Colleges that combine design & development?

over 6 years ago from , Ideas, youth, tech, design, & education

I'm looking for colleges right now, and I know that I will be more marketable if I graduate with skills in both design and development, so I want to find a college that will let me focus on design (primarily graphic/type and UI) but also gain skills in coding.

Here are options I'm looking at: - RISD: (obviously) super focused on design. - Georgia Tech's Computational Media program, combining design & development - MIT's Media Labs: a better combination of design with more development - Clemson's Digital Production Arts Program, which focuses on 3D animation, which I don't think I have any large interest in pursuing.

Any thoughts? Does the name of a college stand out on a job application?


  • Kyle ConradKyle Conrad, over 6 years ago

    I found that friends that went to school for "web development" ended up reteaching themselves everything on their own because the curve of recent technologies and techniques was so far behind - there's so much change constantly in the web dev world that it's hard to keep up anyway, let alone in a structure environment. (That said, many computer science programs will give you at least a solid background in the basics of development and programming that are helpful to learn new languages.)

    I'd say focus on design - I went to school for graphic design, and while we never did any web dev, learning the history of art, the basics of typography and grids and layouts and white space, all the tiny details that matter more than you can imagine, etc. ended up helping me far more down the line as I designed & built websites. All the history of design doesn't go away in the digital medium - if anything, it's amplified and matters moreso.

    16 points
    • Nicole FosterNicole Foster, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

      Very good advice! This is the path I followed when choosing a college.

      I have my Bachelor's in Visual Communication (fancy words for Graphic/Web Design) from a college that focused on design and I don't regret it. During my 4 years, I grew not only as a designer, but as a developer because of what I learned. Many developers don't realize how understanding design elements (typography, grids, color, etc) can improve your work tremendously. You may be able to code that application flawlessly, but will your users stay if the design and interaction is terrible? I think not.

      Sorry if this counts as self-promotion spam, but feel free to check out Syracuse University's Information Management degree. You can concentrate on Web Design & Development and the program is super flexible to what you're interested in learning! It's the program I wish I followed :)

      1 point
    • Prasid PathakPrasid Pathak, over 6 years ago

      I would tend to agree with Kyle. From my experience the development languages that are being taught in higher education today aren't aligned with what's being used by real practitioners.

      Without understanding your goals better, I can't say which one you should go to school for, and which one you should learn outside.

      I would perhaps recommend studying design, and then during your first summer taking a dev bootcamp or a course like Bloc [Full Disclosure - I work at Bloc] so that while going through design school you are also cultivating your developer skills. I would not recommend doing the bootcamp at the end.

      The nice thing about Bloc is you can do it part-time and online, so you could do it while doing a summer internship or while working full time.

      0 points
  • John EmersonJohn Emerson, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    Parsons has a Design and Technology BFA: http://www.newschool.edu/parsons/bfa-design-technology/

    And take a look at NYU's graduate program in Interactive Telecommunications: http://itp.nyu.edu/itp/

    And there's also the Cooper Union, my alma mater, which offers an undergraduate visual arts program and is attached to a world-class engineering school. The art school doesn't have declared "majors" in the traditional sense and you can customize your own program after the initial foundation year: http://www.cooper.edu

    3 points
    • Joel CalifaJoel Califa, over 6 years ago

      As a recent graduate, I can vouch for the Design & Tech BFA. Feel free to send any questions my way.

      2 points
  • Eric HuEric Hu, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    Art Center College of Design has an interaction design program that does both. Interaction design was once offered as a concentration within the graphic design program but has since split off as its own thing. It's a really good, but expensive program, a lot of my good friends from there work at Google, Dropbox, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple (I got approached by FB and Apple upon graduation, the school is really aggressive in helping their students get jobs), Nike, Pentagram, IDEO SF, IDEO NY, Moving Brands, Wolff Olins, etc.

    I went there from 2007–2011 before the split and now I do both. Personally, I chose to focus on print design rather than interaction design even though I wanted to do web. Why? Because without having to focus on technological concerns, it was 100% design in theory and practice. A lot of the instructors in the print design department came from Basel which is highly influential in Swiss Modernism and a few were from Cranbrook which was influential in the 90s desconstructionist movement. Everything I learned could apply to interaction. Like I don't need a CSS color picker thingy or whatever because I got color theory drilled into my head. I don't need grid helpers or anything of that stuff or read any articles because it's all intuitive to me now. Interaction designers always like to say they're in the business of storytelling—I mean, well, I spent years learning the ins and out of book design (a lot harder than it seems), knowing about pacing and sequencing, changes in scale, so it helped me in that direction.

