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May, 2005 Vol. 30 No. 2
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Communication Arts program

Honolulu Community College

Published May 2005

Communicating by Design

Honolulu program gives graphics and advertising students an edge

Instructor Michael Horton, right, observes as Andrew Jackson presents his work to fellow Honolulu Community College classmates
Instructor Michael Horton, right, observes as Andrew Jackson presents his work to fellow Honolulu Community College classmates.
by Karla Brown

Competency and career exposure are the edge students gain in Honolulu Community College’s Communication Arts program. The two-year associate of science degree program provides background for working in advertising or graphic design and opportunities to compete for awards, scholarships and recognition from potential employers.

Students begin the program with a foundation semester Associate Professor Sandra Sanpei describes as "very intense in that there is much to learn within a semester." Courses include a survey of graphic styles, art and copy preparation, the power of advertising and beginning graphic design. The second semester advances skills, adding classes in composition, typography and photography.

During the second year, students are challenged to produce portfolio-quality work. "Excellence is expected in every project from every course," Sanpei says.

Some courses are taught by industry designers—the most efficient way of teaching concept development and current industry practices. Students wrap up the year in "a final countdown toward exiting with a professional portfolio that meets industry standards" as well as coursework in the business of advertising, she adds.

Horton conducts a port-folio review, essential preparation for life as a designer
Horton conducts a port-folio review, essential preparation for life as a designer

The success of the program is evident in head-to-head competition with students from four-year design programs. For the past two years, Honolulu Communication Arts students captured first place (Susanne Rehnmark in 2004 and Stacie Taira in 2003) and $1,500 in scholarships in the American Advertising Federation Pele Awards. In April 2005, Honolulu's Todd Saiki won the student division. Six of the year’s finalists were Communication Arts students.

"From the very beginning of the program, students and faculty strive toward excellence in the portfolio endeavor," Sanpei says. "In the field, one’s portfolio is the key to getting a job and/or continuing his or her education at a four-year institution."

Portfolios consist of at least a dozen class and "live" projects, such as catalogs for the Honolulu campus and its Pacific Center for Advanced Technology Training and promotional materials for the Communication Arts program.

Portfolios must gain approval of the program’s advisory board, so presentation is also important. "For the past four years, I have made the portfolio course a very public event," says Sanpei. "Students are expected to have their portfolios available for review not only by the advisory board, but approximately 200 printing, publishing and design professionals as well."

The portfolio review sometimes results in job offers for the students. It also provides the ultimate assessment of the program and its faculty, she adds.

"The results of individual student portfolios year after year, as well as the ability of our program to successfully compete with four-year institutions are strong health indicators of our program’s excellence, our committed quality faculty and the effective design and delivery of our program courses."

Further proof is the employment record. Honolulu graduates are working at graphic design houses and advertising firms in Honolulu and California, as well as newspapers, trade publications and in-house marketing departments. Others are pursing master’s degrees in fine arts.

Karla Brown is a UH Mānoa journalism major and External Affairs and University Relations student writer


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