The MCC Graphic Design Program is entering its 20th year this academic year (2018-19), and it is celebrating with an all-new learning environment that has been completely redesigned to give students an opportunity to hone their craft in a real-world setting.
“Everything in the Graphic Design Studio is new,” said James Shurter, Graphic Design Program Coordinator. “There are brand new Macintosh computers with the latest industry standard software, a white board wall, and a white board conference table! So no matter when the creative juices flow, students can start designing on almost any nearby surface,” he said.
“The white board wall and conference table give students more surfaces to freely generate ideas and solve problems for visual communications,” Shurter said. “They are not limited by a sheet of paper.”
The environment is designed to encourage collaboration as well as creativity. “One person can start drawing a graphic design solution and another can join in,” said Shurter, “fostering free association and mind mapping on the spot.”
He added that traditionally, the educational process has been focused on teaching the individual student how to do graphic design. “However, professional graphic designers generally work in teams. We wanted to give our students that team-oriented experience to better prepare them for their profession.”
The technology in the new Graphic Design Center goes beyond the new computers and marker tables. There is also a HD projector and several wireless flat-panel televisions that connect to laptops and tablets, enabling students to do professional presentations. “We want to reinforce how to present ideas to clients in a polished, professional manner,” Shurter said.
In fact, the classroom doubles as an “office” for Studio 205, a full-service graphic design studio staffed by students serving real-world clients. Design Studio Center (Studio 205) is a class for Graphic Design majors nearing completion of their associate degree.
Qualified students take Studio 205 for an opportunity to gain real-world experiences under controlled conditions while continuing their regular coursework in Graphic Design. Potential clients submit design projects for development by students, who then contribute to all aspects of development of real design projects depending upon their level of skill.
Renovating two existing classrooms into the new Design Center created professional spaces for students to meet with clients and showcase proposed design solutions. There is a seating area and the idea creation area. “Beginning with the 2018 Fall Semester we’re going to expand from non-profit clients to a few select for-profit clients,” said Shurter. “Mostly small start-up companies run by young entrepreneurs because we don’t want to compete with our industry partners for commercial clients.”
Recent Studio 205 clients have included the St. Cecilia Society and the North End Soup Kitchen. Students were able to develop a concert poster package, new web site design and a recruitment brochure for the St. Cecilia Society, and informational materials for the North End Soup Kitchen.
“Working with a real-world client is invaluable,” said Shurter, “it makes the theoretical classroom assignment more concrete and applicable.”
Outside of Studio 205, MCC Graphic Design students also complete an internship. Internships often lead to full time employment following graduation. Three MCC students have interned at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, and MCC graduate Jeremy Eads is now a full time employee. Drew Smith became Creative Director at Diplomat Pharmacy after interning there. Kadi Reyes and Michele Delecki both interned at the Flint Institute of Music, and both are now employed there, while Heather Wright did her internship at the Flint Institute of Arts and is now an employee. Wright was featured on Michigan Radio for her steampunk style jewelry designs in the Artisans of Michigan series – http://michiganradio.org/post/artisans-michigan-designing-steampunk-jewelry.
Occasionally, MCC Graphic Design alumni return to campus to work for the College. Amanda Walters, MCC alumna, went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and Illustration from the University of Michigan-Flint. Shurter recently hired her to serve as the Studio Manager for Studio 205, coordinating projects and helping mentor students through the process of working with real-world clients.
“It is rewarding to have helped develop someone’s talent and professionalism, and then have them return to campus and help develop the next generation of students,” Shurter said.