    When you have a program that claims to do both, you realistically are taught how to do something and not why. You will know how to do full stack development but you might not learn computer science theory or even simple things such as how a database allocates memory or the differences in the javascript engines in the browsers that are out now.

    You may know things such as setting up a grid, what leading is good for legibility but you won't know the history or theory behind letterforms that make it so. These seem trivial but we all know in design the difference between something that is 90% there and 99% there is tremendous and it's those intangible qualities that really make it that way. You won't be able to learn some skills that separate the masters from the everyday practictioners.

    Also the web is still in its infancy.So many things are in constant flux. New paradigms of interaction and displaying content are arising. Having an intimate knowledge of the history, the inner-workings and the theories of an area can help you anticipate these changes better in my opinion.

    On that related note, for the first two years in my school, web-font technology wasn't even there. It was back when you had only Georgia, Verdana, etc to choose from, so those who were in the interaction design concentration back then had less typography course requirements because it wasn't as relevant. Now I'm glad I got to take all those extra type classes because the technology to render type on the web has grown tremendously.

    So with that I decided if I was going to get an education I wanted to go deep into one side, the side I cared about more.

    When it comes to development, knowing myself I can easily pick up skills online, or outside cheaper classes. There will always be development classes. What is more rare to pick up is a quality design education. Design is hard to teach and really benefits from being part of a program that treats it holistically, with a close group of peers that you're with who critique you and you learn to trust their opinion. Design education depends heavily on that. If I was to spend money on school I concluded I wanted to learn something that was So I made my decision based on that.

    2 points
  • Tyler SomersTyler Somers, over 6 years ago

    I would also recommend looking at the New Media Design program at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). The program combines both design and development very well, and the work that the program produces is outstanding.

    I wouldn't say the name of the college matters as much as the skills you are able to bring to the table. I also agree that you can learn coding separately and focus more on design during school.

    Good luck!

    2 points
    • Megan CleggMegan Clegg, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

      Seconding RIT's New Media Design program. I came out of their graphic design program - which is much too traditional for what you're looking for, but still a great program - and know many, many people who graduated from New Media. They get snapped up reaaaal quick out of school by agencies big and small. Odopod (the former name of the company of the commenter above) actually wrote a blog post a few years back about why they prefer to hire RIT New Media grads - http://odopod.com/blog/if-you-want-job-odopod-go-rit/

      Also, RIT has garbage plates.

      That being said, if you do go into a program like this, try to take some "traditional design" classes as well - typography, information design, branding, etc. New Media programs tend to gloss over those parts because they have so much to teach, so students come out without learning those skills. But knowing how to work with type and information and hierarchy are still very important subjects to master if you're going to create with digital products.

      0 points
  • Paul @StammyPaul @Stammy, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    I went to Georgia Tech and did Computational Media. Loved it. Though I initially did a year of EE/Computer Engineering and realized that things like signal processing were not my calling.

    • Took a C programming course for the Gameboy Advance. Design sprites and such then hook it up.
    • Interaction design with Flash (they've probably moved to other tools by now though)
    • Another interaction design course where we made HTML/CSS/JS/PHP sites
    • Introductory design classes including things like drawing and photoshop
    • Industrial design & history courses
    • CS fundamentals with SmallTalk, Java, Matlab, etc

    They also have a thriving startup/tech community. (pando.com/2014/07/07/hip-hop-housewives-and-hot-startups-a-guide-to-atlantas-startup-scene/) Georgia Tech even invested in my first startup when I graduated back in the day http://www.iac.gatech.edu/news-and-events/story?id=61177

    That being said, I did also learn a ton on my own through countless side projects and startups!

    1 point
  • rohan singh, over 6 years ago

    Carnegie Mellon has 2 brilliant courses - Interaction Design at the Design School and Master's of Human Computer Interaction in the CS School.

    Both these programs are regarded among the best in Interaction design and HCI. I would recommend looking at Quora because this question has been answered really well there.

