State school ID program- am I missing out?

Hello all,

I recently transferred as a junior to a newly-established ID course at a state school, and I’m having some concerns about what I might be missing out on by not going to a dedicated design school.

Essentially, the situation is this: I love the classes I have taken so far, and feel the faculty is locked-on (lots of Art Center/CCA/Pratt backgrounds), but many of the seniors I’ve talked to feel like they are underprepared for the ID job market. Also, looking at some of the student blogs from the big-name design schools, it seems like a whole different world as far as sketching/rendering/modelmaking go.

I have about 1.5 years of coursework left to do before I graduate. As I see it, these are my options:

1). Stick with it, supplementing the coursework with independent study to learn what I think I need to learn. If needed, enroll at a design school after I graduate.

2). Try to transfer now, knowing that it will mean another 2-3 years of study.

I consider myself a self-starter, and I’m not looking to be spoon-fed the skills I need, but it’s unlikely I’d be able to push myself as hard as a rigorous program like Art Center’s would push me.

It’s hard to say either way.

I think a lot of students in my program would have said the same thing. They were “underprepared”. My personal stance is this was because THEY did not prepare enough. I will admit there were missed opportunities in my education that changed quickly, but too late for me to re-take certain courses. Our CAD classes were done using “Cobalt” which no one in the world uses, our sketching course was elementary at best, and 1 year of our 4 year program was really focused on architecture (some useful design fundamentals, but a lot of junk that had little value other than learning the pain of constant all-nighters).

But, several students saw these issues, and took it upon themselves to push sketching, push modern CAD software and not only were they better because of it, they actually got those changes rolled into the curriculum.

My best advice would be this: Stay where you are, and constantly evaulate yourself for your deficiencies. If you re-evaluate your personal skillset after every project and say “where am I the weakest?” use your next project to focus your skills in your weakest area. Compare yourself to the best and brightest on Coroflot, forums like this, IDSA Conferences/portfolio reviews, and take all feedback to heart even if it’s painful.

Ultimately you will in short order learn to hone and bake your weakest skill set into great portfolio pieces and push yourself as a designer. This is precisely how I looked at myself as a designer after fall break of my 3rd year, and used the next year and a half to push myself as hard as I could. So while lots of people were sitting around complaining about the program, our lack of internship opportunities, our lack of resources, those of us who worked hard to push ourselves landed jobs, and those who were stuck complaining are now in grad school or unemployed.

My $.02

if you have the drive, then this is all that matters. The “push” coming from a school environment will not really add or enhance anything if you don’t have the drive. If you don’t the push will just make you fail and burn out quickly. If you do have the drive, you can succeed anywhere you are at. Internal motivation is always much stronger and more useful than any sort of external pressure.

I went to a decent school, learned the basics, but was always motivated myself to do push further. Even after graduation, I got into an industry (footwear) i had never considered and didn’t have a single footwear sketch until the night before my interview. Still, once in, I pushed myself to learn, improve my skills and have made it to a place where I can now be successful, but am always still pushing to improve and learn more.

If you can push yourself, you can do anything.


Thanks for the encouraging words. I’m continually surprised how much good info is floating around outside traditional channels (Scott Robertson’s DVDs come to mind), I guess it’s a matter of staying hungry enough to put it to good use!

I believe there is no such thing as a perfect school for ID; nobody can supply their students for everything we need to learn in the real ID world because the real ID design world is just so massive. And if we could learn everything in 4 years, it maybe a wrong (or at least easy) career to take. They can focus on specific things (models, drawing, etc) or a little bit of everything, enough for students to get exposure as a starting point to push themselves if they decide to. It’s always greener on the other side of the fence.

Take it upon yourself to learn what you feel you need. My school we don’t learn too much CAD, but enough to continue learning on our own if WE decide to. Most of my classmates haven’t touched CAD since our last class last year. I use continue using CAD for all my projects and project development, even if not needed but to at least hone my CAD skills.

Don’t be afraid to spend a little $$ on your projects. A good majority of my classmates try to use as much free (or cheapest) materials on projects int he past. Now in my final year more of my friends are putting more $$ since its our grad project, outsourcing to get things made, which I think is great. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new materials, order new stuff because it looks interesting. A lot of the projects I’ve seen in other schools outsource (or at least parts) of their projects and models. Don’t be afraid to either, you can’ make everything yourself perfect all the time in a short period of time. You can spend 100 hours on model making or pay someone to do it and spend the 100 hours on other parts of the project. In the real world we wouldn’t get a budget to spend 100 hours on model making anyways. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be making models ourselves either, but if you don’t have time or the skills to the level you want, don’t be afraid to outsource. Make every project you do portfolio ready, not just a school project. Spend a lot of time in the workshop, make personal projects, hone your skills during downtime from school projects.

IMO if we come out of school comfortably capable of teaching ourselves skills we know we need to learn, than we’re ready for the “real world”.