Graphic design program bolsters offerings amid increased student interest

Media Credit: File Photo by Jack Fonseca | Staff Photographer

Sanjit Sethi, the director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, said the increased demand for graphic design courses prompted the school to launch a search this semester to hire a new full-time assistant professor of graphic design.

The graphic design program in the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design is adding a handful of courses and an extra faculty member this fall as student interest rises.

About 45 students are currently majoring, minoring or taking courses in graphic design – the highest number since the Corcoran merged with the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences in 2014, officials said. Faculty and officials said the uptick in student interest, which prompted the school to hire an additional professor for this fall and add four additional courses, will allow students to receive more individualized attention and expand graphic design offerings.

Thirty-two students were majoring in graphic design at the beginning of this academic year, compared to 27 in both 2017 and 2016, according to institutional data.

Sanjit Sethi, the director of the Corcoran, said the increased demand for graphic design courses prompted the school to launch a search this semester to hire a new full-time assistant professor of graphic design, the school’s eighth faculty member in the program.

“There has been an increased demand for graphic design courses among incoming students,” he said. “We believe this is because graphic design graduates can work in diverse fields from branding to motion design to package and publication design, which are in demand.”

Sethi said students increasingly desire technical skills in a digital world that needs visual “problem solvers” across multiple media platforms, including print, web, motion and mobile devices.

“With the design disciplines at the Corcoran, including graphic design, GW is poised to be a key driver in the role that design plays in transforming the world around us,” Sethi said. “Students from engineering to journalism to public health are keenly interested in seeing how design pedagogy can more profoundly support the work they are doing.”

Johan Severtson, the program head of design in Corcoran and the school’s only full-time graphic design professor, said that when the Corcoran merged with CCAS in 2014, the number of graphic design students dipped, but the program has since rebounded.

“We’ve been down to as many as a half a dozen students in a graduating class so about 45 now, that’s a big jump,” he said.

Severtson said the “massive” increase in students has allowed for flexibility to bring back two courses in environmental design and packaging design this fall. Two new courses – Publication Design and Information Design – will also be added, he said.

“I think it will be very exciting for our students to have a new full-time faculty member because adjuncts are great, and we hire a lot of the best professionals in the area, but they can’t commit the kind of time a full-time person can to building the program,” Severtson said.

The program has five adjuncts who primarily teach the graphic design courses, according to the program’s website.

Severtson said officials may also use the increased student demand to explore an expansion of the program as a whole. About 12 to 15 students are currently allowed to major in graphic design each year, but officials could increase that number if student interest continues to rise, he said.

Steph Hooton, a professional lecturer of design, said the increased number of non-Corcoran students interested in graphic design courses will add both “richness” and “diversity” to the classroom.

“I find that to be a really extraordinary bonus for design students and pretty much the entire fine arts community because you have the ability to cross-pollinate between the different disciplines and get feedback from a wide variety of sources,” she said.

Hooton said the demand for workers with a “diverse” skillset will only continue to increase since students increasingly want technical design skills.

“When you go out into the workforce, the business community is now looking for whole brain thinkers that are creative and can bring innovation to the table, and when you’re taking creative classes, that is helping build creative strategies and methods for ideation,” she said.



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