Public University v. Private Art School v. Top Tier Art College

The way you pursue your art and design education will affect the technique, maturation and substance of your work. Some potential employers care solely about “your book,” a portfolio of your artwork that shows off your talents.  Some potential employers care solely about where you went to school. Most employers fall somewhere in between. Whatever type of education you choose to pursue, work hard.

Public University v. Private Art School v. Top Tier

(well rounded, less debt, better integration of thinking and technique v. all art-all the time, more debt, better job prospects, better technique v. art school + belief in your ability to kick a**)

Most schools will never list among the “ivy league” of art schools. They are smaller regional institutions. These schools are committed not to where you came from, but where you are going.  Most schools are book schools.  Book schools are all about hustle. Your “book,” or portfolio of sample art, had better outshine your top tier peers because the school name will not get you in the door. That said, the book folks have gotten through a lot of doors.

Ofazomi sits on both sides of this artificial public/private fence having both studied design and taught design in public university and private art school settings, including the top tier schools. Ofazomi has also hired folks from all these settings. Still, this remains a biased commentary with no claim of objectivity.

Why Public University?
At public university you will spend more time pursuing liberal arts requirements than your art school peers. Your liberal arts education will be of higher quality. It may feel like a waste of energy until the day it will hit you that these liberal arts subjects have forced you to think about interconnection, the very basis of art and design. Public university offers you substance.

Why Art School?
Art school offers you technique. The downside of being forced to become intellectually well-rounded at a public university is that you have less time for artmaking. Great technique is the result of practice. Art school students get more practice than public university students. Art school offers you polish.

Why Top Tier?
There are top tier design programs at both public and private schools. These are “ivies” of design. The programs are competative to enter and usually very expensive. Designers who come out of the “ivy league” of art schools have several advantages:

  • Healthly alumni networks mean that grads know about open positions before the rest of us.
  • Grads have wealthier and better connected school friends as a result of going to an expensive school.
  • Many ivy league artists believe that they are better trained and tend to hire others like themselves.  It’s an ego thing.

That last point matters. You are who you believe yourself to be. Statistically, once the wealth of your parents is taken to account, your choice of educational institution makes absolutely no difference by any measure: ability to think critically, earning power, skills, connections, etc. On a personal level however, belief in your superiority can yield professional dividends. You go out for jobs that should intimidate. You are confident in your ability to tackle projects bigger than you have ever done before. You aim higher. Top tier offers you self confidence.

Leveling The Field
Your job, regardless of how you choose to educate yourself, is to create more work than you think you are capable of and polish it so it outshines any work another design school grad can present. You have to make the time to work on your work. You need to find people who will give you honest feedback on a weekly basis so that work can be polished. Drive and discipline really pay off in this profession.

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