19 May 2008
Digital Design and Media, aka “Devine,” is a new, innovative Bachelor program at the University College West Flanders, department industrial sciences and technology. We started this program because of the increasing interest from the industry for a study program that offers students an integrated approach to digital media creation.
Before we started, we did extensive research and talked to many companies. Together we created a new program that includes design and development as well as the integration of both. The design track focuses on screen design, development focuses on the development of online applications, and integration combines both tracks in the form of practical and relevant projects.
We have built the program around four main areas: 1) web design, 2) interface design, 3) online applications, and 4) audio/video design. Because this is a creative bachelor degree, practical application is very important. Students master the basics during theory sessions, but need to apply this knowledge very quickly during the lab sessions and in their project work.
The First Year
During their first year, students learn about the basics of programming and web development in the development track. Adobe Flash is an excellent tool for learning the basics of programming, because it makes it easy to visualize abstract programming concepts. The students learn how to separate content and styling through xHTML and CSS. After that, they learn to build dynamic, database-driven websites.
During the design modules, students learn how to compose a layout, with attention for composition, color, typography, and image associations. They study different styles and themes, and research different graphic flows to be able to present the same content in different ways. The Adobe Creative Suite fits this curriculum beautifully. We’re using Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash to support students’ design skills.
Another important aspect in Devine is the integration track where students combine their design and development skills to deliver exceptional projects. They create source material and use their knowledge and tools (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash) to create mockups and designs of their project. Of course, that is not where it ends; they also need to implement their design. The end result might be an interactive Flash application or an attractive xHTML website. Creativity, innovation and communication are emphasized throughout the projects.
The Second Year
Audio and video play an important part in the Devine curriculum, mainly during the second year. Students learn how to “think cinema”—they learn about basic camera handling, advanced compositing, and post-production. We continue with advanced motion graphics and special effects. The most important tools used here are Premiere, After Effects and Soundbooth. Students use these tools in large-scale Flash, Flex and AIR projects, where structured programming is very important.
The industry and the students meet during the integration modules in the second year of study. Students work on non-commercial projects, managed and evaluated by multimedia companies who have built up lots of experience over the past years. The companies come to our university to evaluate the students’ work. This is another example of the importance of feedback and input from the specialized industry to our curriculum.
The Third Year
During their third and final year, our students start working on mobile development and 3D. They need to apply this knowledge quickly, because during their last semester, the students do a 12-week, intensive internship. This might be with the company from their second year project. That way, they are well prepared to start their career after our three-year course.
A student graduating from the Devine program knows how to create great designs and how to develop for the web. The program is a very hands-on course, where the student goes through the entire workflow for creating and developing online media. Combining design and development will be very important. In fact, this is already the case, as the industry is in dire need of students with this kind of training and background.