How are Pratt grads faring in the job market?

Grads, employers, know-it-alls, what do you think of recent Pratt grads?

I am overstepping my bounds by saying this, but the Pratt porfolios on Coroflot seem a little… dull. I am by no means an expert, but the porfolios seem less impressive and definitely look like they represent less employable designers. A lot of it seems to be the presentation, not so much the concept though a lot of concepts seem to represent incredibly unlikely stuff and not really in a good “blue sky” sort of way.

This could all be a fluke. The best designers from Pratt may not have portfolios on Coroflot right now. It definitely appears that some other schools are really pushing student to pump out decent porfolios – better presentation, projects geared to industry. It may also be that I am taken in my slick, facile presentation (but I bet quite a few employers are too, since they know there clients will be impressed by slick presentation)

waddaya think?

– Ian

Here’s the deal, people hire junior designers for there skills, not there philosophy. What they want are people who can help them do there work with the least amount of revision, design bukake, time and energy possible. That said, here’s what makes new grads juicy:

  1. A bit of industry experience
  2. Strong presentation skills
  3. A basic understanding of how things go together
  4. An understanding of the client’s business needs (not the same as the customer’s needs)
  5. An ability to follow instructions and get work done on time.

Pratt spent a good deal of the 1990’s producing great thinkers with shit skills who had little understanding of business. As a result, the students were unemployable and the school’s reputation has deteriorated.

Here’s the good news, there are more than a couple killer professors there:

Tip Sempliner for learning how to actually make stuff. (ask him for help with a model some time).

Mark Goetz for learning how to think practically about getting through a design process.

Alan Chochinov for learning to think impractically (very important).

Skalski for learning how to get work out the door.

Kate Hixon, because she is an amazing communicator.

Lenny for learning about abstract form.

Henry Yu is fastest ALIAS modeller I have ever met. He really knows that program.

Mark Lim is a really good modelmaker, if he is still teaching that.

The core skills that were missing when I was a student were modelmaking, an understanding of how mass production parts are made, presentation layout, presentation rendering (of less and less importance), 3D CAD and a core understanding of business.

Modelmaking is best learned by apprenticeship. Tip runs an excellent modelshop and he is BUSY these days. Go intern.

Putting things together. The world, contrary to the common belief of industrial design student, us not made of clay, foam or renshape. Take things apart and imagine how they were assembled. For $20, Goodwill and Salvation Army will provide you with enough cheap plastic things to keep you going for months. Once you have taken them apart, spend 45 minutes drawign up an alternate way to make the device.

Presentation skills are best learned by people who understand 2D layout (try Peter Lee’s 2D graphics software class if he still teaches it or Joe Roberts visual communications class)

3D CAD is probably better than it was. The secret to good cad isn’t hours spend on the computer, it is hours spent learning how things are actually put together and learning about lighting products. Learn how to light products by 1. Taking foundation drawing. Iona Fromboluti was very good. So was Luis Alonzo. 2. Interning in a photostudio (the school’s photo prgram used to be deply lacking in techical skills) 3. studying and reproducing photograhs in 3D. Copying is how the great renders (davinci, rembrant, etc.) got to be great renderers. It’s tedious work, but worth doing once or twice.

For business, try somewhere else. Here’s what I did: Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, read “the portable MBA”, Read the Wall Street Journal Guide to Investing, take a Business 101 class at the community college ($100±) and read Harvard Business School’s book on Design Management. There may still be an economics class at Pratt (don’t know how much it is worth).

Oh, and intern. It doesn’t matter if you get paid or if you are doing important work or if you have a good enough portfolio or any of the excuses that my student use (or I used). Intern, Intern, Intern. It will bring your education together in a huge way…and give you some REAL project for your portfolio.

Here’s the deal, people hire junior designers for there skills, not there philosophy. What they want are people who can help them do there work with the least amount of revision, design bukake, time and energy possible. That said, here’s what makes new grads juicy:

  1. A bit of industry experience
  2. Strong presentation skills
  3. A basic understanding of how things go together
  4. An understanding of the client’s business needs (not the same as the customer’s needs)
  5. An ability to follow instructions and get work done on time.

Pratt spent a good deal of the 1990’s producing great thinkers with shit skills who had little understanding of business. As a result, the students were unemployable and the school’s reputation has deteriorated.

Here’s the good news, there are more than a couple killer professors there:

Tip Sempliner for learning how to actually make stuff. (ask him for help with a model some time).

Mark Goetz for learning how to think practically about getting through a design process.

Alan Chochinov for learning to think impractically (very important).

Skalski for learning how to get work out the door.

Kate Hixon, because she is an amazing communicator.

Lenny for learning about abstract form.

Henry Yu is fastest ALIAS modeller I have ever met. He really knows that program.

Mark Lim is a really good modelmaker, if he is still teaching that.

The core skills that were missing when I was a student were modelmaking, an understanding of how mass production parts are made, presentation layout, presentation rendering (of less and less importance), 3D CAD and a core understanding of business.

Modelmaking is best learned by apprenticeship. Tip runs an excellent modelshop and he is BUSY these days. Go intern.

Putting things together. The world, contrary to the common belief of industrial design student, us not made of clay, foam or renshape. Take things apart and imagine how they were assembled. For $20, Goodwill and Salvation Army will provide you with enough cheap plastic things to keep you going for months. Once you have taken them apart, spend 45 minutes drawign up an alternate way to make the device.

