What It Amounts To

March 26, 2010

On Tuesday in my Graphic Design core class, we had a really great class discussion about the role of grades in an art & design school. For a recent project, our instructor Lewis Nicholson (who by the way is a terrific instructor, someone who really pushes you creatively) decided to let the class grade each other, in addition to him grading us.

He gave us the model of the bell curve that OCAD uses as a structure for grading, although he admitted to us that he never uses it. Most of the class agreed that using a bell curve forces otherwise-great work to be graded lower, in order to achieve some sort of unnatural balance amongst the students in a class. But then we started discussing the importance of grades in general when it comes to art & design schooling.

This is actually a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Personally, I’ve found that so far OCAD has been a success for me, despite the fact that my grades have been only average at best. I’ve learned so much from my projects, that even though the finished product wasn’t a total success, I feel like going forward I am in a much better position to come up with a concept and execute it. But if one were to strictly look at my transcript, at my grades laid out on a piece of a paper, one could come to the conclusion OCAD hasn’t been a success for me yet.

Grades in an art & design school are much different than in a normal university or college, and yet I feel like many outside of the school environment treats them like they are. I don’t feel comfortable sharing the grades I’ve received at OCAD with others, not because I’m trying to hide them, but because I feel like it’s unfair representation of my experience at OCAD, and I would be giving that person an incomplete summary of my experience.

I really don’t know yet how the grades I receive here will affect me going forward in my career, besides the obvious of whether or not I get a degree. But from speaking to Lewis, even something as official as a degree shouldn’t be a rubber stamp as to where you end up in graphic design. The creative process to me is so subjective, I can’t process how to quantify it yet. But maybe I shouldn’t even try.


2 Responses to “What It Amounts To”

  1. Jenn Says:

    The way I see it, it isn’t the grades that matter. No one in a creative field is going to look at your grades when deciding your qualifications for a job. They are going to look at your portfolio. The fact that you’re learning something is so much more valuable than numbers that no one is going to look at. Just put it to good use and learn from your mistakes and make a kickass portfolio.

    • Anthony Smith Says:

      That’s pretty much the consensus our class came to, and how I’ve been feeling about school. I know that what I’m learning will be put to good use, and results will come soon enough.

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