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INSIDE THE MIND OF A DESIGN STUDENT

March 4, 2008
INSIDE THE MIND OF A DESIGN STUDENT Zafarana’s father heads worldwide marketing for the workstation division at HP, so he’s no stranger to how difficult this industry can be for someone just starting out. So far,  his school experience has been very positive. “Everything is new to me, and school is presenting so many opportunities I can hardly keep them straight,” he says.

We know he’s just begun, but some of his experiences might help you pick the right college and program, or at least get you to ask the right questions.

Zafarana says his path to Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) became clear through a combination of his own interests in technology and art, and the support and encouragement of people he met along the way. “The summer before my senior year in high school, I tagged along with my dad to SIGGRAPH in Boston,” the annual conference for computer graphics professionals. “I found myself transplanted to a whole new world. Suddenly, I was talking to designers from DreamWorks, Pixar and other influential cradles of design innovation. Interacting with these people kicked it off for me. I was hooked! During that trip, I decided to go into digital animation.”

Zafarana says when he returned to high school to start his senior year, a supportive teacher encouraged him to create a portfolio. “Looking back, I went to a great high school in Colorado. Without the support of the staff at Rocky Mountain High School, I never would have had the opportunity to develop my portfolio with AP assignments and projects like designing prom ads. My portfolio turned into 24 entirely digital pieces, and I used it to apply to SCAD.”

GETTING ACCLIMATED

Since arriving at SCAD (www.scad.edu), Zafarana has focused his interest on a major fairly new to the school — Broadcast Design — and one he says is rare to find elsewhere. He will double major in Advertising.

The first order of business for this driven freshman is to complete his foundations classes. “So far, I’m prepping for my major-oriented classes by first learning the industry standards, such as Adobe Creative Suite and Autodesk Maya. I’m also taking drawing and speech classes to prepare me as an artist and a professional.”

He says the daily learning experience varies, with the basic lecture classes lasting on average two and half hours. All classes are capped at a small, intimate number of students. His art history class was a highlight. “I enjoyed it far more than I imagined I would. It focused on a lot of art styles I had never been exposed to before. It made me think about stretching my own style in new ways. The traditional assignments were there — essays, exams, memorizing styles, pieces and cultures — but those exercises took me through some new historical influences that I am glad to have experienced.”

He says the studio classes he has taken so far — drawing and color theory — were very hands-on, covering basic techniques and providing a forum for experimenting with a broad variety of colors and mediums. “In my color theory class, we had a new project every week. We would create a design using acrylics to demonstrate our understanding of the subject being explored.”

Zafarana says he has been surprised at the free-form nature of the classroom experience, and he admits it has been an adjustment from what he is used to. “My foundations professors come from industry, and are talented professional designers first and teachers second. The lack of structure takes some getting used to, until you realize the advantage — we are being presented a very wide sphere of influence and then given the opportunity to interpret new ideas and express them in our own way. My computer arts professor, in particular, encouraged us to go beyond the basics.”

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF SURROUNDINGS

Another exciting discovery Zafarana says he has made at SCAD is that his peers are as valuable a resource as the school itself, each with different experiences, ideas and insights. The campus almost sizzles with creative energy.

By the time he graduates, Zafarana hopes to have mastered the foundational tools and mediums he needs to become marketable as a professional designer. One of the biggest advantages he believes that SCAD will offer is to prepare him with skills that bridge the gap between a student’s artistic abilities and business marketability.

He has been impressed in particular with the networking and career opportunities that SCAD provides for its students, and he plans to take full advantage of them when making his next move.

When asked about any advice he has for students considering SCAD or design school, Zafarana offers, “I would advise students considering art and design schools to visit and really spend some time talking to other students. Find out about the experience, and ask about the teaching styles to assess whether they match your learning style. That’s the magic combination.”