Presentation skills are best learned by people who understand 2D layout (try Peter Lee’s 2D graphics software class if he still teaches it or Joe Roberts visual communications class)

3D CAD is probably better than it was. The secret to good cad isn’t hours spend on the computer, it is hours spent learning how things are actually put together and learning about lighting products. Learn how to light products by 1. Taking foundation drawing. Iona Fromboluti was very good. So was Luis Alonzo. 2. Interning in a photostudio (the school’s photo prgram used to be deply lacking in techical skills) 3. studying and reproducing photograhs in 3D. Copying is how the great renders (davinci, rembrant, etc.) got to be great renderers. It’s tedious work, but worth doing once or twice.

For business, try somewhere else. Here’s what I did: Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, read “the portable MBA”, Read the Wall Street Journal Guide to Investing, take a Business 101 class at the community college ($100±) and read Harvard Business School’s book on Design Management. There may still be an economics class at Pratt (don’t know how much it is worth).

Oh, and intern. It doesn’t matter if you get paid or if you are doing important work or if you have a good enough portfolio or any of the excuses that my student use (or I used). Intern, Intern, Intern. It will bring your education together in a huge way…and give you some REAL project for your portfolio.

Thanks for a very comprehensive and lucid reply.

I come to the conclusion that it is best to think of a college program as a collection of buildings with a lot of equipment, books, resources and (hopefully) a bunch of smart, knowledgable, sometimes-available people milling around. One has to be aggresive and get what one needs. If one expects to be led through a perfect series of learning experiences the endeavour will often fail.

Coroflot allows 5 images for samples, right? So at a minimum I would expect to see a model or prototype, a computer rendering and some sketching showing development of an idea.

It totally makes sense that employers are hiring you for these skills. They aren’t going to look at your concepts and say, “You’re brilliant – come brainstorm for us. Here is a salary and benefits.” I have been working in the graphics field for a few years doing various forms of production – I have never had trouble finding a job and I get paid more than many of the designers. The more creative the position, the more competitive.

I was suprised by the lack of layout and attention to detail. When I see out-of-focus photos, pics that have not been color balanced or have too little contrast, type that is not properly antialiased, and just lousy layout I am shocked. I guess I just assumed that anyone with a degree from a good art school would know better. I guess it is a matter of focus.

I am still applying to Pratt. I have taken classes at the Brooklyn campus before and saw a lot of talent – I don’t mean to be bashing or anything like that. I just wondered what was up. Everything you said made sense based on what I saw. At the same time, I believe that none of these flaws are fatal if one is willing to put in the work to make sure all these skills are up to par.

– Ian

Prat is a great place to become an Artist. You can become a consumer products designer there, but that really hasn’t been the focus. Technically oriented people tend to do pretty well going to Stanford, IIT, Georgia Tech and Carnegie Mellon. Arty people tend to do better coming out of Art Center these days. Cranbrook and RISD used to be alternative options, don’t know if they still are.

If you are going to spend serious money on a private school, I would make sure that it will provide you with the career services and alumni network to get your first job. Art Center, because of its corporate orientation, has traditionally been much better at this. The quality of an Alumni Network really can’t be ignored. Pratt alumni tend not to reinvest in the school. That is pretty telling.

The other question to ask is will the career provide me with the skills I need to go where I am going.

One of the things about Prattt is that it has typically had a relatively open admissions process. If that is a concern for you, you may also want to look at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and CCS in Michigan.

Professor Butterfingers, I am not sure what you mean of Pratt is a great place to become an artist? Is this “artist”-a designer you mean, or are you talking about a craft artist or Fine artist?

Pratt ID has two different admissions because it has BID and MID.
BID, usually for straight from High Schools, and MID, the grad program.

Every year I heard things about Pratt. Even when I was researching about the school before I entered the MID program, I had heard various discussions and opinions. And even after I got in to the program, I still hear- various Cons and Pros about the program both in and out of the class rooms.
First, if you have any design or art background, it will be helpful for you to focus studying ID. Because many people spend lot of hours practicing drawings, colors and model makings in MID, the outsiders can think that the program is like second BID with MID title. This however can be true or not true-depense on what you are focusing in MID.
You can get accepted somehow, and you can be a first learner for art skills, or/and you can come into the program, learn more about researchs, discussions, presentation method, or perhaps one’s pure self-developments like meeting other MIDers, pursuing graduate degree for teaching, further studies on computers and to make better portfolios.
Those who are already dropped out, I found them non-art backgrounds, and I heard the most complains from their mouth. The truth is from the day 1, complainers had less or no passion for designs or Arts but they were wishing they were transforming into something they just desire.

There are not many coroflot folios of recent or even last years graduates’-however those I found are still very talented and “hireable”. I do not know why, and I am not sure how many really found jobs but there are numbers of people who are already working in the field right after the program.

Other thing is yes, it is very important to understand the business and basic product engineerings, but however, these can be learn from the text. You can take courses and read series of books, newspapers and magazines. To have true artist’s mind is something that you can’t just learn or have. It is a passion and love. You are an artist if you really know that you are.

What if there is a school that teachs how to become <ex.>Andy Warhol instead of how to think and make things that are yours, inspiring, important, NEW, multi-layered, conceptual and unique.

I am sure to become a good designer is like becoming an artist.

You can go school and learn things like drawing figures, how to blend colors and visit galleries. But becoming and surving in the History is something else. Are you struggling to sell your arts at the moment or are you making something larger?

I graduated from Pratt in 2003

I Had a great job lined up before graduation, I was then recruited by another company for a dream job while showing my work at the Pratt Manhattan show. That show also spawned a few freelance opportunities.

My situation was not typical, but I feel that I busted my ass and took as much as I could from my time at Pratt, which enabled me to capitalize on certain situations when they arose. The people I hear complain the most about their experiences at Pratt are generally the people who thought paying tuition would make you a designer.


You get what you take
and luck is nothing more than preparation meeting opportunity