College of Design: Making the cut

Rachel Sinn

Design students.

Within Iowa State, these two words put together often coincide with phrases like high stress, lack of sleep, no social life or borderline nervous breakdown, but some students might say that being a design student really is not like what the stereotype entails.

Entering freshman Quentin Bangston, major in pre-graphic design, said the stress is manageable.

“Right now my stress is kind of moderate, just because they’re throwing a lot at us all at once,” Bangston said. “My stress level is probably what it should be for a first-year design student because I feel like a little stress in this program is kind of healthy.”

All incoming freshman complete a one-year pre-professional core design program before applying to enter into their selected professional area of study which includes: architecture, art and design, biological/pre-medical illustration, community & regional planning, interdisciplinary design, graphic design, industrial design, integrated studio arts, interior design or landscape architecture.

Many students say the application process itself is very nerve-racking among students: Students may apply only once a year, so if rejected from their program of choice, he or she must wait a full calendar year to try again.

After submitting the required portfolio, essay and application, the applicant’s materials are reviewed by a faculty team to decide which program would be willing to accept him or her.

While most students are offered a place among at least one of the programs, due to the limited number of seats available, some students must be rejected, according to the College of Design website.

Adam Thilges, senior in interior design, said his biggest fear as a freshman was not getting into his program.

“I felt like I would have to wait a year to reapply or that I would get into something that I didn’t really want,” Thilges said.

With difficult projects in the design core classes, Thilges recalls being very intimidated with having to make a three-dimensional juicer out of paper his first year.

“It was miserable for me, that was definitely the worst one,” Thilges said.

Joe Langner, senior in interior design, also admits the first year can be rough.

“My freshman year, I would have said it was hard, but now looking back, I would say that it was very competitive,” Langner said.

Thilges wants future students to understand the amount of work they are getting into before signing up.

“Know what you’re getting into. Talk to people who have gotten into the program or talk to people who are in the core,” Thilges advised. “Don’t think it’s going to be easy. It’s not. You’re going to have to devote a lot of time to it, and it’s going to be stressful.”

Langner said the most important skill to learn is time management, but encouraged any student that has a passion for art to work hard in their design program.

“If you love it, go for it,” Langner said. “Put your whole heart into the projects that you do and definitely figure out how to budget your time right away, because that’s going to be the hardest thing for a design student to do.”

Getting along with professors and creating a relationship is essential when a student is in his or her core classes. Any type of connection they make in the beginning can help them later.

“You definitely need to be talking with your professors as much as you can, just because design is one of the smaller colleges,” Langner said. “With each major, if you get in any program, whether it be architecture or interior design, you’re only going to have four to five professors that you talk to and see on a daily basis.”

Thilges refers to the first year as a design student as the “test year.”

“The first year is a year full of stuff that you shouldn’t think of as what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your college career,” Thilges said. “It’s just kind of showing you what the different programs will offer, and different projects that will show what you’re good at and what you like.”

Langner remembers his defining moment of knowing that the College of Design was for him.

“I’ll never forget, when my parents asked me: ‘Are you sure you don’t want to do something that might be a little easier?’” Langner knew from that moment on there was no turning back for him.

“You have to put your whole heart into and as long as you put the time into it, you’ll be successful,” Langner said.