Colleges Defend the Humanities Despite High Costs, Dim Job Prospects

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by jeffisjeff, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    My university was originally an "aggie" when it was founded, a land-grant uni, which for those who aren't familiar with it is a type of school which was designed to create educated farmers and teach other practical subjects, such as engineering, in response to the industrial revolution and other things going on at that time. I remember reading the history of how such unis were founded back in the mid-to-late 1800's, and how radical this type of idea was. A uni that taught practical subjects, and to regular people! Prior to that, uni education was liberal arts, and it was for the sons of the wealthy. The idea of studying a practical subject like agricultural engineering - and that the middle class could do so - was all kinds of wow.

    Even after that time, the liberal arts were the preferred subjects to study at the elite colleges. Very few such colleges even offered more career-oriented majors. Even today, quite a few of the elite unis don't offer a business major, for example.

    I think someone had posted here at FSU the article (probably in the Chronicle of Higher Ed) about business being the new "default" major, like communications used to be. That at a lot of unis (not all, obviously), it's not a particularly challenging major. If I can find the article again, I'll link it.

    And you know how I feel about student writing. I know we'd like to think that students learn this stuff in high school, but the reality is that the number of students needing remedial math and English in college contradicts that. The info may be available to them in HS, but they certainly don't learn it.
  2. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

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    what struck me about the article was the statistic that only 8% of college students major in the humanities. That seemed low to me and made me wonder if we'd eventually reach the point where humanities majors were in demand. I mean, surely someone needs humanities majors? Or are we at the point where all middle/high school English, art and language teachers have undergraduate degrees in education rather than in their subject area? Or where everyone who works in publishing has a degree in, um, editing? I see the reasoning behind the push for universities to provide career training, but does that mean that everything will now be turned into a "trade" with specifically designed majors?

    I remember that too. I may even have linked to it :shuffle: (although probably not). IME, the rigor level at b-schools varies quite a bit. Around here, the business major is popular among the hockey players. Which tells us something.
  3. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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  4. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    I was fortunate, in that, my parents could afford to pay for my education. But, having graduated in 1975, it was $6,000 a year. What we had to pull together for our kid's undergrad degrees was :scream:! We paid for undergrad, but they are paying (with loans, scholarships, and small amount of inheritance) for their own grad degrees. Neither should be too bad, daughter is going to a state school, son has a $20,000 a year merit scholarship.

    Back when I was in school, psychology was the default major. Can't do a damn thing with it with just an undergrad degree, but the numbers of psych majors was astonishing!

    Some do, but their business school has another name. IE: Warton.

    Do you think that is due to a lack of learning in HS? Or do you think it has to do with the poor skills perpetuated by texting and computer assisted writing? Or a combination of both?
  5. altai_rose

    altai_rose Well-Known Member

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    And I'm one of them. IMO, major in something you're interested in, and double-major in something "useful."

    I loved my college humanities classes and wish I had the time to take more. I think there's a huge difference between majoring in humanities as an undergrad and doing a humanities PhD. If you're going to spend the rest of your life doing science, engineering, law, etc. then undergrad is really the last time you can explore different subjects and take humanities classes. In medical school, there's a large number of students who were English, philosophy, Italian, etc. majors as undergrads. Of course, they also took the pre-med classes or did a post-bac, but I don't think majoring in a humanities subject was a negative in their application. Even in my neuroscience PhD program, there's a guy who majored in philosophy and there are also overlaps between neuroscience and philosophy (ie, theory of mind).
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013
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  6. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Not Garr, but.....

    After noting that many students were struggling to keep up with courses, Harvard implemented its first written entrance exam in 1874. More than half of the students failed it. And thus was born the first (but far from last) required freshman composition course.

    "The Illiteracy of American Boys" is rather a fun read about how the schools and parents are failing--failing!--our young people by not teaching the value of correct English! http://www.archive.org/stream/educationalrevie13newyuoft#page/vi/mode/2up

    Someone posted an even better screed here once (PDillemma, maybe) expressing outrage over the poor grammar and unclear expression of ideas in the writing of American students dating from roughly the same period.

