Frequently Asked Questions
Who can apply?
The application process is open to anyone after attending a program overview. Check the calendar page for this year’s dates. Students may begin taking art and general education classes prior to entering the program. The core courses begin in fall and must follow the program sequence. Consult the college catalog or (link) web site for detailed information about the course of study.
Do I need to attend an overview?
Yes. Reading this web site information and attending an overview will greatly increase your chances of being accepted into the program. It will also better prepare you for your work in the program. Sessions are offered throughout the year, with more offered during spring term. Additional group and individual advising will also be scheduled through ChemekNet. Applications from students not attending overviews will be set aside until other applications are considered.
When do I need to know if I want the graphic design or interactive media degree?
All students apply to the Visual Communications program and complete the same courses during their first fall and winter terms in the program. During winter term you meet with program faculty to determine your path of study. Some students take three years and complete both program options, earning two degrees.
If I am accepted into the program and my financial aid does not come through, do I need to reapply the following year?
The program admissions policy and contents change frequently to reflect current industry standards and practices as well as program needs. So while we will hold your application for up to one year, it is up to you to contact the program chair to update and reactivate your application. Your program status will change from pre-VC to VC on enrollment in program courses.
I have been taking art classes for over a year and consider myself a graphic design student. Do I need to apply for the program just to take a few classes?
Most program classes are limited to students in the VC program. Occasionally there are openings in classes after VC students have registered. Contact the instructor if you meet the prerequisites and see if this might work for you. Most evening and online classes are open to everyone.
Why do you have an application and screening process?
We want you to be successful in your work here and in your career choices. We are totally jazzed about our program, but we realize that it is not for everyone. We accept around 30 students into our first year classes. Of these 30, only 12-18 will usually complete the program. Reasons for this include the time required to complete the classes, the intensity of the work and the balance of technical and creative skills required. Many students are not aware of exactly what graphic artists do and the vast background and creativity they must bring to the workplace every day. Other students have financial or personal challenges that do not allow them to continue in the program. The screening process helps student to be more prepared to be successful instead of just selecting random courses.
If I am on the waiting list, how likely am I to get into the program?
If you have attended and overview and applied early, chances are very high that you will gain admission. Many students express an initial interest, but take other paths before fall classes begin. Apply as early as possible after the application period opens each spring.
What exactly does it mean if I am not accepted into the program?
It could mean several things. You are welcome to make an appointment with the program chair to discuss your application. We will try to be as specific as possible with our suggestions. You may need to work on communication skills in writing classes or take more drawing. You may need to pay attention to detail by proof reading more carefully. Our goal is not to keep you out, but to help you get ready to be more successful. Attention to detail, crafting and presentation are the primary reasons students are not ready for the program. Keep it simple and present your work well.
The classes don’t fit my work schedule. Why do I have to take them in sequence?
We carefully integrate our program outcomes into all of our courses, beginning with the first classes in fall term. The intro classes are structured to allow you to explore the fields of graphic and interactive design before doing advanced course work. Each class builds on the prerequisite classes before it. Instructors and classmates count on this structure to move ahead in a predictable path. You learn about typography and image-making, then use these skills in the design of print and web pages.
Why is the program so challenging?
There is a constant whole-brain balance in graphic design. You need to be creative to come up with original concepts for clients, so you’re learning to generate ideas and participate in critiques. On the other hand, you produce most of your work on the Mac, which requires proficiency with current technology. The technology changes so quickly, that you must learn how to learn software. The challenge comes from balancing your great ideas with knowing how to produce them. It takes time. In addition to creative and technical skills you must learn to do research, present your work with fine crafting, and to communicate verbally and in writing with others. You will be very busy.
I need to work part time. What kind of schedule will I have?
Students are able to maintain a limited work schedule if they take a reduced credit load. Check the financial aid website (link) to requirements they may have as far as credit load. Each term’s offerings vary both as to the time of day scheduled and the time commitment necessary outside of class. We will help you plan a reasonable schedule each term. It is very important to be present at of the group advising sessions or meet with your assigned faculty advisor prior to registration each term. You will be advised which classes are required each term so you can make the best scheduling decisions and complete the program in the least possible amount of time. The program is designed to take a minimum of two full years to complete, beginning with program courses in the fall term. Taking less than a full load per term, taking prerequisite courses, or adding electives will increase the time required to complete the program. Many students find that it is easier to take the program over a three year period of time.
Can I complete the VC program by taking only evening or online courses while I work full time?
We offer a selection of evening and online classes each term, however, at this time almost all required courses are offered only during the day at the Salem campus.
What if I want to enter the program in winter or spring?
We try to accommodate all students, but because VC is a small program, most courses are offered only once a year and they must be taken in sequence. The great thing about being part of a small program is that once you do get in sequence, you will be one of a small, dedicated group of students who work well together and get lots of one-on-one time with instructors. This cohort moves through the series of classes together, providing you with great support. We will work with you to schedule any general education requirements that can be taken while you wait to get into the program.
What classes do you offer in summer?
