Graduate Degrees in Computer Graphics and Design

Interview with a Computer Graphics Professor

By Stephanie Small
Published June 13, 2012

Computer graphics and design master’s degrees combine design theory with practical, hands-on skills in current software. Some programs require an undergraduate degree or extensive coursework in computer science or engineering. The graduate-level curriculum may include classes in art and animation, creative design, computer interfaces, sound editing, digital video, and production management, among others. Graduate programs in computer graphics and design generally confer either an M.S. or an M.F.A., depending upon the program, its content, and the school in which it’s housed. 
In this article, Mike Arsenault, Graphic Design Chair at the Digital Media Arts College in Florida, offers his input about graphic design, as well as some advice for potential applicants to computer graphics and design graduate programs.
How did you decide to enter the field of graphic design? 
I have always been interested in art. I first decided to get into graphic design because I wanted to see where I could take my art using the computer. Back when I went to school, graphic design was called commercial illustration or something similar. A lot of it was done by hand. So I always majored in art and minored in what is now called graphic design. I went to graduate school and received my degree in art education while again taking as many graphic design courses as I could. So I found myself fortunate when I was offered a part time teaching job here at Digital Media Arts College. Part time quickly led to full time, and that quickly led to my current position as the department chair. 
Describe an ideal graphic design graduate student.
The ideal graduate graphic design student is willing to learn and to spend a lot of time outside of the classroom honing their skills in the applications that they will learn as a designer (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, After Effects, Dream Weaver). They should want to learn web design and not be afraid of Code. Code is pretty much the language that makes any website work, HTML, CSS, Java Script are just a few.
What does your graphic design graduate program entail: number of years, types of courses, internship, final project?
The graduate program here in web design is composed of eighteen graduate classes totaling sixty credits. It is possible to complete the program in a year and a half if the student meets all of the prerequisites and attends the Digital Media Arts College as a full time student. All graduate students must complete a thesis project as a requirement for graduation. Anyone can apply to our graduate program; the only requirement is a bachelor’s degree. If the applicant’s degree is not in a related field, the student will have to take thirty six additional credits before starting in their graduate classes.
Do you have any comments on current trends in graphic design education?
Current trends in the field of graphic design include web design and motion graphics. Everyone seems to want someone who can put together and maintain a website. And motion graphics is another field that is growing in the world of design. Motion graphics bring movement to design, and are not necessarily animation - think of movie credits, lower thirds and even some commercials.
What's a typical career trajectory, post grad school?
Upon graduation, the students are ready to go into the work force and find a job. The quality of the portfolio and website usually determines the quality of job they will land. Even though the students have graduated, the field of web design is constantly changing. New technologies are always being introduced and you must be willing to learn the new programs and languages if you want to continue to grow.
What advice would you give to potential applicants to graphic design graduate school?
The advice I give any potential graduate student is that they must be willing to put in time. They must be willing to look at a problem from multiple angles and decide which one helps them solve the problem that they are presented with. Every student must also learn how to take criticism. They must learn that they are not creating art for themselves but for someone else. It is not personal if someone does not like your design. The last thing I tell the students is that even though the grades they receive are important, it’s not the grades on their transcripts that is going to get them their job – it’s the quality of work in their portfolio and thesis (website included) that is going to land them their job.
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