In Episode 71 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Rob Ray, Associate Professor of Design at CSUSB. Professor Ray discusses the BA in Design Studies and BFA in Design, what students learn in their classes, and career opportunities!
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Hello, this is Matt Markin, an academic advisor here at Cal State San Bernardino. And welcome back to the CSUSB advising podcast. This is episode 71. And on today's episode, we have Associate Professor of design Rob Ray to chat with us about the design studies major and also the BFA in Design. So Professor Ray, welcome.
Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, great for you to be here. So our first question you should start with is tell us a little bit about yourself. Can you tell us about your path into higher ed?
Sure, yeah, I had a wobbly and strange path in higher education. I guess, like I think many people, I have always sort of been drawn to creativity and making things. And that led me into sort of two separate fields. One of them is a design and art making field and the other one is a technology field. And what's kind of nice about design is there's a kind of wonderful synthesis that happens, I think, between technology and art making and creativity. And so design has become my home. And it feels pretty good, though. Like many people's paths, I think I didn't decide, you know, when I was seven years old, or something that I wanted to become a designer, it was something I kind of found my way into, I guess, just after experiencing things and making things and that kind of thing. And so yeah, it feels good. Design is a very broad field. I'm sure we'll talk about some of that broadness today. But most of my work these days is in augmented reality, virtual reality and interactivity. And so we'll dig into some of those topics, I'm sure as well. Well,
Professor Ray, you know, when students here, you know that we have various majors that we offer here at Cal San Bernardino. So within the art department, there's, you know, there's the BA in Design Studies, there's a BFA in Design. Yep. How would you help a student kind of understand what those are?
Sure, yeah. So it's a great question. I've had this conversation with many students. So it's great that it's being captured here. It takes a little while, I think, for students to kind of get their head around how the programs are different. And so I'll explain the BA in design studies is a I think of it as a more kind of ala carte offering, meaning you can choose different design courses and kind of roll your own experience in a way. It's also a good program for someone who maybe has a strong interest in a field, adjunct or maybe even slightly disconnected from design. So if you are drawn towards marketing or something like that, to be in design studies could be a good a good program for you. The BA in design studies is also a kind of traditional, quote, unquote, four year program, where the BFA and design is a is it has an extra year. And that extra year is designed for a student to really deeply pursue a project that they're passionate about. And they do their capstone project around that idea that they they formulate. So they that fifth year is a sort of research semester and then a final project semester. And both programs are great, and they're great for different reasons. I think a lot of students who are drawn to the BFA in design are compelled by being able to have a year to really dig into a project that they care deeply about. They may want a sort of keystone or kind of primary project that their portfolio is anchored around. And so the that fifth year for the BFA in design can really do that for students. Some other students aren't so curious about that or are, you know, trying to maybe put together their portfolio in other ways. And so they pursue a BA in design studies, but the primary difference between the two is the BFA is an extra year. It is also comprised of different concentrations, whether that's marketing, motion graphics, 3d, or oh my gosh, graphic design.
And generally speaking, you know, students always ask like, well, what am I going to do or to learn in these classes? Can you chat a little bit about that?
