SAIC Reputation

What are your impressions of SAIC? They claim to be a top tier school and are pretty selective, yet many people I’ve talked to know very little about them. The only rumor I’ve heard from one of my professors is that SAIC is a school for rich kids to play at for a couple years.

I did visit SAIC myself over the summer. The facilities were impressive, but I can’t say that the people I talked to really disconfirmed the above reputation. None of the grad students I talked to had post-graduation plans besides opening up independent studios or working in the admissions office at SAIC.

I might have just talked to the admissions people, so I’m looking for some impressions from the community at large. Any impressions, hearsay, or had facts would be very helpful! Thanks!

That comment from your professor is in pretty poor business practice, and I would ask him to explain the reasoning behind his opinion. If he can not provide a reason for his obvious distastes for the school then I would disregard his comments and find a more reliable source.

Chevis W

He admitted that his opinion had really no foundation and that he knew very little about the school. I was just providing it as a starting point to perhaps generate some discussion. I’d love to have opinions from better informed sources, like the forum members at Core77. Perhaps some of you know some alumni from SAIC?

My wife went to SAIC for art therapy as a masters. This was 10 yeas ago, but my impression was that there 3d program had little relation to the field and professional [practice industrial design.

Having attended SAIC for both undergraduate and graduate studies, I can say it was a rewarding experience. One must be very self motivated and diligent there. Things are open, no one is going to tell you what to do or who to be exactly. SAIC is not in the business of forming an “ideal” student, but is rather a provider of the best fabrication resources and extremely knowledgeable and diverse professors. If you spend time there you will find professors you both love and hate, but always can respect and seek guidance from. If you have a question, want to make something, or develop an idea there is someone there who can help with the same passion you have about the subject.

At the same time it is the openness, the lack of direct guidance, that creates a large dropout rate at SAIC, especially in the undergraduate program. Your professor’s comment of SAIC being a place for rich kids to slack off for a couple years could have a bit of truth in the undergraduate program where is it very easy to just get by. Nevertheless, a passionate and motivated undergraduate can easily tap into the rich and diverse resources of SAIC and find many equally talented undergraduates.

The graduate program is the real prize at SAIC. They are extremely selective and the student body is, except for some rare examples, absolutely exceptional. I am still in awe of the intelligence, work, and motivation of all of my classmates. As much as I picked up from the professors I clicked with - I learned the most from my fellow students across the whole range of artistic specialties. As a very open program, you can be in film and do architecture, you can be in sculpture and do performance, you can be in graphic design and do installations. It might sound silly, but it becomes a fertile ground for the cross pollination of ideas. I studied architecture (came in with a strong background in architecture), and while I learned a great deal with my fellow architects and department professors, I ended up learning the most from performance artists, object designers, and interactive media artists.

I graduated in 2010, and while it is a hard sell in the real world, attending the top creative graduate program in the USA can open some doors. If you make good use of your time and all the resources here, you should have a killer portfolio. The network you can build through professors, students, and exhibition opportunities spans around the world. In closing, many of those students with the courage and tenacity to open up their own practices right out of school will be quite successful in 3-5 years. SAIC cultivates a rigor and passion that is independent and entrepreneurial.

Phillip Granke

I graduated from SAIC in May of 2010 with my masters in Architecture (Emphasis in Interiors). I’m a steadily working designer on a variety of interesting projects (and some less interesting- gotta pay the bills, as I am not one of those wealthy students you speak of). If you’re just looking for a job, you probably want to reconsider going to art school. If you want to evolve into a career of creativity and develop the required ability to think critically, SAIC may be a valuable place for you to begin gaining those skills.

The school provides an abundant variety of resources from fabrication studios to a diverse range of exceptional faculty members, all of which are readily available to assist in your creative development. At SAIC you will find a challenging environment contained within an exciting art and design community. From you, what is required, is the motivation that should come naturally with a desire to create/ make.

Hope you find this helpful.

Becky Midden

Being a current undergrad student at SAIC, I could not tell from your post if you are looking to go to grad school or undergrad here. I have grown up in Chicago and with my mom being an artist (she herself did not attend SAIC) but many of her colleagues have attended. If you are looking for grad school, this is a very good grad school. Professors and artists that I know who have attended here for grad school have done really great things.

Where things get misconstrued with undergrad is that the programs here place a heavy responsibility on the student to be self-motivated and ideally the school would like the students to graduate with a defined personal ideology. A lot of people have trouble doing this during their undergrad education in general (whether that be art or liberal arts), but regarding SAIC this is their greatest advantage and disadvantage. If you understand the responsibility of essentially creating your own major (this self-discipline still applies to the more set curriculum in the programs of visual communications, fashion, designed objects, interior architecture) and appreciate the resources provided you will do well. If you cannot handle the creative freedom and manage your time you will have trouble and a lot of people do have trouble doing this. The faculty here is very friendly, assessable and engaged. They are more than happy to discuss topics outside of class and provide feedback.

This is a school where you get what you put in. The best artists and designers understand that here and as long as you do that you will have a really great learning experience.

Hi all,

Excited to see SAIC being mentioned here, because I always thought of it as pretty under the radar for the traditional industrial design field. I graduated from the Masters program in Designed Objects in 2008, its first class, and went on to a job as the Core77 Managing Editor. Though I’ve left that post and moved onto more teaching and studio time, I still enjoy freelancing on the blog, so it’s a treat to be able to write about something I know so intimately in the forums.

The Designed Objects program at the SAIC is fantastic and special, but not for everyone. If you are interested in traditional industrial design practices and want to work at a large consultancy, a different school might serve you better. However, if you want to work for Konstantin Grcic (for talking purposes), start your own studio, or have the freedom to define your particular ilk of practice then SAIC might be the one American school that could prep you the best.

I would describe the SAIC designed objects program as exploring the cultural project of design, as explored through thinking, discussion, and most importantly, making. It is the one American design school that shows at the Milan Furniture Fair every year, which should tell you something about its outlook.

Hope this clarifies a bit. As far as the “rich kids” comment – aren’t all professional graduate programs “schools for rich kids” (or kids with a serious amount of abstract school debt at the very least)?

We run a group called the Object Design League here in Chicago, involving a lot of SAIC-affiliated faculty, students, and alums. Take a look to get a sense for some of the work: