When hunting for the right design school, it can be difficult to choose. Just like good design, choosing the right design school requires creative intuition and fact-based research.
1. Consider the depth of the program.
Web designers require training across artistic and technological fields, but the path for each individual designer can differ depending on interests and skills. Before a student can evaluate different design programs, he will need to seriously research the job market and requirements for the type of position he wants. Once a prospective understands the types of software and skills that are required, he will be better suited to evaluate different programs. Remember, school is an investment. You don’t want to walk away from a four-year institution only to find out that you need more training. Do the research beforehand to avoid heartache in the future.
2. Research the credentials of the faculty.
Design schools aren’t marketing agencies. They don’t have portfolios or defining bodies of work. Instead, they have professors who are supposedly so talented they have been hired to teach you what they know. However, you are responsible for determining whether these instructors are properly qualified. Research the faculty members of the departments under which you would be studying. In addition to considering the education of the faculty, you should research the professional success of each professor. Sure, it’s great to learn how to use Photoshop, but you really need to learn how to get a job using Photoshop. Faculty members who have worked within the industry can give you valuable insight into obtaining a job.
3. Get a feel for the atmosphere of the school.
Visit the campus resources offered by the school. Talk to professors and students. Check out the studios, dark rooms and computer labs. Subscribe to department newsletters of the schools in which you are interested to receive updates about the students and events at different schools. Because each student values different atmosphere, this is where creative intuition comes into play. One of the most important aspects of choosing the right design school is connecting with the space in which you will be required to learn and create.
4. Find a mentor.
Not every design student is fortunate enough to know someone who is already established within the industry. The most important step you can take as a student is venturing outside of your comfort zone to seek advice from someone who has obtained the career you want. Web designers are a generally supportive and energetic group of people. Cruise the Web to find a few sites you like. At the bottom of the page, you will notice a company name with a copyright or trademark symbol. You can use this information to contact the people at the company for more information on pursuing a career in the industry. Not everyone will respond, but you will probably find someone to answer your questions. If you’re talented enough – or doing something interesting enough – you might just find a mentor.
5. Don’t forget about the money factor.
Students often walk a thin line between financing their futures and becoming indebted for life. Before choosing your design school, you need to have a specific budget and timetable that calculates the amount of time and money you will be investing in your studies. The bottom line is that your investment needs to pay off. The school you choose needs to give you adequate credentials, significant skills and connections to the industry in order to obtain a career. While it is important to keep budget in mind, you should never opt for an unaccredited school. This could potentially backfire as an obstacle to getting hired.
Rachel Sanders is an artist and Webmaster who specializes in helping students find the right design schools. You can read more at webdesignschools.com.