    PS: I am pursuing MHCI at CMU and would be more than happy to answer any questions you have about the program :)

    1 point
  • Grant StandridgeGrant Standridge, over 6 years ago

    Full Sail University has a quality Bachelor's program for design & development. It's admittedly about 80% development and 20% design, but the design course material is centered on interaction design and usability more than the typical graphic design stuff. There's also an online version of the program as well. BUT, be prepared to spend a lot :/

    1 point
    • Nathan NNathan N, over 6 years ago

      OP please don't consider Full Sail. Full Sail, like Art Institutes is not regionally accredited meaning your degree may not be recognized outside of the U.S. Additionally you cannot transfer credits to another uni if you change your mind down the road.

      0 points
      • Grant StandridgeGrant Standridge, over 6 years ago

        I don't disagree about the inconsistencies in degree credits, accreditation, etc. but Kevin originally said "...I know that I will be more marketable if I graduate with skills in both design and development..." with skills being the main focus.

        If skills are what he's most interested in and the piece of paper with his name and degree on it isn't, I think Full Sail's a great option. If a company is looking for a quality designer and or developer and they turn that person down because his bachelor's degree isn't perfect like a state college or similar, I'd suggest he look for work at another company. Just my two cents.

        0 points
  • Derryl CarterDerryl Carter, over 6 years ago

    I went to Georgia Tech with a very similar goal in mind -- entering as a Computational Media student. I'd be happy to speak to you about my experience, if you're interested.

    I ended up switching from CM to "Science, Technology & Culture", which is run by Georgia Tech's liberal arts department. STaC was a better fit for me, but make no mistake -- you will not get any substantive design education at Georgia Tech. And even though Georgia Tech has an outstanding engineering program, it (like all other universities) will seem antiquated when it comes to modern web development. You'll end up teaching yourself most of those skills no matter where you go.

    Regarding "marketability": Although you may be talented in multiple areas, your first few employers will likely hire you based on your abilities in a single area. It's important for personal development to nurture your interests in multiple fields, but it's not necessarily what employers are looking for in fresh graduates.

    College name matters. But not that much. At the end of the day, your professional success depends on your passion, work ethic, and the occasional spot of good luck!

    Just pick a program that excites you. The more you love something, the better you'll be at it. That's what will bring success and satisfaction.

    Additional programs I suggest exploring: UPenn, Digital Media Design UC Santa Barbara, College of Creative Studies

    1 point
  • Jared CJared C, over 6 years ago

    I can recommend University of Washington. Two programs in particular, Human Centered Design and Engineering: http://hcde.uw.edu/ and Master of Human-Computer Interaction + Design: http://mhcid.washington.edu/

    There is no formal dev stuff at all, but if you make the effort in learning some development on your own it really makes the program very valuable. Which I think is really want you need to do with any program. You need to make it your own and steer it towards your own goals. Just attending will not get you there.

    1 point
  • Athyuttam Reddy, over 6 years ago

    Hey Kevin!

    My name is Atty and I'm a rising sophomore at Brown studying CS and Visual Arts. Given our collaboration with RISD, it's great to be able to take classes there and in general work with student groups and professors on both campuses.

    A lot of student groups also try to bring together science and art (and therefore, design and development.) I'm part of Brown + RISD STEAM (STEM + Arts), and we do a lot of fun interdisciplinary work! More info here: www.steamwith.us

    I would strongly recommend applying to Brown, RISD and the Brown-RISD dual-degree program. Brown has an excellent computer science department, and RISD of course is an incredible school for design. The dual-degree program would probably work really well for you. Feel free to shoot me an email at atty@brown.edu if you'd like to talk more about it!

    1 point
  • Dan Boland, over 6 years ago

    I agree with others -- definitely go for design, and learn coding separately. I would also strongly consider minoring in marketing.

    1 point
  • Bob WassermannBob Wassermann, over 6 years ago

    I'm doing a bachelor Communication & Multimedia Design. Learning the basics of design and communication plus a little bit of code. Mostly everything developer-related I thought myself, Treehouse could be a good help :)

    0 points
  • Ed ChaoEd Chao, over 6 years ago

    Or you could go to The Ironyard and work on your design skills on your own. (If I could go back, this is what I would've done)


    0 points
  • Iheanyi Ekechukwu, over 6 years ago

    Hey there! I'm a Computer Science and Design major at the University of Notre Dame and I'll be receiving my Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degree through a special program we have for engineers here. The program itself is pretty decent although I taught myself a lot of stuff on the side. We have a Media Computing concentration within Computer Science that could prove valuable as well, let me know if you have more questions.

