In May of 2005 I began working full-time as the program director of what was originally called the Graphic and Interactive Design certificate program at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University.
Dan Cederholm of Simplebits fame had some nice things to say about the CDIA web program.
Within the structure of CDIA I developed a 9-month program, the goal being to graduate students capable of becoming professional designers. I created a model of what I would have liked to have years ago while starting my own career. There were three fundamentals I kept in mind: Software, Design Theory and the "Real World".
Developing the outline of the program came deceptively easy. My background prior to CDIA had been developing curricullum and teaching creative software. There are 6 programs in Adobe's Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, Flash and Dreamweaver. At some point prior to CDIA I had taught them all as well as a few others (such as QuarkXpress). This gave me a unique perspective on how to teach the applications and in what order.
I took extra pains to make sure that the focus of the program wasn't purely technical. Focussing on essentials such as Typography, Layout and Color was important. More crucial was to instill a culture of experimenting, thinking for yourself and taking risks with design. The challenge of doing this in such a short time sometimes felt insurmountable, but my secret weapon was my staff. I looked for teachers who brought this knowledge and mindset into class with them each and every day.
Learning software and theory are all very good and well, but if a graduate walks out of the program and doesn't understand the industry they're walking into, it's not much good. Some of the real world issues were addressed by the "special topics" we had, I brought in working professionals into the classroom to talk about things like designing book covers or how to market yourself, or to dive in-depth to subjects we didn't have time for in classes. Additionally, "soft skills" such as interviewing skills, portfolio critiques, resumé building were support by CDIA's excellent career services department.