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NYU CADA recently announced a new Master of Science in Advanced Digital Applications. Designed to address the requirements for designers in the ever-evolving digital landscape, the Master of Science in Advanced Digital Applications curriculum includes animation, 3-D modeling and visual effects as well as data visualization and infographics. Last week I met with Patricia Heard-Greene, Academic Director and Clinical Associate Professor Center for Advanced Digital Applications (CADA) NYU-SCPS to talk about the new program.

patricia-headshot.jpgWe started with a tour beginning with the Annual Graduate Showcase, a yearly event that regularly draws broad industry attendance from high-level companies. The showcase featured an impressive array of graduate student work including 3-D renderings, motion graphics and visual effects, examples of which can be seen in the video below. Based on the work shown I asked Heard-Greene if graduates tended more towards certain industries and was surprised to learn that alumni tracked to digital publishing and motion graphics fields in addition to the expected film and video. She explained that the program encourages students to “think about the 360° approach to commercial branding” and is intended to produce a “‘high end’ generalist that can consider the target audience and end product and then work backwards.” An example might be taking existing character art and translating it into a 3-D animated character for a video game.

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Graduate student work images courtesy NYU-SCPS CADA—The Center for Advanced Digital Applications

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Graduate student work images courtesy NYU-SCPS CADA—The Center for Advanced Digital Applications

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Graduate student work images courtesy NYU-SCPS CADA—The Center for Advanced Digital Applications

From the exhibit we continued on to tour Mac and PC labs set up to facilitate a community atmosphere Heard-Greene described as “akin to a production house.” Asked if traditional skills like drawing were [required] she replied that the program was “still hands on” and that basic drawing skills are incorporated into class projects. She also noted that portfolio presentation is part of the application process, noting the importance of the “capacity to concept and create” and not just be software driven.

Afterwards we sat down in her office talk more about the program and what she sees as the top emerging trends and challenges in the digital design space. Asked about top trends, Heard-Greene cited 3D printing as being on her list of top trends along with “avatar like, higher end graphics in all areas,” explaining the reason being the broad potential applications in product design, sculpture and customized retail market in addition to the already established medical and military industry use.

When asked “What would you describe as the top challenges for digital designers, or would you say that the world is their oyster?” she replied, yes, the world is their oyster adding that there are “awesome opportunities in every area” and explaining how the current economy has created increased demand “for people with hybrid skills” who have the right combination of both “technical and communication skills.” She did mention one challenge was “to keep roots in [the] tradition of design” and not just become “eye-candy.”

On the question of how programs like hers address the challenge of keeping curriculum on pace with industry change and demand, she explained how industry collaboration, incubator experiences and having instructors who are working professionals that are “just as diverse” as the students help the program stay current with “real world” expectations. She also emphasized that that was the reason the curriculum focuses on outcomes as opposed to software specifics. Heard-Greene’s experience as a visual effects supervisor and commercial artist in broadcast design herself, as well as having been an adjunct professor in the program also gives her a special perspective. She described it as enabling her to “see from both sides—the curriculum side and industry/hiring side.”

The words fun, playground and experimental recurred throughout our conversation, making it clear that an open flexible approach lies at the core of the program. Although Heard-Greene noted that students come from all disciplines the program seems like it would be especially attractive to graphic design students wanting to make the move into digital design. To learn more about the Master of Science in Advanced Digital Applications visit www.scps.nyu.edu/academics/departments/cada.html.

For general information on CADA visit www.scps.nyu.edu/cada. You may also call 212-992-3370 or e-mail [email protected] There will be a Graduate Information Session with the Director on Monday, October 22, 2012 from 6:00–8:00 PM at NYU Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South, New York, NY.

(Disclosure: the author is a graduate of New York University’s M.A. in Graphic Communications Management and Technology.)

Portrait of Patricia Heard-Greene courtesy NYU-SCPS/Mark McQueen