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Visual Arts and Design Majors and Potential Careers

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The beautiful (and functional) things we love don’t just come out of nowhere. From the clothes we wear to the art hanging on our walls to the buildings we live in, these things wouldn’t exist without those with an eye for visual arts and design. And those professionals have an important role in the working world.

Apparel/Textiles

This major prepares students for careers in the design, production, distribution, and marketing of apparel and textile products. Textile design is the art of changing the appearance of natural and/or synthetic surfaces by applying traditional, stylized, digitized or illusionary techniques to embellish a product. Textile and surface design is also the art of changing the structure of a surface by applying 3D techniques, including weaving, knitting, embroidery, lace, beading, and embossing. In order to prepare students for this fast-paced and demanding profession, programs will introduce them to a wide variety of surfaces and fabrics such as prints, knits, upholstery fabric, wall coverings, drapery, glassware, and paper products.

Education

Students will start with courses in subjects designed to prepare them for the many facets of this industry: marketing, product design, drawing, psychology, sociology, and economics. Students will then progress to course work that studies the textile industry and apparel design, in addition to consumer product development. Given the nature of the work, students can expect an internship or co-op program to be an important part of this major. Classes include economics, psychology, sociology, art history, drawing, 3D design, organizational behavior, marketing, apparel and textile industry, aesthetics of apparel and textiles, and history of fashion.

Possible careers

  • buyer
  • decorative design
  • department/store manager
  • designer
  • fashion coordinator
  • quality assurance tech
  • product development
  • technical designer
  • illustrator
  • operations manager
  • pattern maker

Cinematography/Media Production

Cinematography is the study of the creation of motion pictures. As a major, it is concerned with all aspects of the production of films and video rather than with film criticism or film history, though the study of these areas is incorporated into the curriculum. The digital aspects of this major are developing rapidly, so computer work is far more prominent in this field today.

Education

It is important for students in this major to begin with a strong liberal arts program, as well as introductory courses in media and communications. Because production techniques are changing rapidly in this field, course work is likewise changing to capture the evolving nature of film, video, and digital production. It goes without saying that most media production courses involve substantial project work. Classes include film theory and technique; cinema writing; film direction and production; set design, building, and lighting; digital production and editing; screenwriting; animation and special effects; and film history.

Possible careers

  • camera operator
  • cartoonist
  • cinematographer
  • college professor
  • communications specialist
  • film director or producer
  • film inspector
  • film producer
  • photographer
  • screen writer
  • stage manager
  • technical writer

Fashion Merchandising

Fashion merchandising is the study of all aspects of the business of marketing and distributing clothing and accessories to wholesale and retail outlets. Most often offered as a two-year associate degree program, it is available at a few four-year institutions and may lead to a bachelor of professional studies degree. As a four-year offering, the major requires course work in fashion design. The field can be considered a highly competitive one, with many young people seeking this area as a glamorous career. Be cautioned, however, that it takes a highly motivated, creative, and aggressive individual to find success in this field.

Education

The plan of study includes core courses in fashion, design and merchandising; business administration courses such as marketing, sales, and distribution; electives in communication arts and fine arts; selected liberal arts, math, and science. Classes include fashion design, fashion layout, fashion model drawing, fashion merchandising, fashion writing, pattern making, internships, history of fashion, mass marketing, product development, computer aided design.

Possible careers

  • buyer
  • college professor
  • consultant
  • fashion designer
  • manager
  • market researcher
  • merchandise manager
  • product demonstrator
  • purchasing agent
  • sales representative
  • small business owner
  • technical writer

Film/Cinema Studies

This field of study involves the critical examination of mass media, popular culture, and the film and television industries. In this major, students explore the social, political, economic, and aesthetic impact of film. It is a major that looks forward to new methods of communication and artistic expression, while also developing an appreciation for past masters to offer definitions of excellence of expression that have stood the test of time. This is not necessarily the major for the film maker (see Cinematography), but rather for one who wishes to study, analyze, and critique the films being made today. Like in so many of the arts fields, the competition for jobs is great.

Education

In the case of this major, a liberal arts background is essential. Since film is a medium that can move into and through virtually any kind of human endeavor, it is important for film studies students to be widely conversant in many art forms and modes of expression. Beyond general classes, students will take courses that show them how to analyze cinematic images. Classes include history of film; film criticism; film theory; film studies, culture, technology, and communication; race, gender, and class in film; and film making techniques.

Possible careers

  • film critic
  • film librarian/archivist
  • major studio administrator
  • university professor
  • screen writer

Fine/Studio Arts

This major is for the student who wants to create art. Fine arts concentrations include ceramics, drawing and painting, photography, and sculpture. In schools devoted exclusively to fine arts, such specialties as graphic illustration, industrial design, jewelry making, or architecture also may be found. Admission to this major is contingent upon the presentation of a portfolio of work of sufficient quality and diversity to demonstrate talent. It will be important to choose between a course of study at a conservatory or art school or in the context of a liberal arts program. In either location, extensive studio time will be required. The visual arts field is extremely competitive.