    Freshman comp has gone in and out of vogue since those first classes at Harvard, but the issue has always been whether or not comp classes are worth anything, not whether or not students write so well as to not need them. I have never known of a time when professors thought students could write well, and I expect that's because the ability to write well, like many other things, can't be taught, but only learned.
  7. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    As Woody Allen said "You can't teach someone how to be a writer, that's like trying to teach someone how to be a midget."
  8. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

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    I learned to write well by loving to read. Everyone I know who loves to read (and I don't mean 'loves romance novels,' I mean someone who loves to read and will read a wide variety of subjects and genres) can write well. My general opinion, based on absolutely no facts and with no evidence to support it, is that if you can teach your child to love to read, so that they read often, they will probably write well.
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  9. PDilemma

    PDilemma Well-Known Member

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    I think there is some validity to this. IME, most students who read books regularly outside of school assignments were less likely to struggle with sentence structure and basic grammar.

    I find that schools simply do not teach enough academic writing of the sort that college requires. I was encouraged to teach less of that and more creative, expressive and personal writing even to honors level college bound seniors. There is nothing wrong with that kind of writing, but it isn't the skill set you need to later master technical writing and lab reports and research papers in college. The middle school in the system I last taught in did nothing but creative and personal writing, and that is the focus for most elementary instruction, too. Informative or expository writing does not get much time in the curriculum.
  10. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    I'm not so sure about that. Both Jobs/Wozniak and Gates were incredible entrepreneurs. You can't teach that. And I think there's still room in today's society to welcome a true-blue hustler who comes out with a great product but doesn't have the greatest academic credentials.

    It's just easier in the tech field, where all everybody cares about is what you can do and make. Nobody cares where you went to school if you can make a great product.

    Right. You have to have an idea of how you're going to leverage what you have.

    Alf was an engineering major, and he's quite different from my classmates. (I went to a liberal arts school.) He's exactly as you say - he generalizes wildly and has absolutely no interest in deep artistic, political, or cultural issues. I can explain certain things to him, but I have to judge carefully whether he wants to hear about it or not. :p

    I find that even my classmates who were science majors are still very curious about artistic, political, and cultural issues, including me.

    If you can hack it, I highly recommend going to a liberal arts school, but as a hard science major. :) Best of both worlds!
  11. DAngel

    DAngel Active Member

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    I think I agree with this guy more:

    http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/10/a-short-rant-on-the-you-cant-teach-writing-meme/

    And I think this article applies to other artistic endeavors such as painting, singing, etc.
  12. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    This is an aside but the engineers on the atheist boards take a lot of flack for being such black and white thinkers. A lot of the atheists are philosophy majors FWIW. (I was engineering undergrad, though I redirected my career twice.)

    To Jeff's point on being in demand for humanities, well there does seem do be a huge opportunity to make certain humanities degrees very relevant. There are obviously skills that are missing and they can fill the void.

    If my kid wanted to major in general biz or communication or psychology, I'd hope they were also fabulously good looking or had sparkling personalities. Preferably both.
  13. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    They also tend to have much better vocabularies and use their words more effectively.

    Interesting, when I was in middle school, we learned sentence structure, grammar, composition (writing topic sentences, paragraph structure). When my kids were in middle school, they got a workbook for those things, very little actual class time.

