Art History to ID

the situation:

I’m a sophmore and I’m studying abroad for a year in Munich. I’m currently studying art history at a rigorous college but I can’t seem to get design out of my head. I spend most of my free time looking at websites, reading magazines, and reading books about design history…Although I would love to be on the creative end of ID most of my exposure is not pencil to paper. I’ve taken a few art classes here and there (weekend classes, I spent one summer at RISD for painting) but I have a non-existent portfolio.

I know that in the end I want to be doing some kind of creative field…most likely ID.
Should I finish up my bachelors and then apply to an ID program? (I want to do undergraduate because I want to really work on my foundational skills)

Should I focus on creating a portfolio and apply to an ID program this fall?

Should I take a year off, work on my portfolio and basic technical skills and then apply?

I am lucky enough that money really isn’t a major problem

I really need a program where I can develop my basic skill set

While I like academic work, I’d prefer to spend most of my time in a studio

I’m also worried about waiting too long to get into the field…I want to be young enough to have the flexibility for the initial period of low wages etc.

sorry for being so long-winded, thanks for any advice you could give.


Begin with the end in mind.

If you want this to be your goal:

Maybe look to jump into a program with a heavy studio focus. Pratt, Art Center, CCS … talk with the admissions people, and see what you need to get in. It is easier to figure out where you want to be, then backtrack to find out what you have to do to get there…

Well if you don’t have any portfolio and want a bachelors, University of Cincinnati and Virginia Tech have some pretty nice programs (from what I read about them…still waiting on acceptances to go visit), and don’t require a portfolio… Carnegie Mellon has a design project which would take the place of a portfolio if you wanted to do a little work (I think the four things are: 1. Draw an object, draw it again and shade it, and make a composite image of it 2. design a clock face 3. take some pictures with a camera that tell a story and 4. explain why one picture of a chair is better than the other two (they give you the pictures))… so yeah, I don’t know too much about the graduates from these schools, but they all seem to be pretty highly respected (especially Cincinnati- you graduate with 1.5 years of paid work)… Hope that helped somewhat!

thank you both for your responses.

yo- your advice was so basic…and it made so much sense. Sometimes it takes another person to see the obvious options. thanks

lneo- I actually met someone who went to Cincinnati and liked it alot. I think the carnegie mellon test sounds like fun actually.

I can pull together some of my more fine arts work to make a portfolio, but it isn’t very structured (sculptures made of round reed and dyed paper)…I’m suspicious of a program that doesn’t look at portfolios, but I suppose we learn those skill sets through the program…and lots of practice.

any other opinions would be welcome.

thanks…it takes alot to respond to all these needy posts.

No problem. I was hoping you wouldn’t take it as someone over-simplifying your situation, but just thought it would help to discuss some of that first.

Most studio based programs look for non-ID work in your portfolio. They want to see that you have an artist’s ability and mind. It sounds like your work would fit well with Pratt or RISD. CIA and CCAD would also most likely be open to that kind of portfolio. CCS and Art Center tend to want to see more ID based skills. I recommend UC to most people to be honest. Even though they do not have a portfolio requirement, it is difficult to stay in the program without aptitude in that area. Consistently some of the best graduates are coming from there over the past 5 years.


The Pratt foundation year would fit right in with your desire to get some real basic, well rounded, skills before moving into ID as an undergrad. Many of the grad students miss out a lot for not getting the rigorous basics. Pratt is very studio heavy, so if you’re into hands-on, you’ll get plenty of it. You also continue to develop an abstract 3D sensibility, applicable to product design, once you’re actually in the ID program. It will make you grow as a sculptor as well as a designer. Pratt has its issues, but it was a rewarding experience for me.

As yo mentioned, The CCS’ and Art Centers are going to be looking for a high level of skill before you even get your foot in the door. Even RISD might be a bit tough if you don’t have much to go on in terms of a portfolio. Pratt is a little more lenient in terms of getting in the door. They will want a portfolio, but they won’t be as critical as the others.

Good luck with whatever you choose!