Creatives design the future. Pennsylvania College of Art & Design prepares you for this, a career where you can accomplish amazing things and forge your own path to success.
Ranked #18 for Best Colleges for Design in America and #34 for Best Colleges for Art in America by Niche, a rankings and review site, PCA&D offers six Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) degrees: Animation & Game Art, Fine Art, Graphic Design, Illustration, Live Experience Design & Production (LiveX), and Photography & Video. You can also specialize in other areas through the college’s minor programmes to pad your portfolio further.
To ensure that all first-year students have the fundamentals of drawing, software, and design skills, PCA&D requires you to take on a Foundation Year. This is an opportunity to experiment with different courses before officially declaring your major, preparing you to meet the future expectations of the faculty.
This framework was what Animation & Game Art student Francisco Maldonado needed. “When I first started, I only had vague ideas about what I needed to make a game,” he says. “The curriculum is structured in a way that allows complete beginners, like myself at the time, to learn about every step of the process.”
As you progress through the programme, each course shows its value in shaping the rest of your degree. “Computer Animation I showed me Maya, one of the most important programs in 3D Art,” shares Maldonado. “Story & Screen I taught me how to structure and tell a story visually with rough storyboards and dialogue, and Game Art classes were where we learned how to compile everything we created in Maya into an Unreal Engine to experiment with our own assets.”
For creatives, having access to the latest in computer programs is key to keeping up with the industry’s professional standards. These include Maya, Adobe Suite, and Toon Boom Harmony, a cutting-edge 2D animation program.
“These programs are what we learn for most of our classes,” says Maldonado. “Many job listings name these programs as a requirement, so it’s good to know I’m learning relevant techniques in a rapidly changing profession.”
In addition to first-year students, PCA&D invites transfer students to join the college as well. LiveX student Asa Smith transferred in from another well-known school for PCA&D’s strong programme and welcoming community. To support its Live Experience Design & Production (LiveX) major, PCA&D partnered with the UK’s Academy of Live Technology and Rock Lititz, a one-of-a-kind production community in the US that supports innovative creativity within the live event industry.
“I felt that I needed to challenge myself with a programme that more closely aligned my technological interests with creative design knowledge while allowing me to forge new connections with those who can mentor me,” says Smith. “The transition has been wonderful.”
PCA&D’s LiveX programme challenges students in many academic areas. These include computer-aided design software that requires logical thinking, visual creation software that calls for knowledge of coding languages, and 3D staging software that necessitates not only proficiency in the program but also in lighting and sound design as well as technical knowledge.
“Students go beyond ‘dipping their toes’ into each area of production; they enter foundational studies in all aspects that are bound to challenge any student, no matter their background,” says Smith.
This broad and deep exploration of their discipline is how PCA&D prepares its students to become pros. “They want us to create strong work to help us in our career search,” says Maldonado, citing how the college hosts portfolio critique events that have professionals visit to look through a student’s work.
“There will always be someone willing to help you present your work in the best way possible,” he says. “PCA&D even makes sure to share any professional opportunity our faculty finds through their career services. We just need to be prepared, and PCA&D helps with that.”
The college’s smaller size contributes to that as well. With a 9:1 student-to-teacher ratio, you can always count on the faculty to be there for you. “Because the college is relatively small, the faculty and staff spend more time with each student individually,” says Maldonado. “Any questions you have, they will be more than happy to answer, or if they don’t know right away, they will work with you to find it.”
For Smith, studying at PCA&D has been “the greatest positive influence on my experience and education.” The smaller group of peers “allows me to see others for who they are – how they carry themselves – and strive to do good things, simply because it is good to be good,” Smith says. “It is why I chose PCA&D.”