    I think painting and singing can be taught. But, I do think you have to have some vocal ability to be able to sing well. As for painting, I do think the technical aspects can be taught. However, the ability to visualize and compose what you want to paint is difficult to teach.
  14. rfisher

    rfisher Satisfied skating fan

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    I can speak of the historical projection of a fascinating major that fosters thinking and interesting people and that's archaeology. Prior to the 1970s, it was very much a major for the sons of wealthy men. There is a reason why the archaeology departments at Harvard and Yale did so much. Other Ivies supported classical archaeology in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The graduates also financed their own digs. There was a significant change in the 70s when middle class students could get not just PhDs, but masters in archaeology and find employment in contract archaeology. All building projects in the US began to require assessments. There was $$$. Suddenly, anthropology departments had 100s of undergrads and there were plenty of jobs for grad students. Fast forward to the 90s and things began to change. All that $$$ began to go away. Contract firms for cultural resource management went out of business. Almost every academic position for anthropology has 10 applicants and there aren't jobs in the field for those who don't get one of them. There is a reason I'm doing what I do and not what I'd rather do. The field is once again returning to its roots and if you can't go to school on your parent's dime and don't really have to worry about finding a job, it's not a viable field. The field is once again the provenience of the wealthy just as it was 100 years ago. Marine biology is the same (my other passion). Explosion of jobs in the 70s, virtually none now. Trust fund babies can dabble and make up the majority of undergrads with a few really talented people being sent on to grad school. Cue in paleontology as another field. It's sad, but a reality if you are a middle class or blue collar student, you simply can't afford the luxury of the fun or interesting major unless you are extremely bright and talented. There will always be a means for those few, but they are and always will be the minority. So, don't give your kid dinosaur toys or take them to archaeology digs (there are plenty available as they like volunteer labor) or go to Sea World (well you shouldn't do that in any event for an entirely different reason).
  15. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    Interesting is in the eye of the beholder. My SO was an English major and I have been at enough parties with him where he is waxing on about economic development in Zimbabwe and everyone’s eyes glaze over after 5 minutes. Generally speaking, knowing about sports and American Idol will make you the most popular conversationalist in the average American crowd.
  16. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    Sad, but true. :lol:
  17. Artemis@BC

    Artemis@BC Well-Known Member

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    Yes, the 8% statistic was a bit of a head-scratcher for me too. But then so was the 17% statistic. I am of course going largely by my own experiences in the faculty of Arts, but it seemed like a bigger world than that, even way back in the 80s.

    I count myself incredibly lucky that I happened to land in a field (editing) that suits my abilities and passions, despite having very little to do with my university education (history & polisci). But obviously I'm not the only one. There's a vast range of careers out there that have no direct correlation to university faculties. So is that message not being communicated to prospective undergrads? Is it fear of the unknown that keeps students from majoring in the humanities? Lack of imagination?
  18. flyingsit

    flyingsit Well-Known Member

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    When I went to college in the second half of the 1980s, one of the reasons that I chose to major in journalism was that it was a "small" major; there were not many required courses, so a minor was required. I got a minor in political science, I was one course away from a minor in history, and I was well on my way to a minor in classics as well.

    A few of the classics courses were by far the most challenging that I took in my entire time in school.
  19. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    For a vast number of jobs out there for college graduates, I wonder if it really matters what one gets a degree in just so long that they have one. Since we're in a heavily service-industry environment, do you think a B.A. is just one of the "plus" factors hiring personnel look at when reviewing one's resume?

    I mean I think there are many college graduates who end up working in industries that don't necessarily correlate with what they studied, but they seem satisfied enough with where they end up. If that's the case, then why not study something that one is passionate about?

    I worked in a Fortune 500 company while in college, and the staff were full of graduates with a wide variety of degrees. In the corporate side, many didn't have a business or business-related degree and instead studied social sciences or the humanities. I think to succeed in those businesses, the ability to network, impress those that matter, and learn important skills on the job seem to matter more in terms of one's ability to move up. Of course, I'm not talking about jobs that require a specific educational background like engineering or finance or accounting.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013
  20. PRlady

    PRlady aspiring tri-national

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    :rofl: I was one of those philosophy/history majors who is now on the atheist boards/attending atheist events and I agree with you about the engineers. My father, however, was an engineer for RCA. He died when I was six. Later on, his best friend gave me a tape of an evening they spent together while my mom was pregnant with me, and there they are yelling at each other about whether Saroyan and Steinbeck were good writers. (Very '50s.) So obviously I don't think all engineers are black/white thinkers, just enough of them to generalize.

