Art School Adds Marketing Speak to Its Curriculum

New York's School of Visual Arts to Offer Branding Master's Program

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NEW YORK ( -- Recognizing the increasingly blurred lines between business, design and branding, New York's School of Visual Arts has created a branding master's program intended to teach designers marketing-speak.

To prepare students for careers in marketing and advertising, the fine-arts school's Master of Professional Studies in branding has crafted a curriculum across marketing, advertising, branding and creative, with coursework in cultural anthropology, behavioral psychology, commerce and creativity. The graduate program imbues the school's 60-plus years of art and design heritage with marketing and brand theory -- topics usually reserved for M.B.A. candidates.

"The problem with most M.B.A.s is that there's no visual content," SVA President David Rhodes said. "We're trying to meld both of those content areas."

Debbie Millman, partner-president of brand and design firm Sterling Brands, will chair SVA's branding department, which boasts faculty members such as Dan Formosa, co-founder of Smart Design, also a brand and design firm, and Pamela De Cesare, Sterling Brands exec VP-design management and former Kraft Foods director-global packaging resources.

"You hear designers all the time talking about getting a seat at the table," Ms. Millman said. "Now, you can't just get a seat by demanding it, you need to get invited or push your way through. The only way you're going to be taken seriously when you get that seat is to know what fork to use, to know what language to speak. Getting the seat isn't the end-all; it's contributing to the discussion. This will give anybody who's interested something to say."

Going beyond creative
Conceived with SVA Master of Fine Arts design department co-chair and New York Times columnist Steve Heller, the one-year graduate program is intended for students pursuing careers as brand managers, marketing communication directors, media- and marketing-services designers or design directors on the client side; or brand consultants, account executives or designers on the agency or freelance side.

"Having expertise in visual communication goes far beyond the simply creative at this point," Ms. Millman said. "Roles like design manager, brand manager, brand consultant and package designer require far more than the technical skill of marketing or creative. This is a program that will allow for creating, evaluating and working with brands from a completely holistic perspective."

In contrast to SVA's designer-as-entrepreneur program, in which students are taught to invent and address their own design problems, the branding mater's is more industry-focused, designed to teach students how to tackle client problems. During the summer, the thesis project is to create and launch a brand. SVA will sometimes partner with real-world clients for the assignment.

SVA is currently accepting applications for the inaugural class, which begins in fall 2010. The program will hold evening and summer classes to accommodate working professionals.

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