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Top Online Arts and Design Schools

Top Online Arts and Design Schools

Have you ever been to an airport where you didn’t mind spending a six hour lay-over, or have you rushed to the door for the fall fashion catalog? If so, you have been unknowing admirers of interior and fashion designers who have been drawing inspiration from history, nature and emotions to create stylish and functional clothing and interiors. And many of them honed their artistic skills at arts and design schools.

Just as those with a penchant for sketching can attend schools for the arts, graphic design or architecture to develop their talents, there are classes available for aspiring fashionistas or even the next Timothy Corrigan (a famous interior designer). Online arts and design schools can provide classes in textiles, manufacturing, design, architecture, computer-aided design programs and more in an accessible format that allows students to study on their own schedule.

Schools with art and interior design programs

The Center for Interior Design Accreditation describes accredited online interior design programs at the Academy of Art University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. It should be noted that online programs may require some on-campus attendance to earn a degree. Check with your school to determine how much of the degree can be completed online.

For students looking to attend a campus-based interior design school, U.S. News & World Report has published its 2012 college rankings and named the following graduate schools as some of the leading interior design schools based on survey responses from school deans and school administrators:

1.  Pratt Institute
2. California College of the Arts
3.  Ohio State University
4.  School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Comprehensive art school rankings are unavailable as of 2012, but U.S. News & World Report named the following graduate schools as among the leading programs for fine arts in 2012, based on the survey mentioned above:

1.  Yale University
2.  Rhode Island School of Design
3.  School of the Art Institute of Chicago
4.  University of California –Los Angeles

    Learn more about arts and design courses available from online schools and colleges

    Fashion design

    Fashion designers create original clothing and shoes to appeal to customers, building on their understanding of fashion trends. Sometimes this entails a general theme for a clothing line, such as cultural expression and appeal, or a style expressing humble simplicity. Fashion designers work with fabrics and computer-aided design programs to create design sketches. Some may also market their designs to retailers or directly to customers.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012) reports that it usually takes six months from the first design concept to the final fashion product that is ready for production, which means a fashion designer is planning the upcoming fall line in the spring. The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reports that fashion designers need to research current fashion and predict future trends and that while no post-secondary education is required, some students earn a 2-or-4-year degree in a related field to improve their knowledge in textiles and fabrics.

    According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), developing a portfolio – a collection of design sketches or prototype photos showcasing the designer’s skills – is essential for aspiring fashion designers as it allows employers to gauge the talent and creativity of the designer. For those wanting to attend a fashion design school, the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) notes that many schools require applicants to have completed basic art and design courses before entering the program in addition to submitting examples of artistic ability.

    The national median salary of a fashion designer in May of 2011 was $64,690 per year, according to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012). The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) also notes that earnings can vary widely based on experience, employer and reputation. Employment for fashion designers is expected to experience little to no growth from 2010 to 2020 nationally (BLS.gov, 2012).

    Interior Design

    Interior designers create functional, safe, and generally beautiful interior spaces for almost any type of building, be it an office lobby, warehouse, shopping mall or even airport. They blend colors, fabrics, flooring, lighting and furniture to create useful, and stylish, interiors. All their work is not art however, as interior designers must also read blueprints and understand building safety codes in addition to working closely with architects and structural engineers. Some may also produce design plans using computer-aided design (CAD) programs.

    According to the BLS (BLS.gov, 2012), interior designer are required to have a bachelor’s degree, however the degree does not need to be in interior design. Classes in CAD systems, drawing and interior design are usually required as well. Programs in interior design are also available from the associate degree level up to a master’s.

    While laws may vary by state, the National Council for Interior Design Qualification reports that more than half of the states in the U.S. have enacted laws regulating designers; for example, regulations may restrict either the title “interior designer” or the ability to work as one without either passing a state exam or earning the NCIDQ certificate. In the states that restrict only the title, interior designers can work without the NCIDQ certificate but, they cannot call themselves interior designers.

    Independent certification from the NCIDQ is voluntary and focuses on interior design specializations such as bathroom and kitchen design. These certifications display the holder’s expertise in their area of interior design.

    The BLS (BLS.gov, 2012) reported that, as of May 2011, the median national annual salary for an interior designer was $47,620 per year. Interior designers working with architectural, engineering and related services made a national median salary of up to $57,950 per year during the same period. The employment for interior designers is expected to increase about as fast as the national average for other U.S. professions, and is projected to grow 19 percent from 2010 to 2020 (BLS.gov, 2012).

    Learn more about arts and design programs from online schools and colleges:

    When researching online colleges and universities, make sure to verify that your choice of school is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council or by another accrediting agency that is approved by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or both. DETC and CHEA both provide a searchable list of approved schools.

    The National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the Council for Interior Design Accreditation accredit schools and programs for both fine arts and interior designs. Both institutions provide information such as a searchable list from NASAD and a list of CIDA accredited schools and programs. The NASAD also accredits fashion design programs in addition to interior design.

    Sources and further reading:

    The Council for Higher Education Accreditation

    The U.S. Department of Education

    The Distance Education and Training Council

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    O*NET Online

    The National Association of Schools of Art and Design

    The Council for Interior Design Accreditation

    The National Council for Interior Design Qualification

    U.S. News & World Report