What non-traditional animation and game design programs exist in the Midwest?
The U.S. Census Bureau says that the Midwest consists of two Divisions—East North Central and West North Central. The East North Central Division includes Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The West North Central Division includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Each Division in the Midwest region has its fair share of colleges and universities, and many of them offer exceptional art and design programs.
Head to the East North Central Division where you’ll find top-ranked Herron School of Art + Design at Indiana University. In Wisconsin, you’ll find Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), which has been producing successful artists since 1974. And who hasn’t heard of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), which is listed as one of the top 10 schools for art and design in the world? And then there’s the West North Central Division, home to art schools such as Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) and Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UND). The list goes on.
Though prominent art schools such as these offer a range of art and design programs, you might be wondering which ones offer the “most unique” programs for animators and game designers. Well, we’ve discovered a few are sure to pique your interest, beginning with several schools located in Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Here you go.
University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska
University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) is home to a Computer Science & Engineering Department that has a rare 100% job placement rate, with 80% of job offers in hand before students start their senior year. Housed within the College of Arts and Sciences – College of Engineering, the Department recently launched a Game Developers Club that it says, “exposes students to the latest in video gaming, including development competitions.” The Club is currently working on designing and creating video games and frequently recruits students interested in “game design, coding, artwork, music, sound and any other aspect of game development.”
Programs for aspiring game designers include a BS and a Minor in Computer Science. Accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, the BS program prepares students for careers such as Game Programmer, Mobile App Developer, iPhone Application Developer, Software Developer, Web Application Developer, and many others. Sample courses include Design and Analysis of Algorithms, Programming Language Concepts; Automata, Computation, and Formal Languages, Artificial Intelligence, Unix Programming Environment, and Calculus.
Graduates of UNL’s BS in Computer Science program have landed positions at major companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, NASA, Boeing, and more.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln also has a top tier BFA program that prepares students for a career in Computer Animation, Visual Effects, New Media Design, and Film and Digital Video Production, among others. Offered through the renowned Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and Johnny Carson School of Theater & Film, the BFA in Film and New Media Production (FNM) has eight major focus areas including Computer Animation, Post-Production, Visual Effects, Screenwriting, New Media Design Producing, Directing, and Film and Digital Video Production.
Sample courses for the program range from Screenwriting and Film Production to Rendering and Design. Students in the program will also study theater, acting, and directing, making it one of the regions most unique programs for aspiring animators. Graduates of the program have gone on to become Animators, Screenwriters, Digital Artists, Cinematographers, Producers, Editors, Sound Mixers, and Production Designers, to name a few.
Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). Johnny Carson School of Theater & Film is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST).
University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, North Dakota
University of North Dakota’s (UND) Department of Art and Design is housed within the Edmund Hughes Fine Arts Center, which provides more than 35,000 square feet for specialized studios and opportunities for work in visual arts media. The Department, the largest and most complete art and design department in the region outside Minneapolis, is the only art and design department within the geographical area of North Dakota and South Central Canada offering the terminal degree (MFA) in Studio Art. It is also one of the few departments in the country to offer a BFA in Visual Arts with an Emphasis in an area known as Time-based Media.
This unique program is popular among aspiring animators in the region because it prepares students for intermediate to advanced level positions in both animation and digital video production. Course offerings and descriptions are as follows:
Time-based Media I - Time Design and Digital Media
Introduction to visual study in time and motion with a focus on the principals, techniques and history of animation. This course will explore the fundamental concepts of the form and instruct in the application of computer software.
Time-based Media II - Digital Video
Exploration of creative processes in digital video production. Students will acquire intermediate level knowledge of digital video and audio recording, sampling, sequencing, editing, manipulation. Selected readings on the historical, critical, and technical development of video art, sound and editing techniques will be included for in-class discussions.
Time-based Media III - Digital Compositing
Students will explore the integration of graphics, animation and video design. This class will focus on the incorporation of graphics into video sequences, speed, timing and transformation of image. Students will become familiar with processing tools in color, size, placement modification, analysis and duplication of motion. Selected readings on the history of motion graphic art will be included for in-class discussions.
Time-based Media IV - Digital Effects
Investigation in traditional and computer generated animation. Students will explore character, experimental, stop motion, interactive, 3D computer animation and visual effects. Selected readings on technical development of digital effects in art will be included for in-class discussions.
Advanced Time-based Media: Alternative Presentation of Media
Exploration of contemporary presentation methods and concepts in Animation and time-based digital media. Emphasis on the development of personal aesthetic and conceptual development. Historical, critical, and technical readings will be included for in-class discussions.
Though many students enter the animation industry upon completion of the Time-based Media program, some choose to enroll in UND’s MFA program. This exclusive graduate program gives students the opportunity to spend most of their time working in the studio in areas such as Mixed Media Art, Drawing or Printmaking.
The Art and Design programs at University of North Dakota are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD).
Note that UND’s Department of Computer Science offers a BS in Computer Science (CSci) through the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences and a BA with a Major in Computer Science through the College of Arts and Sciences. Both programs offer an optional specialization in Game Development and Computer Animation. Sample courses for this unique focus area include Artificial Intelligence, Basic Design, Computer Graphics I and II, Linear Algebra, Software Engineering, and University Physics.
The BS degree is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET.
Dakota State University – Madison, South Dakota
If you live in South Dakota and you want to study game design, head to Dakota State University (DSU) where the school’s multidisciplinary BS in Computer Game Design is described as “one of the strongest programs in the nation.” Students in the program learn the fundamental skills for video game design, development, production, interactive software, and digital media through a diverse group of core courses such as Writing, Design, Software Development, Calculus, and Physics. Elective options allow students to focus on a topic of their choice such as Narrative Design, Software Design, or Technical Art.
Per the school, “DSU's game design students integrate game mechanics, narrative, aesthetics and technology to craft interesting and effective player experiences,” but “with this degree, you can be flexible.” Graduates of the program “don't have to work on games.” With this degree, students will be prepared to work in related fields such as interaction design and software development. Sample major course titles include 2D Design, Worldbuilding, Math for Games, Web Programming, Level Design, 2D Design on Computers, Structured Analysis & Design, Data Structures, Game Programming Tools, Game Design Core Experience, Speech, and Object-Oriented Design.
In addition to a unique curriculum that prepares graduate for a range of in-demand careers, the DSU BS in Computer Game Design offers access to a major clubs such as the Gaming Club, Game Design Club, Animation Club, Anime Club, and Computer Club.
Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
More Programs to Consider:
"Accredited Institutions Search." NASAD. National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), 2017. Web. 30 Sept. 2017.
Census Regions and Divisions of the United States. Suitland: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016. PDF.
Note: Program information has been obtained from each school’s official website. All information was accurate at the time of publication.