This fall, Wayne State University’s James Pearson Duffy Department of Art & Art History launched a new Bachelor of Fine Arts design degree. The program will house four design programs: fashion, graphic, industrial and interior design.
Approved by the Board of Governors in December of 2015, the idea process of the BFA design degree has been in the works for about four years, according to Michele Porter, an art and art history academic advisor at WSU.
Through this program, WSU has become the second public university in the state of Michigan to offer a design degree, alongside Northern Michigan University’s graphic design major (under a design degree). Although University of Michigan, Ann Arbor offers art and design program, however, unlike WSU, students cannot graduate with a design degree.
According to Avanti Herczeg, also an art and art history advisor at WSU, before the BFA design degree, fashion design “was a BA or BS [in] fashion design and merchandising.”
“This degree program will allow students to be more competitive in their field and it will allow students to have more credit hours in their actual field of study. As opposed to giving them a more broad understanding of art in general, it will give them a broader understanding of design,” Porter said.
In that past, students could take design classes at WSU, however the courses fulfilled the credits of a fine arts degree. With two electives implemented this fall, in addition to previously existing design courses, art and art history credits are also a requirement to obtain the new degree. While the requirements vary on each program, graphic design requires 66 art and art history credits, 36 credits in electives and 18 credits in general.
“To have a BFA in design is fairly rare, it’s not widely acquirable,” Herczeg said. “These courses are going to help better with their skillset going into design. They allow for a more contemporary and efficient curriculum.”
Porter and Herczeg said they have big expectations for the success of the BFA design program at WSU.
“If we have 700 students, I would expect that 400 of them over the next four years will have transitioned over to the new program,” Porter said.
“This is going to become a pretty large and fairly seamless transition. We haven’t even started it, but we have a large interest already and a great number of students already asking to transition over to the new program,” Herczeg said.
According to WSU’s class schedule, AND 3100 Design Process, an elective offered this fall semester, will teach students about brand identity, development and design thinking. AND 6320 The History of Modern Design I is another newly implemented class this semester; the course will discuss major design trends in America and Europe beginning from 1850.
WSU associate professor in industrial design and previous CCS professor Brian Kritzman is instructing these two classes this fall semester.
Kritzman said the design program offers flexibility in the curriculum and can even interest students of business, anthropology, biomedical and other majors through various aspects of design. Art majors minoring in design will also have the opportunity to form a design concentration in the career they wish to pursue.
“As far as the university community in general, I think there are lots of students studying different things who are interested in design and can augment their education with design classes,” he said. “We can serve the university community at large better by having this design specific curriculum.”
While Porter said the minor has not been purposed yet, she says, “We anticipate that it will occur in the next year.”
Being surrounded by private art colleges, such as the College for Creative Studies and Lawrence Technological University, Kritzman said that WSU holds a certain advantage over other private design institutions.
“The advantage that a Wayne State student has over a private college student, is that they have a university approach to thinking. In a university, you get lots of exposure to lots of different disciplines. It’s meant to simply give the student a broader notion of what it means to think, and to problem solve,” he said.
Herczeg also said the program will enable the department of art and art history to recruit new students to the university who are interested in pursuing design.
While WSU cannot compete with specialized institutions such as CCS, (see CCS compared WSU programs) this BFA design degree is a start to personalized education.
“There are similarities between all four of these areas, and this [program] allows for that blurring of the lines that can help to personalize and enhance a student’s program overall. It allows the flexibility towards a field of their choice,” Porter said.
For more information on Wayne State University’s art department, visit here.