At this time, Basic Design ( ART 115), Basic Drawing (ART 131), and Graphic design Literacy ( ART207) are offered in the summer in addition to our required general education classes.
Do I need a computer at home?
Having a computer at home is a great asset, but is not essential. We maintain several hours of open time in the Mac lab each day and have open lab all day on Fridays. In addition, the lab is open for limited hours on most weekends during the term. Some work can be completed on a home computer, but you will be required to produce some projects in the scheduled class lab. If you do not have a laptop or computer at home, it will be necessary for you to make the most of the open lab times and schedule your work accordingly. No fonts or programs from home can be brought into the VC lab and no VC fonts or programs can be taken home. Most students find a laptop or home computer makes their life a lot easier.
I have a PC at home. Do I need a Mac?
We have chosen to use Macs in our lab because it is the platform of choice for most design and web professionals. Graphics software is available for both PC and Mac and most files transfer quite easily between the two platforms. You are responsible for making sure your files transfer to the Mac environment, should you choose to work on a PC at home (formatting flash drives in the ExFAT file format works well on both platforms). Although application files often translate easily, fonts are frequently different on the Mac than they are on a PC, which usually results in text and document changes. Students are responsible for saving their documents in a format that translates back and forth from school to home and back again.
What software will we use in class?
The primary graphics applications we use are included in the Adobe Creative Cloud (CC): Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, and Dreamweaver. 2014 is our last year of CS6 and we will upgrade to CC in the summer. We keep current in all software versions, however if upgrades come out during an academic year we wait until the end of the term to upgrade the lab. We upgrade to the most current Mac OS in summer as well.
Is everything done on a computer?
No. Thumbnail layouts and rough sketches are done by hand. You will be asked to do numerous pencil layouts before doing computer production on all projects. Some illustrations and sketches are hand rendered and later scanned for use in the computer. Traditional illustrations and hand lettering are welcome additions to your work. The creativity required to generate the ideas will never be come from anywhere except inside you. Bring a pencil. Moleskins and sketchbooks are used in many classes.
How large are the classes?
Some introductory classes have 36 students in a lecture class. We limit lab size so each student will have a computer. We have 18–20 student workstations in our labs. Second year classes usually range from 14-18 students. In fall of 2014 our remodeled labs will each have 24 Macs.
What type of projects will I work on?
Each project that you are assigned is designed with both overall graphic arts or web design concepts and specific techniques in mind. Projects are varied and will include work on live jobs when possible. All projects require the use of original imagery, whether photography, illustration, or type treatment. You will learn layout and typesetting while working on brochures, newsletters, magazines and catalogs. In the second year of the program in Design Studio you may design posters for the Art Gallery or logos and brochures for campus or not-for-profit clients. In web Studio you may work on a web site for a campus or not-for-profit client. Cooperative Work Experience or internships are another option for on-the-job learning.
What is the balance of technical verses creative skills?
Some students have an art background and pursue graphic design and illustration. Other students are intrigued by computers and enjoy the challenge of solving technical problems related to web design. An interest in photography brings some students into the program. One thing is for certain: no amount of talent can substitute for hard work in learning all of the varied skills and techniques required to be successful in this competitive and ever-changing field. Those with an art background must learn to be technically accurate; computer geeks will learn that flashy techniques are useless without a solid design concept. Regardless of your background, if you’re willing to work hard, we can teach you the skills, both technical and aesthetic, that will lead to a rewarding career.
With all the forms of digital communication, why is print still taught?
Graphic arts basics are the same whether you’re designing for a newspaper ad, the web, a T-shirt, or interactive media. Good typography, the use of design principles, image making, and creative problem solving are essential. It all starts with a solid idea. You will learn basic skills that will transfer to any media. Print is an essential media to master and is a great starting place for other media as well.
What will I need in the way of supplies?
Supplies include portable hard drives for storing your digital files, books for each class, standard notebooks, tracing paper, sketchbooks, folders for turning in projects, a Lynda.com subscription, pencils, felt tip pens, art supplies and mounting board. You are required to purchase prints from the printers. Design classes have their own supply lists, which may include papers, markers, paints and pencils. A portfolio is required for the spring term of your second year and may cost up to $300. A list of program expenses is updated annually. (link)
If I decide to pursue a Bachelor’s degree, will my Visual Communications courses transfer to a four-year school?
We have an articulation agreement with the Art Institute of Portland for completion of a Bachelor’s degree in several areas. They will accept your program courses towards your degree. Portland State University accepts our Associate of Applied Science degree as a block transfer. Passing their Sophomore Portfolio Review is required. Other colleges and universities should be contacted on an individual basis regarding transfer possibilities prior to enrolling.
What electives are available?
While there are no elective slots within the program, there are many support courses that we recommend that you take. We offer photography, illustration, filmmaking, and software courses within the program. The Art Program offers excellent courses in art history, drawing and printmaking. If you’re thinking about opening your own business, there are marketing and business courses as well as other great resources available. The college offers many computer courses if you’re interested in more in-depth web programming and design. Many of our students are interested in journalism and work on the school newspaper. There are many options open to you.