk to instructor for Sustainable Production Methods (forgot name… call office and ask), this class is said to be rigorous and very good.

It’s good that you took a drawing class. A tip to anyone considering Pratt MID: your first year will be much better if:

  1. you can make a drawing
  2. you can make a model, or have some ides of how to put stuff together
  3. you know a little about graphics programs and laying out a basic page

If you can do at least two out of three of these things well, you will be OK. If not you should seriously question why you are entering a GRADUATE program in design. You will not be led through the steps on any of these things. There are drawing, model making, and graphic design, but know that in the first two or three weeks of class, you will need drawings, models, and presentation boards. No one will tell you how to do it step by step, what materials to use etc. Profs do give a lot of leeway so you have the chance to bring yourself up to par.

Yes Pratt can be disorganized. It’s the standard line about Pratt and frankly it’s overstated. I have had very few problems… most things have run smoothly.

In the first year there is a massive amount of work. Tons of projects are thrown at you and you must get used to the idea that none of them will be very finished and you will not get much time to get criticism/revise. Stick to the core idea of your project and forget about details for now. It can be frustrating and many times you are not sure what you are learing/should be learning. It’s not a feel-good experience, but you will gain a lot by the end.

My understanding is that the Art Center grad ID program has always been small and under the radar - even though there is a relatively new department chair, I don’t think this has changed much. Would be nice to get some input from current and recent Art Center grad students about the changes, if any, that are taking place in this quiet program. I would think Pratt has a much larger grad network and an established reputation - good or bad - when it comes to later connections and opportunities.

Art Center facilities are good, and quality of work and general inspiration to be derived from fellow students and good projects taking place on campus (including undergrad) is a plus.

But if sustainability is your focus, I would think that one of the schools in the San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland region should be considerations - not that there is necessarily a single program or professor I would recommend there, just that the overall environment, culture, history, and priorities of the region will serve as inspiration and guidance in your interest area. (For example, I’m not really a fan of CCA, but it is clear to me that they have been talking sustainability for longer than most programs just because of who and where they are)

Why not so keen on CCA? I’m curious about your thoughts on the school.

I’m just curious as to why you wouldn’t choose one of those ID programs tailored for sustainable product design?

JEAN: Fair question. here are a couple points that concern me about CCA IN GENERAL, but I would welcome more expert and recent comments from those who are more familiar with the grad program.

• From viewing the results of a couple class projects and from reviewing a few portfolios of graduates, it seemed to me that there was a general lack of completion in the work. Solutions that were not well resolved, focussed or convincing seemed to be the norm. Some interesting ideas along the way, maybe some kernels of direction, a decent but typical process, but not ready for prime time by the end of the semester or the degree. This leads to graduates who are not really entry level professionals in any particular area - still seem like students who need another year or two and a dose of detail and specialization before they can contribute. Seemed like an introductory program which exposes curious people to design in basic and general terms, and allows them a taste of the design lifestyle in the Bay area. I know the same could be said for many schools - their approach is to accept many young and curious people, show them the basics in an undemanding way, and add grad programs for further specialization when a few decide they are serious about design later. But I think the best programs focus better from the start and push students harder to deliver something serious and finished.

• My other concern is related, but a broader reputation or positioning issue. To put your graduates on the map these days, I think a school needs to have an area of strength that they continually discuss and deliver. IIT has done a good job of owning research and design strategy. Art Center is synonymous with visual expertise. A couple East Coast schools could probably lay claim to design theory. I think CCA and a host of other schools do not have this clarity of positioning, and this probably hurts their graduates. (Maybe they can now claim to be THE school with a design celebrity figurehead, whatever that is worth! And note that Yves is an Art Center grad…)

Or perhaps I’m wrong - what is CCA’s RECOGNIZED strong point of differentiation now?

NO_SPEC: Exactly! And can you share your short list of the top schools tailored for sustainable product design?

anyone think that universities offer a well rounded curriculum ? I have this idea that art colleges tend to groom more egoistical people. But perhaps again I may be wrong.

Also university system offers well rounded curriculum and more diversity in education. I think its important. It should focus on how one uses their creativity to create knowledge and perhaps a new career too in design.

If I have a choice again, I would go to Pratt once more.
I miss the school.
Now working with bunch of Art Center people at design office,
I realized that conceptual and perspective came from NYC schools really
helped me differenciate from the others.
They might be better than me for CAD, drawings and Illustrator renderings, but at the end, the coceptual level and research output makes so much difference and guides into better directions.

Pratt…harder to find J.O.B s due to skill levels.
But they have more hard thinkers, intellectuals, self starters and interesting characters in overall. Unique. Just like NYC.

“But they have more hard thinkers, intellectuals, self starters and interesting characters in overall. Unique. Just like NYC.”

just like RISD and Carnegie Mellon. Something about the north east schools…

Enjoying this discussion; still waiting to hear a first hand perspective from a current ID grad student at Art Center.