“IT’S REALLY A REAL-WORLD PROGRAM,” explains Ellen Lupton, the director of MICA’s MFA program. She says that students can create, think, research, and write in ways that are “relevant to the public.” The program at MICA stands out for its emphasis on a interdisciplinary and experimental approach, in an academic setting. Students work in various mediums and are encouraged to get involved in an array of collaborative group and individual projects. The MFA course couples a very structured foundation with the freedom to explore.
“Experimental Lettering & Typography,” taught by Bruce Willenand Nolen Strals, embodies this balancing act of experimentation and boundaries. “Our philosophy about the class is to break rules and try new things, but you’re better able to break the rules when you know them well,” Willen says. The first assignment is to create an alphabet without any traditional drawing tools—including pencils, pens, or computer programs—a project that helps students understand that “the ways to create letterforms are limitless,” says Strals.
In Lupton’s writing course, students discuss texts on critical theory, communications, and semiotics, and learn how to write with publications in mind. “Designers really want to be writing and to participate in the blogosphere, and there are so many more ways for a young designer to engage,” says Lupton, adding that publishing is a large part of the education at MICA. Students collaborate on content for zines and books, such as Lupton’s book D.I.Y.: Design It Yourself, which helps bring the program from experimentation back to the real world.