The Art and Design Department offers a rigorous art foundation program investigating the fundamental visual principles of composition, color, and drawing, along with a survey of art history and aesthetic theory. The skills and thought processes developed by students in the foundation program will form the basis for thoughtful work throughout their lives as artists and designers.
An apprentice model is taken to develop designers ready to contribute in professional practice. Lower-level students are treated as pupils, mid-level students as junior designers under an art director, and upper-level students as independent members of a design studio—with assistance on overall creative direction. Studio courses are limited to 15 students to ensure maximum student-teacher contact. Upper-level courses rarely top 10 students and have longer class times to allow for extended conversation and work.
The overall emphasis is on blending form and content. Through introductory exercises, technique and craft are emphasized, but students are exposed to the ideas and mediums of a contemporary design practice. Majors are granted studio space equipped with all the software and hardware one would expect to find in a professional studio, yet emphasis is not placed on the computer except as a tool for production. Instead, the focus is on developing a historical understanding of design, a process for solving design problems, and a practice that uses design to engage with local and global communities.
Design fits in well in a liberal arts context, as it relies on knowledge of other disciplines to be able to comprehend and communicate content. Within the major, a broad range of design disciplines are surveyed (including web design, video storytelling, and motion graphics) and students are encouraged to explore specific areas further in the more independent upper-level courses.
The current faculty has recent experience designing at both small and large studios in the region in the fields of branding and interaction design and is pursuing a graduate degree in Art & Social Practice studying the role of art and design in communities.