In recent years, Grove City has been taking leaps and bounds in the Department of Communication. Not only are great new opportunities emerging within the writing program, but within the visual arts program as well. In the past five years, design professor Nate Mucha has been working hard to single-handedly build Grove City College’s Design courses from the ground up. In fact, a Design minor is set to be available starting in the fall 2017 semester. This week, I had the chance to sit down and get an inside look at Professor Mucha’s experience with the Design program here at Grove City.
Professor Mucha began teaching at Grove City College in the fall semester of 2012. At the time, the school offered one design class taught by visual arts professor Kathy Rhoades. During his first semester, professor Mucha brought his own new design course with him: Intro to Visual Communication Design. Intro to VCD hones students’ practical visual design skills through abstract and applied design principles, introducing students to the grid system and to Adobe InDesign. In the spring semester of that same year, Interactive Design and User Experience was born. This new course incorporated visually appealing design with a practical application for product and web interaction. In 2015, the rest of the current design classes were added to the curriculum: Visual Communication Design I and II, as well as online classes Design Software and Design History.
VCD I and II further incorporate the skills acquired in Intro to VCD and apply them to real-world creative projects such as magazine layout and package design. Design Software utilizes Lynda.com to provide students with a crash course in Adobe InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop: the industry standard software for designers everywhere. Design History utilizes a more traditional teaching style to take students through the evolution of design from its origins through modern design trends. At the same time when these courses were introduced, professor Mucha gave the school’s original design class, Design Principles, a complete makeover, and a new name: Design Thinking. It is an introductory course with an objective to get students into a practical design mindset, taking students through everything from problem solving and being able to make mistakes to brainstorming and collaborating.
Professor Mucha said that if he had to choose his favorite class to teach, it would be the series of VCD I and VCD II. In the Introduction to VCD class, students are generally starting out in design and curious to learn more about it and discover whether or not it is for them, but the VCD I and II series typically only sees students with a true passion for design, who have completed the basic level design classes. These students aren’t afraid to settle down to get real design work done and create many valuable portfolio pieces throughout the year. As time goes, on, professor Mucha’s classes are attracting more and more students with an interest in design. When he taught his first Intro to VCD class here at GCC, it had 12 students who were curious about design and eager to know more about it. Nowadays his students often know about design coming into the classroom, but they want to experience design classes to expand and apply their skills and learn whether they want to pursue design as a career.
The potential Design minor has seen interest primarily from students within the Communication, Marketing, and Entrepreneurship disciplines. Professor Mucha has also spoken about a Design minor with a handful of Biology and Physics students, as well as Computer Science students who work diligently to make the time to add a minor to their hectic schedules. Some science students are able to incorporate design classes into their schedules by also pursuing a technical writing concentration, which requires a combination of general science, writing, and design classes.
In total, the Design minor has attracted about 10 students so far. It has been received with great enthusiasm, although some seniors graduating in 2017 are disappointed that it won’t be available in time for them to declare it. Even though it won’t be official until next year, a Design minor has actually been in the works for a number of years. As soon as professor Mucha returned to Grove City College to teach, he knew he wanted a Design minor to be made available. With a small Communications department at the time, he knew there was much room for expansion. Professors from all over the school, including the Business, Communication, Art, and Computer Science departments got behind the idea, seeing how the program would be able to elevate all areas of academic thought. Being a discipline that can enhances communication in all areas, design focuses not on itself, but on its message. It is a growing area of study with which we should all become familiar, because it can benefit everyone.