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DESIGN SCHOOL STUDIES
The value of design to society has been a perennial topic in design education.
Educators and design professionals alike have written about the graphic arts’
contribution to the economic well-being of the nation—or, conversely, the degree to
which the arts are corrupted by commercialism and democratization. In the
nineteenth century, this was a central issue for those in the industrial drawing
movement, a movement of importance to graphic design history because it shaped
the training of illustrators, engravers, type designers, and printers. In William
Minifie’s Popular Lectures on Drawing and Design (Baltimore: School of Design of
the Maryland Institute, 1854), he contended that the study of drawing and design
is “not as a mere accessory that may be dispensed with at pleasure, but one of the
fundamental branches of education.” Minifie maintained that design education
would directly increase opportunities in manufacturing and cure unemployment.
Similarly, Walter Smith, an Englishman trained in the Arts and Crafts system, was
hired by the state of Massachusetts to administer its 1870 law that required
instruction in industrial or mechanical drawing for all students in the public school
system. Smith’s Art Education: Scholastic and Industrial (Boston: Osgood, 1873) is a fulsome justification of this provision. A decade later, the federal government sponsored Isaac Edward Clarke’s six-volume Art and Industry (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Office of Education, 1885–98). Perhaps the first great work on art education for industry, it was appropriately monumental. Clarke passionately believed in the importance of instruction in the applied arts and gathered vast amounts of data and documents that he reproduced with detailed curricula of individual design schools, many of which began during this period. Twenty years later, Charles R. Richards’s Art in Industry (New York: Macmillan, 1922) combined in one volume information on design education, based on a survey of close to six hundred instructional programs throughout the United States and Europe. He described trade schools, schools connected with colleges and museums, and art schools that gave instruction in graphic design. Modern studies of design schools go beyond institutional histories to explore the impetus for their creation and the context in which they operated. Nancy Austin in “Educating American Designers for Industry, 1853–1903” (Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 105, 1 : 211–30) uses the early history of the Rhode Island School of Design as a model to examine the beginnings of design schools in the United States—as institutions created during the industrial revolution to transform the training of artists to meet the needs of machine manufacturing. Austin’s thesis—based in part on this material—is that the origins of consumer culture and the commercialization of art lie in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and occurred as part of the industrial revolution