    When I went to work as a secretary at a PR/public affairs firm in 1984, I literally did not know what they did. My college was so "impractical" it did not offer one business course. I took statistics over the summer at another school.

    Five years later, after four promotions, I was watching that immortal '80s series "Thirtysomething" and it turned out the lead guy, an advertising executive, majored in philosophy undergrad at Penn. I must have laughed for five minutes. Since then, I've discovered there are a LOT of philosophy majors in PR, public affairs and marketing. Perhaps something about all that analytical and linguistic blue-skying is the connection, or we just needed jobs. :)
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2013
  21. VIETgrlTerifa

    VIETgrlTerifa Well-Known Member

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    I think there is a lot to be said about your experience PRlady. I do think that although it may not be obvious, the skills one learns in whatever field of study can certainly carry over to a field that may not seem at all similar to what one studied on its face.
  22. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Sadly, I haven't found that to be the case. I did try it though. My youngest son now reads voraciously, but his writing still sucks. But reading for pleasure and being able to compose eloquently are very different skill sets, so it's not surprising.

    I'll also say that I've found most people to believe they write much better than they do :shuffle:. I'm a professor and have published, and have even won writing awards. But I wouldn't call myself a good writer because I'm really not. There are very few I think who can actually write really well. It's a wonderful skill set if one has it. I just aim for basic competency :).

    Oh, and I do think you can teach someone to be a good writer. I also think entrepreneurship is teachable as well. These skills will come easier to some than others, but it can all be taught IMO.
  23. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Oh I agree everything ultimately can be taught. But some students will have to work A LOT harder and longer at it to get the same results. ;) Which is why so many people speak of talent. But talent IMO is a combination of interest and natural ability. Mostly interest. :lol: I'm an introvert, so it would be more difficult for me to hustle and be an entrepreneur. Wouldn't be impossible, but I'd need to practice and find a good rhythm and balance so I wouldn't burn myself out.

    My piano teacher in high school also taught voice. (She majored in both at Juilliard.) One of her best students, an older woman, reportedly could barely sing a note when she first started. It took years and years, but she became a wonderful singer.
  24. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    ITA. My SO and I have this debate a lot. He is of the opinion anyone can fix any flaw and do anything, if they just apply themselves. While I think that is true in the main, some things are going to require a much bigger energy expenditure for some people than others. And IMO, in some cases, it will require such a level of energy that it makes that improvement or change impractical.
  25. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    I always held to the idea that good writers were devoted readers until I had been teaching a while and came across good writers who never opened books and voracious readers who couldn't construct sentences.

    I still think that for most people, the relationship is there, but it's certainly not a given.

    I agree. To write well, you have to want to write well, because writing well requires craft and diligence and a certain obsessiveness.

    So I think you can teach most willing people to write adequately and I think you can teach people who are willing to work at it to hone adequacy into something better, but the key to all it is the willingness of the student to learn, as is true of everything that is "taught."

    That which is not valued cannot be taught, including good writing, unless force is involved--and force does not produce excellence in most.
  26. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Exactly.

    My music teacher also taught an 8-year-old (I don't remember how exactly old she was, she might have been younger) who could sing opera off anybody's pants. So yes, she was just as good as the older student, but it took her A LOT less time to get to the same level. :lol: Plus she had parents who recognized her natural ability very early on. The young girl could make opera singing a career, while it was probably too late for the 50-year-old. But it doesn't mean that the older lady couldn't sing opera. She could. It's a matter of whether you can be good enough fast enough to make it a viable career. As you said, whether the energy required justifies what you get out of it.

    Natural ability + interest = talent that is likely to lead to a career. Interest - natural ability = hobby. Natural ability - interest = going nowhere fast. Maybe a good party trick. :lol:
  27. DAngel

    DAngel Active Member

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    I think you can be given direction to develop that ability... With practice, you can develop your senses and be pretty good at it. People say that imagination/inspiration can't be taught, but I think even that can be developed and refined.

    I agree with all these. When people say things like "writing can't be taught", I wonder if they really meant success or greatness... Because you can definitely learn to be very good at something, but success/greatness is a different story. And really, while geniuses exists, they are few and far between. They are also very obsessive in their craft. (scientist like Newton and Einstein and the old masters like Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael come to mind)
  28. sailornyanko

    sailornyanko New Member

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    With private liberal arts schools accruing 100,000 USD debt for their students who end up in bankruptcy because their min wage jobs can't cut the cheese, perhaps they ought to start getting worried that their general studies degrees just aren't marketable to the average middle class college student needing a job when they graduate. Perhaps remodeling for an 8th time the student lounge room with 3D 90 inch plasma tv screens isn't necessary to get students a job after all!

    Not against liberal arts degrees (I did a hard science degree though), but General Studies degrees costing 100,000 USD is ridiculous. Schools should offer marketable classes in these degrees like business, journalism or teaching skills so that their graduates can become foreign language teachers or work in an office doing graphic design related jobs or other marketable skills. Several schools have already gotten rid of women's studies departments from lack of students, either universities evolve or they will have to reduce classes and department sizes or risk going out of business.
  29. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    Do you think anyone can just take a few courses and do that? This is a pervasive problem in the US, no appreciation for the arts and how difficult they are.
  30. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    The fields you mention aren't necessarily "marketable skills". For example, there are very few jobs available in journalism or graphic design. Most students who enter those fields freelance at first, or work part-time without benefits.

    The degreed fields that are in demand in the US right now include petroleum engineer, computer science, software engineering, mining & mineral engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, actuarial science, pharmacology, and geological engineering. Some of those majors have nearly 100% employment. However, they're obviously not a fit for everyone. All are highly math-oriented.
  31. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    I'm hoping to switch careers to graphic design, but I know how to code. Most graphic designers do not (they don't teach it at schools usually, you have to teach yourself), and I've already heard jokes about how the ones who know how to code are going to be the ones employed. :eek: So, woohoo?

    And yeah, engineering is definitely not a great fit for everyone. My coworker is studying for the MCAT, and she's dedicated 1.5 months to just physics. Some of the stuff she's doing, I have not seen in about 10 years, and I would rather shoot myself than study it again. (Keep in mind we're both hard science majors.) Alf however, he thinks it's the most natural thing in the world. That's why he gets paid the big bucks, because nobody else wants to do it. :lol:
  32. DAngel

    DAngel Active Member

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    Are you talking about web design? Otherwise, I'm not sure what graphic design have to do with coding...
  33. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Yeah. Design schools don't have different departments for "web design" and "print design," it's all under "graphic design" and then you can be print or web. Print is obviously the go-to at schools because it's how you learn the basics.

    From what I've heard from many graphic designers, most of the work is in web now, not print.
  34. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    But, you still have to have the design skills. Page design, is page design. Yes, web pages are more technically challenging, because they are interactive. But, you need to have an understanding of balance, eye direction, etc.
  35. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Oh of course. I never said otherwise. But in addition to all those skills, if you know how to code, that gets you in front of the line nowadays.
  36. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I can see that. I wouldn't know where to start, creating a website.

    There is a part of me that mourns the old days when graphic design was strictly art. Ink jet/laser type was just not acceptable. Type was done photographically. The resolution was incredible. Photos were retouched on 8" X 10" (or larger) chromes, by airbrush artists. What they were able to do was amazing. There is an element of touch and feel that is missing in computer generated "art". Though, I have had to conform. I am relatively good in Illustrator. Hate InDesign! Hate text boxes! I don't think anyone from my generation can relate to them :lol:. And I am sure that there are many, like you, who are good at both design and coding. I have seen far too many "graphic designers" who know how to use a computer, but know nothing about page design, color, balance, font choices, spacing, kerning, vertical spacing.

