The Seach for a School


As I work on researching and producing the next post in this series, it occurs to me that I haven’t really specified a) what I’m looking for in a school and b) why you might care what I find.

The answer to a) is simple: I’d like a school that will help me learn the kinds of skills I’ll need to get into the design industry. Whether that means getting a foot in the front door or becoming proficient enough to be hired as a more senior employee (perhaps even to do my own work as a freelancer) it doesn’t really matter, as long as the time commitments are relative to the kind of position I would be eligible for.

I am hoping to have a diverse enough skill set that I can produce media without outside assistance. I have heard that web design and web production are commonly separated in the industry, but I would be uncomfortable (being recreationally OCD) with either handing off my design to a web developer or having a web developer develop my design. Even if this must be a reality, it would be prudent, I think, to understand all facets of a product I would be designing before specializing in any one area.

Towards the artsier end of the spectrum, I am much less intent upon doing everything myself. Although I wouldn’t hesitate to categorize myself as artistic, I am no Michelangelo. I am trying to improve my sketching abilities substantially before I enter the job market, but I doubt that I will ever have the desire – nor raw ability – to be an illustrator.

No, my strength lies in my incessant desire to make everything pretty. I don’t mind making advertisements, pamphlets, websites and posters. Although their design may not move someone in the same way a painting might, peoples’ everyday experiences (at least the kinds of people who grimace at comic sans) would be somewhat bettered…if only superficially. I like the idea of helping businesses express themselves through logos and the challenge of user-friendly functionality when it comes to website design, or indeed any kind of design.

b) is rather simpler to explain: unless you’re stalking me, funding my education, bored or considering a similar education yourself, there is absolutely no reason why you’d be interested in the following searching-for-school posts. They are mostly, if I’m honest, an attempt to organize my own thoughts.

Tracing via Photshop

Tracing via Photshop

Having seen this bike (BMW S1000RR) in person, I must say that it is one of the most beautiful pieces of machinery I have ever seen. The gills and all-round aquatic styling is just brilliant – and not entirely symmetrical.

Since I am still utterly in love with its looks, I plan on using this, and perhaps some other drool-worthy motorcycles as Adobe initiation projects. This one was made entirely using the brush tool and my new Monoprice tablet – traced almost verbatim from a promotional photo. It’s far from perfect, yet I can’t help but enjoy it.

The Search for a School

Part I: Why are you giving me a sales pitch?

The first part of this series will cover those schools which come up first when you google “graphic design school Vancouver” but are really – in my opinion – the last places you’d want to attend. Correct me if I’m wrong, graduates, I’d welcome some first-hand knowledge.

These are for-profit education institutions, some of which are being sued for enrolling as many students as possible and then claiming federal financial aid, which in the states made up nearly 90% of their revenue at $2.2 billion dollars.

This New York Times article should suffice as a reputable source. It does a fairly good job of explaining the situation:

The complaint said the company had a “boiler-room style sales culture” in which recruiters were instructed to use high-pressure sales techniques and inflated claims about career placement to increase student enrollment, regardless of applicants’ qualifications. Recruiters were encouraged to enroll even applicants who were unable to write coherently, who appeared to be under the influence of drugs or who sought to enroll in an online program but had no computer.”

This particular company is responsible for the Art Institute chain of schools, amongst others.

I find this so easy to believe because I – ever a devout believer in the powers of Google – gave my personal information to The Art Institute of Vancouver, Vancouver Career College and The Visual College of Art and Design.
If you follow these links, you’ll find that the Request Information form (EXACTLY the same for Van. Career College and VCAD, down to the loading .gif) is – with little to no tact – shoved down the potential student’s throat. The Vancouver Career College site even requires the visitor to scroll down past the form to even see that there is, in fact, information there. I suppose it’s no surprise that when the girl called for my “interview” (which would have been more accurately called an “infomercial) she started reading out – word for word – the course descriptions that were available on their website. That particular phone call ended when we simultaneously discovered that the only Graphic Design program they offered took place not in Vancouver, but Kelowna.

That particular person may have been inexperienced, but the format she followed was echoed by the other two institutions that contacted me. I gave them my information around 11:00pm that night, and all three called me the next day. “We’d like to set up an interview,” some would say, while others got down to business right away. When I asked about a portfolio requirement, they replied cheerily that there was a slightly different program for people without. I was asked my personal motivations for going to school there, and when I inquired what the earliest date I could start was, they told me January 7th – less than two weeks away.

Something, I thought, is fishy. Shouldn’t I be begging them to let me in? Shouldn’t I be worried about rejection?

I’ve heard from less reputable sources that employers won’t take a degree from these institutions seriously. My father, a business owner, has hired people from these sorts of collages and told me that although they can perform basic tasks, anything out of the ordinary exceeds their abilities.

Even if these collages provide basic skills which may be of some use, I’d rather have nothing to do with them. I am fairly certain that I could teach myself these most basic of skills from home without the gratuitous cost or the potential exploitation of government aid.

Hello, World

It’s me, Emma. You see, World, I’m going to be a graphic designer and I figured it’d be mighty good practice for me to explain to you – graphically or otherwise – what I learn, as I learn it.

This could be anything from full blown infographics to little tips and tricks I pick up along the way.

Thanks for listening, World, I look forward to sharing with you!

Yours truly,