    0 points
  • Elmo JenkinsElmo Jenkins, over 6 years ago

    I think any university with a decent design program will give you the fundamentals, however, you'll be the one who determines if you lean more business/design/engineering...all of which can be learned outside the classroom. That said, if you get into MIT, don't be a fool...go there...

    0 points
  • Joel CalifaJoel Califa, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    Recently graduated from Parsons' Design & Technology department. It could be better but all in all it was fantastic.

    0 points
  • Luis La TorreLuis La Torre, over 6 years ago

    In my opinion your best options is either go to a state school, like NC State University or Ohio State University, or others schools with good design schools in them and take computer science classes there. Or go my route which was go to your art school of choice and do something like Codeschool or Treehouse on the side. I did also sit in a lot of computer science classes at OSU and UF for fun.

    0 points
  • Will Hitchcock, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    As a graduate of California Polytechnic State University's Graphic Communication program in San Luis Obispo I would encourage you to check that out.

    Some people mentioned that even after a formal education people have to do a ton of learning to get up to speed with being a professional in web design and development. That's absolutely true, but the purpose of going to a university isn't to make sure that you are at the top of your field when you graduate. The whole point is to give you the skills and the tools that you need to excel and learn rapidly when you do get into your field.

    This is EXACTLY what Cal Poly focuses on as a whole. More specifically, the Graphic Communication program will expose you to everything from design to development to print media. You'll have hands on experience, professors that know your name, industry connections, and all of the opportunities you need to be successful.

    Check it out: http://www.grc.calpoly.edu/

    Let me know if you want to learn more. I can talk for hours about Cal Poly and GrC.

    0 points
  • Evan KnightEvan Knight, over 6 years ago

    Cornell's Information Science program with the Human-Centered Systems track blends HCI design but still has core courses in development.

    0 points
  • Andy OrsowAndy Orsow, over 6 years ago

    DISCLAIMER: Take this with a grain of salt, don't let it crush your college dreams. :)

    I feel like I'm in the minority here, but if you're going to go to school for design, you're may be better of grabbing a Jr. position at an agency or startup and being a sponge.

    In 4 years you'll be way more hire-able, have a great grasp on the ins-and-outs of the industry itself, and be 4 years ahead of your peers.

    I am completely biased, in that I didn't go to school, and am enjoying success in my career, while having zero debt.

    If your parents are paying for 100% of your school, go for it. But a lot of kids heading off to college don't understand the implication of what a RISD sized student loan does to their pocket book for the next 10-15 years. It's basically a mortgage.

    Hope this doesn't come off too harsh. College wasn't for me, but that doesn't mean it's not right for you.

    Just know that who you are, how you work with others, how hard you work, and how much you care, are 100x more important to someone hiring than what school you went to.

    0 points
  • Johannes IppenJohannes Ippen, over 6 years ago

    If you're in Europe: Berlin-based Design Academy offers a new program "Web Development + Interaction Design": http://www.design-akademie-berlin.de/bachelor/web-development/studium.html

    0 points
  • Casey BrittCasey Britt, over 6 years ago (edited over 6 years ago )

    I agree with most here. Go to school for design and spend time learning development on your own.

    Also, just being a hybrid is not good enough. You need to actually be quite good at both things to be valuable to most companies. Being mediocre at design and mediocre at code doesn't really do much for you. Being great at one and pretty good at the other can do wonders.

    Also, take a look at portfolio schools that offer very focused 2 year design programs. You can do something like that then take a starter job in design. While doing that you spend some of your free time learning development. Maybe even taking some night classes.

    0 points
  • Jon GoldJon Gold, over 6 years ago

    fwiw I can't think of anywhere that does a great hybrid course. Most places teaching web development will be outdated in a year or two, but some days I wish I'd done a CompSci degree (and taught myself modern web dev on top of that). That said, I'm really appreciative of my graphic design degree most of the time; I'd pick a great design college and learn to code yourself.

    0 points
  • Antonio PratasAntonio Pratas, over 6 years ago

    I don't know most of those, but I love the work that I've seen coming from Media Labs as it's more digital and more focused on interaction as well. And the name MIT always stands out anywhere, but for a designer, it's your work that speaks for you, regardless if you have a degree, a masters, a doctorate or you're a high school dropout. Just focus on having good work and a good skill set.

    0 points