Education

Studies usually begin with a core curriculum of liberal arts and at least one year of a foundation art class, in which the student is exposed to different media. Later, students choose an area of concentration and focus on studies such as use of color, advanced aesthetics, perception, and/or a specific medium such as watercolor, sculpture, or printmaking. The collection and evaluation of a portfolio is frequently a graduation requirement. Classes include use of color, design techniques, the figure, supervised individual projects, art seminars, and portfolio development.

Possible careers

  • art director
  • art therapist
  • cartoonist
  • commercial artist
  • costume designer
  • display artist
  • glass designer
  • graphic designer
  • illustrator
  • jeweler
  • lithographer
  • museum curator
  • painter
  • photographer
  • sculptor
  • studio artist
  • teacher

Interior Design

The design of building interiors has evolved from surface decoration and furniture selection to a multi-faceted enterprise concerned with the design of total environments that satisfy client needs, understand building technology, and ensure safety. Along with the academic study of the history and theory of interior design, students have the chance to collaborate on projects with professional interior designers, lighting and graphic designers, and architects. Office spaces, waiting rooms, conference halls, and nearly any indoor area where people gather receive the attention of the designer. The growing awareness of the effects of the design of indoor spaces on human productivity, morale, buying habits, and even health make job prospects in this field promising.

Education

The interior design major stresses design function in both two- and three-dimensional forms, as well as technical drawing, modeling of interior spaces, use of color to achieve mood or size effects, and related topics. Introductory studio art, art history, and other core art courses are integral. Finally, one or more semesters may be spent working in a designer’s studio as part of an internship or co-op experience. Many courses will be project-based, and significant group work is a key feature of this course of study. Classes include technical drawing, color in space, art history, lighting design, furniture and product design, historical preservation, communications, and applied math.

Possible careers

  • college professor
  • color theory consultant
  • commercial designer
  • consultant
  • display manager
  • facilities planner
  • historical preservationist
  • industrial designer
  • interior designer
  • manufacturing
  • museum curator
  • museum technician
  • production designer
  • set designer
  • technical illustrator

Landscape Architecture

This major is the study of the planning, design, and construction of landscape features around homes, schools, public and commercial buildings, as well as parks and recreation areas. Landscape architecture includes not only the aesthetic placement of flowers, plants, and shrubs, but may also entail determining the location of roads and parking areas and caring for the environmental impact of such construction.

Education

The plan of study includes courses in botany, plant ecology, architectural drafting, college algebra, and introduction to computer programming. Upper-division course work is required in areas including landscape architecture, site research, site analysis, and landscape design studio. In some colleges, the program is a five-year study, which includes a mandatory off-campus work experience. Classes include plant materials, city and regional planning, site grading, aerial photography interpretation, graphic communications, technical writing, and applied math.

Possible careers

  • civil service
  • energy conservation
  • environmental policy management
  • historic preservation
  • landscape architect
  • regional designer
  • small business owner
  • urban designer

Photography

This major, found in the school of fine arts or visual arts, trains the student to use cameras and digital equipment to make images for landscape, fashion, journalistic, or fine arts photography. Students are not only taught the techniques of the production of images, but they are also expected to be able to articulate the artistic vision that lies behind the work that they do. There are jobs available for students in photojournalism or commercial photography, though attempting to be fine arts photographer is as difficult as any other kind of visual fine artist.

Education

Photography, as a visual art major, requires an extensive amount of time learning through doing. Expect a good amount of time in the field shooting film, in the darkroom, or at a computer. The production of digital images is an artistic field that is growing rapidly, and students will have ample opportunity to explore the many applications possible in this area. Classes include photo technology, black and white printing, color printing, photo critique, the history of photography, digital imaging.

Possible careers

  • art director
  • commercial photographer
  • museum curator
  • photo critic
  • photo editor
  • photograph collector
  • photojournalist
  • portrait photographer
  • visual artist

Theater Design and Technology

This course of study prepares students for work in the professional theater design. It provides students with the artistic, analytical, and research skills required to develop designs for period and contemporary theatrical productions. It also can give students craft skills in one or more areas of design to support theatrical productions. Finally, it prepares students for further graduate training or professional work by helping develop a comprehensive and representative portfolio of creative work. As in any performing arts profession, jobs in design are not plentiful.

Education

Studies include theatrical history and literature and design theory and history. They will be trained in crafts and skills such as construction, cutting and draping, drawing and rendering, drafting, electronics, hydraulics, model-making, and properties. Working on theater productions in a variety of genres while engaged in this major in college allows students to use and hone their skills. Students are advised to pursue design opportunities in summer stock or reparatory companies while in college. Classes include stagecraft, dramatic structure, stage lighting, improvisation, costume production, technical direction, and digital imagining techniques.

Possible careers

  • costume designer
  • lighting designer
  • scene designer
  • set designer
  • stage manager
  • stagecraft designer
  • theater director
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