The quality of the graphic design classrooms is not maintained, according to department staff and students within the major. Credit: Juliete Seo / Mustang News

Cal Poly’s Art and Design major offers three different concentrations: graphic design, photography and video and studio art. The largest of these is the graphic design concentration, yet students and professors say that the graphic design department is struggling to work under limited staff and resources.  

“Right now, we have fewer full-time professors than when we did 20 years ago,” graphic design professor Charmaine Martinez said.

The graphic design department is located in the Walter F. Dexter building (34), which has been described as outdated by faculty and students. According to Martinez, Dexter has had a history of leaks, poor air quality, missing ceiling tiles and a lack of climate control. This makes art classes like painting and photography more difficult when it comes to making a comfortable and safe environment for students.

Martinez also noted that reserving student projects and holding art galleries are also a struggle for the department due to the lack of climate control, which limits the types of shows that they can hold in the building.

In the lab that students use, there are no windows to bring in natural light or to offer a view for students to look at while doing their work, yet it’s where students spend a large portion of their time. 

“The most frustrating thing is no windows,” art and design junior Katie Ng said. “Since we are looking at our screens all day, I think we need to give our eyes a break.”  

As a result of the department having limited staff,  students are restricted in what classes they can take. The majority of classes are also all located in one classroom, causing scheduling complications, and students are generally only offered design classes once a year to begin with.

Art and design junior Mara Preciado said this applies to her and other students in the major.

“It’s just frustrating having almost no room to take classes in different quarters,” Preciado said. 

Students have also experienced more restricted access to resources. The resource lab for design students has remained closed or is open for very few hours because the department has been unable to find student assistants to work. In light of this, some professors have pushed and advocated for students to have a studio space. 

“I’d love to see the students have a space in the building where they can collaborate and work around the clock and make it their own,” Martinez said. 

Students have expressed that they would like there to be more opportunities available for graphic design. For example, many design students have expressed an interest in User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI), a concentration that would be an additional option for graphic communication students. The concentration allows students to study web development and the production and creation of digital media. 

Graphic design students are already required to take design classes that relate to UXUI, but students said they wish to dive deeper into the concentration and learn more about the production side of design. Art and design junior Audrey Siu said that it “would be beneficial for everyone.”

Additionally, students said they wish the Art and Design major offered a greater variety of design-based classes for students to take later in their college careers. However, some are worried that because of a lack of funding and faculty, it may not be possible anytime soon.

“There are a lot of classes on our catalog that are not offered … because we don’t have enough faculty to have those classes,” Siu said.

Martinez said the department is currently trying to provide students with better technology for classes and projects to assure that students can have tangible access to their work rather than seeing only the digital possibility. This would include more of a variety of printers, heat presses, vinyl cutters and more. The department is also preparing to push for more improvements and increased staff to better the experience for design students. 

With the shift towards becoming a semester-based school, professors and students hope that it will be likely that the department may have a better chance to hire more faculty and thus increase the range of classes available for students.

Correction, Feb. 6: This article was updated to correct the spelling of User Experience/User Interface (UX/UI).