There are many reasons. I was talking with one of my friends on Facebook this morning. She wants to get into teaching what she knows. She asked my opinion, and I went into my standard long lament about the state of graphic design and typography education in America. It’s bad, and it has been bad for years.
I first learned this as an art director for one of the largest printing companies in town. One of our greatest difficulties was dealing with design school graduates. This was true whether I was trying to hire a new graphic designer or dealing with a client who was a graphic designer. They had NO practical knowledge. This is why I originally I got into teaching. I felt so sorry for those poor students trying to get work out of college. They were in so far over their heads that you couldn’t even talk to them. They didn’t even know the professional language.
The worst were the clients. You know what happens when a person is responsible and has authority in areas where they know very little — most get nasty and arrogant to cover the fact that they are so ignorant. Obviously, this does little to help them learn what they need to know.
Why don’t schools teach this stuff?
There are many reasons. This is not the place to cover them in depth. If there is an interest, I’ll post on each reason later. But here they are in no particular order:
- Schools are judged by their employment statistics. The problem, of course, is that many (in fact a majority of) graduates freelance so there is no hiring statistic. Around 65% freelance according to the Department of Labor.
- Schools are judged by graduation statistics. Many students only want to upgrade their skills. They got a degree as a fine artist, but could not make a living doing that. They have no interest in a degree.
- Bureaucrats cannot understand creatives. This sounds harsh, but it is absolutely my experience in several schools.
- Schools are controlled by IT. Information technology personnel are running our schools and they are almost completely Windows people or Linux. Neither of those platforms work well for graphics or typography. Even if they did, our industry is 95% Mac.
- Writing skills are necessary. Our basic core skill is typography. Most desktop publishing programs are directed at “artists” not writers.
- Publishers need top end computers and software. Although we can get by with $1500 Macs, we need $2000 PCs to do what we do. Our software is the Creative Suite and that runs around $1000 (unless educational or non-profit rates are available). Schools live on $500 computers and school-wide licenses for software.
- Graphic designers and professional desktop publishers are a rare breed. The highest figure I have ever seen is 250,000 (only a quarter million) nation-wide. Locally, schools are regularly dealing with a dozen students or so. I was blessed to have a couple hundred at TVI in Albuquerque.
- Creatives are not good at working within a bureaucratic environment. Schools rival governmental organizations in organizational complexity and waste. Creative people tend to get very frustrated with meetings, group think, and such.
- Schools are never current. I just left a “lean & mean” school where we could actually approve curriculum changes in less than a year. In Albuquerque, we were working three years in advance. By the time anything is approved, it is seriously out of date.
Hopefully this will give you something to think about… It’s depressing to me.