Sure. Yeah. Like I said, design is a broad, very broad field. Many people I think, in the world are designers and don't even know it or don't even call themselves designers, but they have found their way into design practices. We have a similarly broad program. I mean, I think if you talk to any, you know, five or six design students in the hallway, they may all have different interests or enthusiasms. The BFA concentrations might be a good way to kind of think about the different concentrations we focus on but also we have all sorts of other There are design students who are doing interesting work as well. But I'll talk about those. So a significant number of people who come into design come into it through come into it through branding and marketing. And we certainly think about that and have an course offering around that. Around around those passions. Other students, though, may come from a sort of illustration, or drawing practice, or other students may have an interest in typography. Other students may have one oh, sorry, one of our BFA concentrations is interface design, which is actually a program I teach in quite a bit. Students who are really into maybe app design or car user interfaces, or something might go into interfaces, and I teach the virtual reality class. So that class kind of overlaps, interest in people's practices around technology, virtual reality, game engines, is a part of virtual reality, user interfacing as a part of virtual reality, and user experiences as well. So in that an a classic VR is like a kind of classic class for us, where students with a lot of different interests can kind of come into the class and have a good time and be stimulated and do something interesting. Yeah, so and then we have people who are really interested in like web and app design, for example, or we have people who are really interested in print, graphic design, which is the sort of I think of it as the kind of ancestor maybe of the of the contemporary design, practices, sort of everything comes back to the fundamentals in a way that were sort of first thought about as print work. And that work is still deeply important to us and is still really blossoming, we have a lot of students who really appreciate and enjoy print work. So that's you. But yeah, again, you could talk to another student, they might be like, I'm really into, you know, CAD, or 3d design. And they're finding interesting work and are stimulated through our program as well. So and we have a 3d design CAD class. So it's a very broad field. And we do our best to go both wide and deep, I guess. We try to have something that is interesting to everyone. We also have courses that are kind of more experimental, and allow a professor to sort of pick a topic as well. And so as you'll see, in the course catalog, you can kind of go through and pick the ones that you think are most interesting, or pick a concentration that you think is most interesting. And that I will I will admit, it can feel really overwhelming, right? When you're a student, and you're like, geez, I don't even know what to do this all sounds great. I think that is, well, I tried to think of this way as like, there's a lot to be excited about. And so one of the things that can really help, is also just talking to Professor and being like, Hey, I like this in this. What do you think, and every professor, I know, that program is super happy to chat with a student and just kind of riff with them and hear about what they're interested in and hopefully, point them in some directions they find fruitful.
Awesome. And I'm sure you get this question a lot too. And we get it as well as the career question. Oh, yeah. You know, so if I get this major, you know, I get this degree, you know, what could be some careers that this might be attached to? How do you answer that question?
Sure. Yeah. I mean, it's never been a better time to be a designer, in my opinion. We live in a time where design is just becoming more and more valued by society. We've really seen user experience and user interfacing design, kind of explode, and kind of take over the field of design in a way and a lot of that comes from software products, kind of realizing like, hey, we really have to have an a thoughtfulness and elegance in sort of care for the user, or care for humans, right, kind of embedded into our product, otherwise, it's not very good and people won't like it and they won't pay for it. Right. And, and so, design is is in a great place right now. There's a lot of a lot of care put into design, a lot of people are becoming more and more passionate about the practice. People are willing to pay for that work, which is, you know, useful for all of us. We all need to eat. And so I'm pretty excited about it. It's also a place where there's still a ton of creativity and also just a lot of it's experimentalism, you know design has to change always with society as society changes and so to enter the field of design is is also just getting comfortable with things being different all the time or or changing or moving. I guess it's maybe a way I tried to think about it rather Then change, it's just moving around a lot. And what's cool about that is as a design student, you there's plenty of room for you to think about what you want to do. And just go for it, you know, just dive in, and you'll find collaborators and enthusiastic people that want to come along with you for the ride. And so that, that, that feels great for me. And I think most students find that enjoyable as well.
Now, Professor Ray, do you find that there maybe there's misconceptions that one might have, when they hear the design major design studies?
