DePaul’s School of Design created within CDM

In this file photo, game design students work in a CDM lab. The university is moving forward with plans to create a new School of Design in the College of Computing and Digital Media. (Photo courtesy of DePaul University)
In this file photo, game design students work in a CDM lab. The university is moving forward with plans to create a new School of Design in the College of Computing and Digital Media. (Photo courtesy of DePaul University)

Design majors and professors alike will have a new home in the future, as the university approved the creation of a new School of Design within the College of Computing and Digital Media.

The move comes after a vote of approval from the university’s Faculty Council at their meeting in December along with the go-ahead from university administration. The school will house programs ranging from graphic design and Web design to interactive design and social media design.

According to interim provost David Miller, who also serves as the dean of the CDM, the reasons for the creation of a new school were both internal, as well as external. Internally, it provides a home for faculty who teach design, as well as giving more degree opportunities to students. Externally, “it provides a face to our program to the outside world.”

“At the school at the Art Institute, they have visual communication, they have an undergraduate and graduate degree, IIT has a graduate program, UIC has a very significant design program and they’re called schools of design or departments of design,” said Dolores Wilber, a professor who teaches design.

“And if we don’t have that kind of structure, we can’t compete well. And we can’t be a center of excellence in they that we want to be. It’s about how we advertise ourselves and present ourselves to the world.”

Though the creation of the school was fairly seamless, the debate over the name of it proved quite heated. In the December Faculty Council meeting, members had to hold separate votes on the creation of the school, which passed easily, and the name of the school, which led to passionate debate.

“Since the ‘design’ is a significant component in some other programs (e.g., Art, Media, and Design, in the LAS college; or various design programs in The Theatre School), some in the council and in the university perceived the name for the new school in CDM to potentially result in confusion and perhaps negatively affect these other programs,” said Bamshad Mobasher, vice president and spokesman for the council. “That’s why there was significant debate on the name but not so much on the creation of the new school.”

In a compromise, the council decided to vote on the name ‘Experience Design’, which still proved controversial, but ultimately passed. The recommendation was mute, however, as university administration decided to go with the original name of ‘design.’ Miller, citing a conflict of interest given his permanent position as Dean of CDM, removed himself from that discussion.

“In the communication we received from the interim president and others in the administration, the primary reasons given for this action included the fact that the faculty of the new school where overwhelmingly in support of the original name, and also concerns in the ability of the university and the college to property market and promote the new school using a name that is not standard relative to our competitors,” Mobasher said.

According to Wilber, only about 30 percent of the faculty in the new school supported the compromise name. And despite the concerns that the school might draw from other departments offering design courses, Wilber is not worried.

“I think we kind of see ourselves as the nexus, but we are completely happy to lead students to any design courses that are taking place in The Theatre School, communications school, any places,” she said.

As part of a compromise with Faculty Council, the university will create a Web page that showcases design offerings across all departments. According to Wilber, the various different parties involved across the university are currently working on a memorandum of agreement in order to make that happen.

“I think that any department or any college that is teaching their own classes in design will continue as such,” she said. “We will put together a Web page that annotates the different possible permutations for students, and that will be a way where students can decide.”