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By instilling artistic discipline while fostering innovation and imagination, art and design school sets graduates on a path for both creative fulfillment and financial success.

As we move into the innovation age, those with a degree in art and design are increasingly stepping out from behind the easel and into the executive suite, defying expectations as they enter the workforce.

“Now, better than any time in history, is the best time to be an artist or designer,” says Dr. Larry R. Thompson, president of Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. “One of the primary skillsets that is needed today is creative thinking and creative problem solving. That is in any business — every business. Manufacturing, medicine, engineering and of course any art and design professions.”

The art of the facts

According to Adobe’s global “State of Create” report from 2016, 70 percent of the population believes that creativity makes people better workers and leaders. Creators also earn 13 percent more on average and are 31 percent more likely to feel fulfilled by their job. Yet only 31 percent believe that they are living up to their creative potential.

These statistics indicate that we need to encourage our students to pursue a balanced education. Dr. Thompson tells the story of a “brain bi-dexterous” young woman who enrolled as a computer animation major — with a degree in computer science already under her belt. Though she was initially led down the path of STEM, she recognized that her true passion lies in a STEAM education. “Those that find such a balance between left brain and right brain,” says Dr. Thompson, “will be the most successful and be the leaders of tomorrow.”

Understanding potential

With an 11-1 student-to-faculty ratio, students from each of 12 leading-edge majors — including motion design, computer animation, photography and imaging, and business of art and design — are led in a rigorous, disciplined approach to creative, design thinking. “It’s very similar to going to medical school or law school,” says Dr. Thompson, “where you’re focusing in on a certain niche and preparing to go into the profession, but still retain the creative spirit and energy of coming up with something new and innovative.”

For Academy Award-winning film director, illustrator and designer Brandon Oldenburg, who graduated from the Ringling College of Art and Design in 1995 with a BFA in illustration and now serves on the board of trustees, art school “was so wonderfully intimidating.” He fondly recalls the experience of being surrounded by “teachers who are there to enable and enhance your curiosity and students that are all the best in their class from all over the planet.”

A taste of the real world

For the last three years, General Motors has partnered with Ringling’s Collaboratory, an experiential learning program in which students at the college are guaranteed the opportunity to work with real, professional clients — and has hired seven graduates as a result. With the help of one-on-one mentoring from GM Design clay and digital sculptors, “the students realize that their unique gifts and talents are able to cross over into various disciplines,” said members of GM Design Academy’s Collegiate and Educational Outreach team.

From the motion design and graphic design major who is currently working for the CIA on the president’s daily briefing books, to the medical illustrators, to the restaurant owners and display coordinators, to the illustration major turned thoracic surgeon who states that he developed hand-eye coordination through drawing, the real-world applications for an art and design degree are seemingly endless. Now that’s an education to get excited about.

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