University of Arizona Design Program Review: Part III

Here’s Part III of our University of Arizona Design Program Review. If you haven’t all ready, read parts one & two of this review by Marianne.


Before you read this article, write down or at least think about what your perfect day is. I’ll get back to this later.


Reflecting on the past

Just this past week I finished my first year of the two-year VisComm Program at the University of Arizona. After reading Marianne’s reviews, I was reminded of where my classmates and I started. I was really bitter and reluctant about most of the prerequisite courses I had to take, but soon discovered how useful they ended up being. The Art History prerequisites helped me expand my awareness of design on a universal scale, which in return helped me determine what elements I could, and should, use to create a successful design. Even the FYE courses, the prerequisites I hated the most, ended up being an excellent outlet for discovering my execution techniques and short cuts—quality ones—that worked best for me. If you are a Pre–VisComm student reading this now, believe it or not, the skills you learn in the FYE courses become really handy when your instructors expect 50 thumbnail sketches, 5 well constructed packaging pieces, and close to perfect mounting skills within a 48 hour period. Hindsight is 20/20, and I am telling you now that those prerequisites are there to give you the opportunity to build your personal foundation—to make it as strong and efficient as you want it to be.



Applying to the program was where I started to really have fun. The VisComm portfolio review occurs once a year during spring and you have what seems to be a 50-50 chance of getting in. Applicants are to submit a portfolio of 10-12 pieces, including the Portfolio Review Visual Assignment. This assignment is a visual response based on one of the two written pieces provided to you. Only 20 design students and 20 illustration students get accepted into the program, and those who don’t have to wait another full year before they can re–apply. I know a lot of students who didn’t get in the first time, but you can still take some of the VisComm classes, although you won’t have priority for them. I recommend doing this, so that if you’re accepted the following year, you can be on the same track as the rest of the VisComm students.

After being accepted into the program, I was excited to take the classes that really grabbed my attention like ART363A (Typography I), and ART361 (Digital Design Studio II). Those classes allowed me to explore design elements about which I was interested in learning. The first semester in the program was the more enjoyable half of the first year. This last semester was hell, complete torture, I couldn’t believe I had signed up for it.

Difference from first semester

So what changed from the first semester to the second? ART365, aka Design II. If I had to assign high school stereotypes to the VisComm courses, Design II would be the bully. Hands down. Some students will disagree with this statement, but the ones who do are probably the ones that didn’t push themselves, or their ideas, to do more. I remember our instructor telling us from Day 1 that this class was anything we wanted it to be, and that our ideas were not limited to the requirements. We were assigned to create a brand, and throughout the semester we had to design different elements of it. His statement made us realize that we were given the opportunity to take our own project and really push it. That idea alone led me and a few other classmates to live an unthinkable life: averaging 17 hours of sleep per week, spending several hundred dollars a month on printing and supplies, making daily showers optional, leaving dishes and laundry dirty for several weeks—if not months—and other unthinkable acts. But as odd as it might sound, doing that helped us break our limits, all so we could find the next one to break. For once, we were given the power to be all that we could be, and it was just too good of an option to ignore.

Final Thoughts

If I were given the choice to take the semester over, I would. I would double the load and do it again because the personal growth and strength that was gained from this past semester was the most valuable lesson I have ever learned from school. I’m not going to lie, as excited as I am about taking Design III next semester, I’m a little intimidated by it. Design III might just be the asshole of high school stereotypes, and I’m still recovering from the bully. As for Marianne, I’m excited to see how her design skills develop and what she will decide to submit in the 2014 portfolio review. I hope others will learn from my experiences in the first year of the VisComm Program.

To conclude my review of the U of A’s VisComm program, I’ll say it’s a great program, but only if you are open to seeing, and taking, the opportunities that are provided. If you need a better review, then look back at your answer of the perfect day. If you didn’t mention design in any part of it, then you may not find this program to be all that you want it to be. Just another thing I learned from my instructors.

Did you have a similar experience? Let us know!

Make sure to check:

< Back to begining Part I of the review

< Back to Part II of the review