Yes. Yes, there are many. I'll say the biggest one. And it's kind of the funniest one, I guess, which is people ask, like, they say, like, well, I can't draw. It's like, that's totally okay. Like, you know, drawing is a craft and a practice and an art making practice as well. That can be great to have I think of of the all the skills we have as designers is sort of like arrows in our quiver, right. And like, sometimes you want to take out the illustration arrow and, and fire that at the problem. Sometimes you want to take out the coding arrow, right and fire that at the problem. Sometimes you want to learn how to be a good interviewer or a good conversationalist, right, because the deeper you can connect to other people, the better your design work is going to be. And so the drawing one, though, is the one we get a lot. And certainly it is if you do like to draw, design is a wonderful place for you. But don't let that stop you if you feel like I can't draw, I myself can't draw so. So I enjoy drawing. But my drawings are never something that I sort of think of as a finished product. It's usually I use it as a concept and tool for myself, I tend to gravitate more towards maybe 3d design tools, game engines, that kind of thing to do my iteration and kind of design work in. So yeah, if you can't draw no problem. The other question I guess people have is, people do think of design as a kind of technology friendly program and practice. And I think some people maybe get a little freaked out, they're like, you know, I'm not super into tech, or I'm not like a, you know, tech nerd or whatever. And I also think that's totally okay, we have, you know, plenty of students and faculty who don't, I'm pretty sure don't think of themselves as like tech people. But they certainly occasionally use a digital tool, or they just use analog tools and share their ideas and thinking and do collaboration that way. So I think that's the two big E's, both the field will be totally happy if you have ethusiams. And either one of those camps, illustration, or tech, but it's certainly not required.
Now, let's say students listen to this. And they're like, you know, this sounds very interesting, you know, tempted to, you know, maybe declare the BA and design studies or want to do the one of the concentrations in the BFA? Do you have any suggestions for that student?
Thinking about my own student experience, and just think about my own life? I think talking to someone is so potent, like it's just so powerful. And it's such a great kind of high fidelity way to understand what could this feel like? Like, what could my life be like and you know, a year 2345 Like, speaking with someone, it's a really great way to just acclimate get the nuances that you've may not get through a written paragraph, or text message or something, I'd really think just chatting with a professor or art and design staff member at anyone, or with our chair is, is really potent. I think also, even just doing your own thinking, kind of interviewing yourself, and, and I try to employ this for myself, which is just being like, what do I want, you know, I think it's easy to kind of get, especially these days to get pulled in about 1000 different directions and, and also just see, just the sort of deep creativity that the world is constantly flinging in our face, you know, through social media and stuff. Sometimes it's just overwhelming to kind of deal with and figure out like, what do I really want to do? And I think, you know, learning about the program, reading, you know, the descriptions, the course descriptions, talking to professors can really just kind of help you figure out like, Yeah, this is where I want to put my energy for the next few years, which is admittedly in a, you know, an intimidating set of problems to solve.
And lets say a student does have a question. And do they could they reach out to you or do they reach out to the art department?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, every every, every department, I mean, I think every community, right, whether it's academic or otherwise, has specialists, you know, certainly if someone was interested in, you know, game engines, or VR or augmented reality or user interfacing. I would love to have that conversation because you're you're my you're my kind of nerd. You know, you're you're my friend. Listen. But you know, Professor Moon does a lot of wonderful illustration, Professor Collins does really amazing 3d work. Professor Oaks is a, you know, kind of branding and print design wizard, like everybody has their specialties, but I think talking to anyone, including myself is great. And if I'm, if I'm only, you know, just beginning to scratch the itch that you have, I can certainly point you towards someone who who could help you out, you know, and like I said, design is a very broad field. And so sometimes in our department, it takes a little while for a person to find, you know, their their person, but but it'll happen. Awesome.
And yeah, and we'll include a link to the Art Department website to the great faculty area, because it also will show like the specializations as well, for the faculty, for sure. But Professor Ray, appreciate you taking time out of your day for this to happily let our students know about design and design studies. Thank you again.
Yeah, happy to and just as a final note, students, don't don't let you know, the complexities of the organization and the website and all of this, impede your passion, right? Like, we're really here trying to support that. And sometimes it's just a little messy, right? So sometimes you just have to like, be like, Okay, I'm just gonna send this email to someone I've never met before, and just see how it goes. But don't let it freak you out. Everyone I've ever worked with it. Cal State San Bernardino is so kind of friendly and just willing to chat or get you pointed in the right direction or that kind of thing. So don't, don't freak out. Like, you got this. We all got this. And I think, you know, with a little bit of time and a little bit of energy. I really think that Cal State San Bernardino experience can really make a lot of people's lives very different and that's a potent and powerful thing.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai