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Cmu Or Risd?

worried_momworried_mom Registered User Posts: 2,205 Senior Member
edited August 2005 in Visual Arts and Film Majors
My son has been accepted by both CMU and RISD for an Industrial Design major. Obviously the two schools are completely different (size, location, university vs. art school, etc.) but he has visited both and truly feels that he would be happy at either one. Consequently he is having a very hard time making up his mind.

Has anyone else had to choose between these two schools, and how did you decide? Or can anyone offer some personal insight into life at one or both of these schools that might be helpful for my son?
Post edited by worried_mom on
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Replies to: Cmu Or Risd?

  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    My daughter will be apply to both RISD and CMU and will have the same concerns.

    CMU has the advantage of associating with a lot of non artsy types who are very very smart and driven. RISD is all artsy folks, although there is a lot of interaction with Brown kids.

    My problem with CMU is that it is very compartmentalized. For example, the school of design is different from the school of art. You need to be accepted at both to major in each school. At least with RISD, your daughter can try or major in other artistic topics. In fact, there is a winter session specifically for trying out other disciplines.

    Admittedly, CMU does have a great name. In fact, from my visit to the school, I can't imagine any program there being bad! However, check out the news from CMU. Almost everything that is newsworthy has to do with computers or drama, or their business school. Very little, if anything, seems to be occuring that is particularly noteworth regarding the school of design or art. I simply get the feeling that the schools of design and art are riding on the reputation of the other schools.

    This is not to say that CMU is bad for industrial design. In fact, it is probably quite good. I just don't get the feeling that they are as good as RISD or as focused on this area as RISD would be.

    By the way, I am not biased towards either school. If you check out the CMU site here, I was the one who started the featured discussion on CMU and did an overview of the school. I also did an overview of RISD in the RISD site. You should read each overview. It may give you some further insight.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,884 Senior Member
    My daughter had that same decision a few years ago, between CMU, RISD, MICA and a couple of other schools.

    The main attraction of CMU was the possibility of a "minor" outside of the art-design area.

    I agree with Taxguy's comments about compartmentalization. For a college (the Fine Arts college) with just a couple of schools in it, you'd think they would be working together but the Art and the Design departments seemed somehow to not be working together. While RISD is also compartmentalized in a different way (see the discussion of RISD under the specific schools section), the students are part of a single enterprise and there are also many more choices of majors and courses at RISD than at CMU.

    In addition, although my daughter thought Pittsburgh was a reasonable city she really wanted to be in a "big" city and preferably on the east coast. While Providence is a small city (with some real attractions), RISD offered access to Boston and New York and even organized some courses around those locations. (Providence is also a really good place for parents to visit -- many excellent restaurants!)

    She also found the art facilities, including studios, at RISD far superior to those at CMU, and didn't like the warren-like arrangement of some of the CMU space. RISD has excellent "space" for students to work.

    Finally, not least important perhaps, was my daughter's sense that after all RISD was the best art school, with a stronger reputation and probably better prospects for making connections in the future. It also happened that at the time my MIL was good friends with a famous illustrator of children's books, and when he was asked which school my daughter should attend, he had a simple answer -- or really a question: "Isn't RISD the best?"
  • worried_momworried_mom Registered User Posts: 2,205 Senior Member
    Thanks for your input, taxguy and mackinaw. I tend to agree with you that RISD is probably the #1 school for art and design because of its focus on those areas, and a degree from RISD certainly carries a lot of weight in the art/design world. But it's that narrow focus that concerns me. Although, as you point out out, the intent of RISD's Wintersession is to let students try other disciplines, the choice of courses is still heavily focused on visual arts. On the other hand, at CMU, there is a broad array of potential electives in totally different areas -- music, robotics, literature, etc. -- that a design student can take. Although RISD touts the availability of taking such courses of Brown, we looked into that and it seems rather difficult to actually do, given the different schedules of the two schools and Brown's registration priorities.

    So how does one compare the superior, although narrowly-focused, training available from RISD and the more well-rounded, but perhaps less "professional", design education one gets from CMU? That's my son's dilemma.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,884 Senior Member
    First of all, it's not as hard to take courses at Brown as your statement implies. I'd say my daughter took maybe 4 or 5 (language, sociology, history, environmental stuff). Also, keep in mind that RISD's own program includes some humanities and social studies. It's not all studio courses.

    Second, you have to bear in mind that the art and design majors at CMU are also full studio programs, in which some 60% of the student's coursework will be in art/design. A related consideration is that CMU is "decentralized" and has decentralized admissions, i.e., admissions is to a school or college. Though most students interact across college "boundaries," sometimes these boundaries are also tough to traverse, and, for example, switching majors can be hard at CMU.

    Nonetheless, it's true that students at CMU have more options outside their major field or visual arts generally than do RISD students. As I mentioned, that was one attraction to CMU for my daughter. But for her, at least, it didn't outweigh the issue of quality and reputation of the visual arts program.
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    I agree with Mackinaw. If you want a wide variety of artistic courses and strong professional training, RISD is the way to go. CMU will give strong design or art training but will also allow you to take some courses in computers, humanities and social science etc. Thus, CMU may make your child more broad based. Also, CMU is into computers and computer interactivity. There are cross programs in human-computer interaction, which are very interesting.
  • jkolkojkolko Registered User Posts: 108 Junior Member
    I attended CMU for Industrial Design; I have to disagree with the issue of "compartmentalization". My double major - in ID and in Human Computer Interaction - was achieved with ease (across schools, with HCI being in SCS and ID being in the school of design); I took numerous courses in H&SS, as well as the occasional engineering and science courses. While the art and design kids are certainly in the minority with regard to numbers, they get the respect and attention from the computer science students with ease.
  • sotssots Registered User Posts: 79 Junior Member
    Hmm... Some really good things were said, but I also agree to disagree (as confusing as that may sound) with the 'compartmentalization' claim about CMU. While it is true that ART and DESIGN are separated (even seeming to be based in different buildings) I understand where they are coming from. Art and design are two very, very different majors--and I say this being an artist with a father who is an industrial designer--and there is no need to pretend they are the same. Across the COLLEGES (meaning CFA, H&SS, etc), one of the things I love best about CMU is the unification. Most of my friends are in drastically different majors (CS, CIT, business, economics, physics, mathematics, music, japanese, chem- the list goes on) and CMU makes it very easy--in fact, they very much encourage students--to do a combo-major like BHA and BSA in the regular four years by exempting you from certain requirements of either major.

    Also, as for the arts 'riding on the reputation' of the school, that is completely ridiculous. Completely. The art school is one of the most competetive at CMU, and easily one of the most difficult. Being an art major at CMU will gain you only respect. Also, CMU produces a high percentage of working artists, many of them very very talented. They do great things every day. If we aren't hearing about them, if there is more interest in the goings-on of other majors, I think one would be better to look to the state of the U.S... the world, actually, at this moment. Anyone can see that this is no Rennaisance we are living in right now~ at least not in terms of respect for the arts and the roles of artists in society.

    To answer the CMU/RISD question? I had the same choices, and I didnt choose RISD. Personally, I know CMU is the right place for me, as an artist, as a student, and as a person. My opinion is that the art program at CMU is different, but equal, to that of RISD, however RISD still has a better reputation. CMU is rising rapidly, especially when you compare CMU now to what it was in, say, 1993. I think it could be equally known in the future, but thats a gamble. If reputation is actually what you care about, RISD is still the best bet.
  • MikestrmanMikestrman Registered User Posts: 111 Junior Member
    Taxguy,You are so misinformed...stop giving people bad advice.
  • mackinawmackinaw Registered User Posts: 2,884 Senior Member
    Mikestrman, the advice offered here by Taxguy or anyone else is to be taken "as is" and based on their own knowledge or experience. Taxguy is one of the people on this board who tries to penetrate the b.s. about programs and ask critical questions. He's also made quite a circuit of different programs and he has family in the design field. I don't think any broadside such as your helps to inform anybody here. If you have concrete criticisms or a different POV, why not take the time to offer them, or perhaps to offer some useful advice of your own.
  • modiammodiam Registered User Posts: 63 Junior Member
    I also have noticed that taxguy is sometimes just plain incorrect when stating "facts" - though his willingness to research and share information is appreciated.
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    Modiam, oh, which facts are plain incorrect? I did speak with the assistant dean of the Design School. I was specifically told that "art and design are very separate entitites." Moreover, when I asked about double majors in different schools, I was specifically told ( perhaps incorrectly) that "you have to be admitted to those schools and apply as if you were a new student." I then asked about taking some courses in the art school and was specifically told ( rightly or wrongly) that," although this can be done, it isn't as easy as it sounds."

    I should note that we did check out the studio facilities because they didn't show us these in the tour. I think this was intentional because they weren't as big or nice, in our opinion, as that of RISD.

    Oh, yes Mikestrman, I didn't measure the studio facilites with a tape measure or measure each student's square footage of use, or ask how old everything was. This is my opinion!

    I won't say that I always research everything that I say before it is said. However, in most cases, I usually do check out the information that I post with someone at the school or with some external source before I give out information.

    I was also told by both the assistant dean and by several students that CMU isn't the place to find yourself. "This schools wants kids who know what they want and will stick with that major throughout." This is an exact quote by the way from the assistant dean of the Design School! This should be contrasted to RISD who wants people in the first year to experiment and see what majors would be of interest. Changing to ANY major in RISD usually isn't a problem, although you may lose time depending on when the change occured..

    So, again, which facts do I give are just plain wrong!?
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    OH yes, in my research of CMU, which I did do, two students told me,"Also-- knowing what major you want is almost a requirement upon entering and switiching majors makes things QUITE difficult and is often discouraged. "

    This is also emphasized in the students review web site comments for CMU.
  • jkolkojkolko Registered User Posts: 108 Junior Member
    "This is an exact quote by the way from the assistant dean of the Design School!"

    Considering the COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS has a "Dean", and the SCHOOL OF DESIGN has a "Head", it seems like you have a fact wrong right there ...
  • taxguytaxguy Registered User Posts: 6,629 Senior Member
    The person I spoke to was Ms. Cizozi, who is the business head of the School of Design, although she did lead me to believe that she was also an assistant dean.

    Jkolko, if you don't like the info I present in any way, feel free to not read it! I am growing tired of having to explain myself.

    I have published some reviews of CMU and RISD on each site. As I note in my reviews, these were my takes
    based on my one visit. I also note to visit the school since you may feel differently. Again, if you don't like my opinions, feel free to not read them.
  • hayhaydenhayhayden Registered User Posts: 101 Junior Member
    There are two assistant deans in the College of Fine Arts - Barabara Anderson (faculty member of the School of Drama) and Patti Pavlus (who is solely an Assistant Dean of CFA). Melissa Cicozi is the Assistant Head of the School of Design.
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