City College’s Graphic Design Program Aims for Bachelor’s Degree – City Times
This piece is part of an ongoing series regarding the passage of AB-927, which allows 30 California community colleges per year to create bachelor’s degree programs. The following outlines a potential candidate program at San Diego City College.
Tiffany Hohmann recently graduated from San Diego City College with an Associate of Arts in Graphic Design, but returned to take “funsies” classes.
Despite his love for the program and the success that City graphic design Professor Sean Bacon said he struggled to match graduates with employers, it became clear to Hohmann that she should pursue a bachelor’s degree in order to be seriously considered for employment in many workplaces.
Hohmann said she went through the application process anyway. She went to the third interview for one job and the fourth for another, which included a test.
“But at the end of the day, they both said we wanted someone with more education,” she said. “It’s such a shame when you can tell they like you and your work, but they need that piece of paper.”
Hohmann’s experiment appears to be a neat demonstration of one of the stipulations that AB-927 imposes on community colleges, which requires proof that, “Employers are willing to pay bachelor’s degree holders more than those with a related associate’s degree or without a post-secondary degree.”
So Hohmann, who is the first in her family to go to college and who has so far been able to take advantage of tuition-saving programs while attending City, decided to transfer to a school focused on the arts to complete his studies.
It’s a decision she knows will drive up the price she’ll pay.
Tuition for the two programs Hohmann is interested in totals about $40,000 per year.
“When I transfer, 100% I will take out loans and become a student loan statistic,” she said.
That’s partly why Bacon, himself a City alumnus, set his sights on creating a bachelor’s degree within City’s graphic design program.
“In my industry in particular, education is extremely expensive,” Bacon said.
Rhode Island School of Design, a graduate school of graphic design, bill $56,435 annually for undergraduate tuition. And the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, another highly regarded program, bill $24,471 per year.
“It just creates a lot of barriers, and then if you look at the racial demographics of our industry, they’re overwhelmingly white,” Bacon said.
Bacon sees City’s AA program as something of an equalizer, providing high-quality education to students for a fraction of the cost of four-year programs. According to him, students can win City’s AA graphic design for around $2,000.
For Bacon, part of preparing students is creating lines of communication between local employers to ensure that students receive an up-to-date, valuable education that will allow them to transition easily from the city to the workplace.
He embraces industry connections and jokes that he constantly plays matchmaker with recent grads and employers looking for candidates with specific skills.
“We’re here to help you bridge that gap between academia and employment,” Bacon said.
And the program was recognized.
It was recently assessed the sixth best design education institution of 2021-2022 by the World Brand Design Societyand it has renowned graduates like Josh Higginformer design director for Obama’s re-election campaign and current global creative director for Meta (Facebook) Reality Labs.
At City, students learn to use graphic elements such as images and text to effectively communicate ideas. Most importantly, students are guided through the process of developing a professional portfolio, which is an essential aspect of teaching graphic design.
In the professional world, this training can take the form of branding, the creation of logos or even the design of interactive applications.
During the first semi-annual submission period for AB-927, which ended in January, The city submitted a proposal from its cybersecurity program to develop a bachelor’s degree in cyber defense and analytics.
Bacon hopes to submit a proposal on behalf of the graphic design program during the next application period, which begins in April and ends in August, according to Professor David Kennemer, who led the cybersecurity proposal.
On March 14, the city’s instructional cabinet voted to move the proposal forward, but Bacon said it still needed to be approved by the academic senate and college board.
But due to the AB-927 stipulation that newly developed bachelor’s degree programs cannot be duplicated from those offered by a California State University or University of California school, the establishment of a bachelor’s degree in simple graphic design is not an option.
Bacon therefore had to get creative.
“It will be very different from what we are doing now, and it might not even look like design in the way we think about it,” Bacon said of the potential degree his program will offer.
Before submitting the proposal, he keeps the details of the potential degree secret. But Bacon said Bachelor of Science in Interaction Design from Santa Monica College – which was created under SB-850the predecessor of the AB-927 pilot program – had a big influence on how his program approached the proposal.
Interaction, or user experience (UX), is an industry that deals with creating user interface systems for interactive products such as apps, devices, and websites.
In our increasingly digital world, interaction design, or UX design, is a growing industry. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates job growth at 13% for Web Developers and Digital Designers, a pace rated as faster than average.
The BLS also projects a median salary of around $77,000, well above the national median income for full-time workers, which the 2020 census found to be around $56,000.
Santa Monica College established its degree in 2015, when interaction design was a less established field, highlighting how community colleges could position themselves to fill the workforce gaps of the future.
And do it at a significantly cheaper price for students.
The Santa Monica degree, like all established under AB-927, must cost around $10,000 for the four years. Undergraduate tuition for the 2022-23 academic year at the California College of the Arts, which offers a bachelor’s degree in interaction design, is $53,856.
“I think the way (Santa Monica) approached it was really smart in terms of community needs and jobs, but also doing something quite unique for their own campus,” Bacon said.
But while labor needs in tangential areas of graphic design, like UX, are growing at a rapid pace, the job outlook for graphic designers themselves isn’t so rosy. According to BLS data the number of graphic design jobs, which is expected to grow by 3%, is actually growing much more slowly than the 8% growth rate across all occupations.
“We think there are opportunities to evolve education in a way that would be different,” Bacon said.
Regardless of the specifics of the degree the graphic design program ends up offering, Bacon said its goal remains the same: to provide unique and truly valuable opportunities for students.
“It’s great to start a program,” Bacon said, “but if students don’t get jobs, if there are no successful outcomes, and there are no place in the industry for students, (the program is) not very successful either, is it?”