    We just finished my daughter's save the date cards. The photographer did them. The photographer, himself is excellent. But their designer....:yikes:! Even the retouching was poor. I had them send me the raw photo and I did it myself. Can you imagine that they didn't even take out a tag that was hanging down from my daughter's fiance's shirt? White against blue denim - hard to miss! The font choice was too delicate for the photo, and because it was supered, you couldn't read it.
  37. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    :lol: Yeah I don't do stuff by hand, although it is enjoyable when I do sit down and do it. It's just that it takes so much time, and everybody wants stuff done yesterday!

    I'm doing freelance print design work for a wedding venue. Not mine, a local one which is more traditional. I do things he doesn't ask me to, like Photoshopping out photographer's assistants and extra lighting setups in an otherwise awesome shot. :p I charge by the hour and he hasn't complained yet!

    I even had to add the tilde in "quinceaƱera," because if the ad is going to go in the Latin Bride and Groom magazine, it had better be spelled right! :rofl: People sometimes think graphic designers are just Photoshop monkeys, but you really do have to know a lot of general things to be good at it.

    I'm not an expert in type, but :yikes: on supered type on a save-the-date card! Are you going to do the invites yourself? It would drive me crazy if someone else did them and they were bad!
  38. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    I will have the invites done. But, will choose the font, the sizes and bolding, the word break, the type justification, the card stock. There will be no photo on the invite. The thank you notes will come from the photographer, so those I will do. I will also stay on top of the book layout. I will do the menus for the wedding tables, if I can find a nice card stock. Michaels has some nice paper, but most of it is 8" x 10". I'd rather use an 8.5" x 11' and do two up.

    I don't necessarily have an issue with supered type, though my final design did not have it that way. It was more that the photo was take outside in January, in a rustic location. The type was very delicate, didn't go with the feel of the photo and was too light on a busy background. Had they chosen a heavier, more appropriate type, it could have worked. I also would have done a tinted strip behind the type, to give it more definition. What I did was use 2/3 of the card (right side) for the photo, then put a royal blue background on the rest of the card. Did the type in white, on the left side, justified right (along the photo), with a drop shadow and did a filigree border on the far left side that mimicked the filigree on my daughter's engagement ring. Then another 2 pt. white rule border, set 1/8" into the photo.

    I have an amusing "by hand" story. 15 years ago (or so), when I got my first computer (a Mac tower!). I decided I needed to take some computer graphic classes, just to learn how to use a computer. So, I did. The teacher had no real experience in art direction (I was an AD for a big NYC Ad agency), but she knew the computer. This was a computer graphics class. One day I was bringing a logo design I had done for our skating club, to the printer. I put it in my book and brought it in with me, because it was hot out and I didn't want to leave a mechanical in the car. Back then we did mechanicals with rubber cement, which softens in the heat. A few of the students were asking if they could see what was in the book. so, I said okay. They were looking at some of the line drawings I had in there and they asked how I did them. I said freehand. There used to be a drawing program called Freehand (Aldus, I thinK). They asked how I got the line weight differentiation in Freehand. I said, no, not the program I drew it freehand with a rapidograph. They were stunned! Two of them looked at me and said "You can draw?" I looked at them and said "You can't?" It never occurred to me that a graphics/art major would not be able to draw. I have a BFA, I painted, drew, sculpted, etc. I had color theory from professors who studied with Joseph Albers.
  39. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,045
    I got my cover stock from Kelly Paper and had my printers use that. :) Michaels probably wouldn't have enough stock of anything, whereas I bought a ream of Howard Linen and printed EVERYTHING from it.

    LOL, it's actually an ongoing joke at Art Center that graphic designers don't know how to draw. :shuffle: It's the illustration majors that do.
  40. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2005
    Messages:
    17,364
    Yes, but I was a fine arts major back in the early '70s. There were no computers. There was no point in being an art major if you couldn't draw/paint/sculpt. I did minor in marketing, simply because I knew I wanted to eat after I graduated. knew I didn't want to paint or illustrate for a living. Though I did a lot of illustration for layouts/story boards for client presentation.
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2013