Stanford vs. SVA Products of Design

Hi Everyone,

I’m a prospective Design School Grad student who is looking for some advice on this comparison, based on my needs.

My background is manufacturing engineering and I’m looking to make a switch into design (I’m really interested in topics of interaction/responsible/systems/speculative/experience design). Lately, I have also been drawn to graphic design.

I’ve spent the past year taking foundational design courses at various design schools, building up my portfolio. I’m incredibly fortunate to have been admitted to some great schools. My top choices are SVA, Stanford, RISD MID, RCA/Imperial Innovation Design Engineering, and Art Center Media Design Practices. I received small scholarships to RISD and Art Center and I was waitlisted at Stanford.

Since then, I’ve been able to more or less narrow my list down to going to SVA this Fall or waiting a year to reapply to Stanford. Also, IIT MDes has popped up on my radar for strategy reasons and it does look practical/technical and interesting. Any thoughts on this program?

Over the past several weeks, I have been spending a lot of time speaking to students on both sides and I’ve gathered a few general points on each school. Please correct me, if I’m mistaken.

SVA Products of Design
A current, professional-readiness oriented program that is an intense project-based engagement in a variety of areas of design. It’s like a 21st century design program in the heart of NYC. It seems like it’s most about building up yourself as a responsible designer.

-Incredibly progressive and the vision of the program is very compelling
-Located in NYC with amazing networking opportunities
-Supportive chair of the program
-Strong curriculum, with wide exposure to different areas of design
-Professional, working faculty from top design firms
-Lots of potential for exposure
-Impressive student work

-No skills taught
-No learning flexibility (choice of classes)
-Small, disjointed Art School
-No scholarship or financial aid/Expensive
-No research or teaching opportunities
-Some topics may be rushed

I would say that SVA has been my top choice for a long time and I know I like NY and felt an initial attraction to it, only now I am feeling some reservations.

Stanford Joint Program in Design
This is the original design thinking institution. As a joint program, they have been known for bringing engineering together with art but now with the, design thinking is being taught to the rest of the campus. They strongly emphasize entrepreneurship and leadership within everything. It seems like it is most about getting together with other students and working on solving big, wicked problems.

-Reputation and Prestige
-IDEO founder, David Kelly
-Strong campus community
-Strong industry ties
-Lots of potential to work on something big
-Teaching and research opportunities
-Better related to current employment (start up in wearables)

-Too much flexibility (possible to get lost)
-D.School classes are vanilla for JPD students
-Process and human centered heavy (may be outdated)
-Seems light on critical design education (seems like ethnography/engineering plus art)
-The curriculum doesn’t seem very unified. Taking electives leaves more up to the student to apply it to their own work.
-Lack of online student work
-Boring location

-Silicon Valley/Tech Culture
-Close to home

Stanford only recently became a possibility and I am unsure if I like it for the right reasons. Also, I was not admitted so this means I would need to essentially wait a year while saying no to all my acceptances to put all my chips into Stanford. There is a chance I still won’t get in in the end. However, it is Stanford and I don’t know if I am making a bad decision by passing it up when I have a real shot.

Personally, I am looking for an opportunity to maximize my exposure to various tenets of design, while gaining a solid discursive, critical making/thinking based education. I also want the resources and freedom to work on big scaled, global projects while gaining skills in design strategy. As of now, I want to work in design consulting and also possibly within technology entrepreneurship. Maybe down the line, I would want to do some teaching as well. I have been thinking about doing an MBA down the road and if the best plan of action right now is to concentrate purely on “becoming a designer”.

I’m mainly looking for advice, based on experience or what professionals are saying about these schools in terms of they’re ability to educate you to become a successful design practitioner at top agencies/companies and beyond. I read an interesting article written in dismay about US Graduate design education and was wondering how it would apply to my choices:

I have been told to pick the program that will elicit the biggest change in my future. That is still a really hard question for me to answer.

Thank you very much for reading.

Personally I think Stanford program is still very experimental and if it wasn’t for David Kelly’s name attached to it, I don’t think it would be much talked about at all. Of course it’s weakness might also be its strength as you can make your own program, but I think the concept works better for a bachelor than a Master’s. I can’t comment on SVA, I just don’t know much about that school, but if it is either or, I would definitely go for Stanford, just for the name recognition and the connections you will make there, not to say it’s a beautiful campus… I do know a little bit about Art Center Media Design Practices, it is a fairly new program, and from what I have seen so far is it is destined to be on par with Art Center highly regarded I.D and Transportation design program. I have just been blown away from some of the projects I have seen and students I have talked to. It’s very intellectual and just plain amazing, a very interesting and unique program.
And for disclosure, I graduated from Art Center (Gradid) and if that program had been around then, I might have been swayed…