Three Aces

Three Aces

Degrees and training in graphic arts and design are available at the region’s top schools

By Rebecca Kuzins 02/27/2014

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Pasadena-area residents who want to learn more or train for careers in the fields of design and visual arts are fortunate to have three great places from which to obtain educations.

Art Center College of Design and Concept Design Academy in Pasadena and Platt College in Alhambra are three very different institutions that aim to educate different types of students.

The area’s oldest, largest, and most-respected art school, Art Center is a private college granting both undergraduate and graduate degrees. Since 2009, the college has experienced record enrollment at both levels and in the fall of 2013 had a total enrollment of 1,768 undergraduates and 218 graduate students.  

Students can earn bachelor’s degrees in advertising, entertainment design, environmental design, film, fine art, graphic design, illustration, interaction design, photography and imaging, product design and transportation design. Master’s degrees are offered in art, film, environmental design, industrial design, media design practices and transportation design. In addition to these degree programs, the college’s Public Programs Division provides ongoing art education for the general public. 

“Among our top-ranked art and design school peers, Art Center stands out for providing students with a strong professional practice component as a result of long-term industry partnerships with companies such as Microsoft, Toyota, and Herman Miller,” explained Provost Fred Fehlau. 

The transportation design program offers a good example of the college’s ties to corporations. Some of the school’s graduates have designed such iconic automobiles as the Corvette Stingray, Mazda Miata, Volkswagen Beetle and the electric Tesla Model S.  

Fehlau said Art Center is also unique because, “There’s an intangible, hands-on element to learning here that happens through making. We attract a very serious student who is willing to do the hard work demanded of our rigorous curriculum.” 

Founded in Los Angeles in 1930, the school moved to its Hillside Campus on Lida Street in Pasadena in 1976. Ten years ago, the first portion of the South Campus opened at 950 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; the second portion, a reconverted post office down the street at 870 S. Raymond Ave., opened last month and contains art studios and room for exhibitions and public events. Art Center plans to build an industry design facility at the corner of Raymond and Glenarm Street, and for the first time in its history the school is planning to construct student housing. 

Kevin Chen, a former teacher at Art Center and a freelance concept artist, founded the Concept Design Academy in 2007 to provide instruction for students who want to enhance their art and design skills without spending the time and money needed to earn a degree. Many of the current 300 students are employed as animators, video game creators, filmmakers, and in other occupations in the entertainment design industry, while others are aspiring artists or designers.   

“There are a lot of professionals who want to continue their studies and keep growing,” Chen said. The academy, he said, is “a simpler, smaller school, that can change on a dime for what the entertainment industry needs. The industry changes really fast and we have the freedom to change with the industry.”

Like Chen, the academy’s 25 teachers are working professionals, many of whom, Chen said, were “trained at Art Center and bring a strong foundation of skills.” They teach a variety of courses, including sketching, animal anatomy, story development for animation, digital painting, digital illustration and entertainment design, among other subjects. Courses are held on weeknights and weekends to accommodate working students and teachers. 

Platt College is a private school training students for careers in the legal, medical and creative fields. The school has three campuses: the main one in Alhambra and branches in Ontario and Riverside. The college originally was in Eagle Rock before moving to Alhambra about 12 years ago. 

Platt offers two art-related degrees: an associate of arts (AA) degree in graphic design and a  bachelor of arts (BA) degree in visual communication, with specialization in either Web, two- dimensional print, or and three-dimensional animation design. The three campuses have a total of 48 students in the AA program and another 23 in the BA program.

Although Platt has offered graphic design and visual communication courses since 1985, Alhambra campus President Nicholas Ewell explained that last year “we did a full evaluation and update of all of our design programs to make sure that we were still current with industry needs and trends. This update included changes to both the AA- and BA-level courses, as well as the addition of more BA-level specialization options.”

Platt’s courses, according to Ewell, “are aimed at both working professionals who want to expand their knowledge base and entry-level students. We have found that both types of students can benefit from our fast-paced and industry-targeted programs… Whether at the AA or BA level, all of our courses are taught by working professionals, who have worked for years in the subject area being taught.” 

Art Center College of Design
1700 Lida St., Pasadena
 870-950 Raymond Ave., Pasadena
(626) 396-2600

Concept Design Academy
55 Waverly Drive., Suite 104, Pasadena
(818) 669-4657

Platt College Alhambra
1000 S. Fremont Ave., Alhambra
(888) 807-5288


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