After years of back-breaking undergraduate studies, not a few people are just content with going into the labour market to earn a livelihood and keep their lives moving. No doubt, there is the reality to keep body and soul together. Gracious Lord, there are bills to pick! But, as we do this does it mean bidding goodbye to continuing professional development?
The purpose and value of postgraduate education
Continuing professional development (CPD for short) is the manure that keeps the plants in our careers blossoming. CPD is vital for enhancing competence, with competence being associated with possession of necessary skills, knowledge, attitude, understanding and experience required to perform professional and occupational roles in the workplace. Since learning and competence are the Siamese twins that ensure career advancement, individuals must always strive for continual improvement.
Postgraduate education is one of the many routes to acquiring professional competence. It is a means of developing new skills, as well as a channel to gain in-depth knowledge about a subject matter. It is also an indication of being highly responsive to new challenges.
New technologies, new printing industry
The printing industry, repositioned by digital technologies, has taken a new shape. According to Patrick Henry, a print industry consultant at whattheythink.com, printing has evolved from an industry to a profession. With this transformation, there has been the emergence of a new printing industry – the graphic communications industry.
This change is indeed a reflection of the paradigm shift that is turning the tide of job roles in the print industry, with immense implications for career placement and progression. A reference to the prepress segment of print production may come handy.
Today, the term “premedia” is catching up fast in usage with respect to prepress. While premedia and prepress are often used interchangeably, they do not, in the strictest technical way, mean the same thing. Simply, premedia is used in the context of visual content production – running the gamut of creation to optimization of content, especially for digital media. So, with premedia, not all files go to press. On the other hand, the key focus of prepress is creating and preparing files strictly for print media. Greg, a senior member at printplanet.com, however argues that premedia is beginning to replace Prepress. According to him, “I work in publishing and have many friends that work at some of the big 6 publishing houses.
In most cases, in-house prepress job titles have been re-branded to premedia job titles. In some cases these roles have expanded to include preparing files for digital publishing, but they are still mainly working on files for the printed edition.”
So, while not exactly the same, premedia is a more encompassing operational term than prepress in the current digital landscape. Premedia entails photography and digital imaging, creative prepress, digital asset management and dynamic publishing, all of which fall under the domain of graphic arts. For the purpose of training and development, graphic arts, otherwise called applied arts, falls neatly into design and technology in the profession/discipline of industrial design.
Relevance of industrial design in the print and graphic arts industry
Industrial design involves the design, development and manufacturing of products that serve useful purposes in our day-to-day lives. Jerry Emeka Obi, a consultant, explains that the term “industrial design” emanates from designing products that are manufactured by industries. According to him the efforts of industrial designers are quite ubiquitous. In a similar vein, Dr. Osa-Francis Obasuyi, an expert in industrial design the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Benin, informs that key aspects of industrial design include; graphic design, product design, interface design, architecture, information design, computer science and technology. Of these, graphic design, and product design and manufacturing are related to the operations or activities of the printing industry since the main purpose of the graphic arts industry is creating products that communicate visually. Print products like educational materials (books, charts, infographic aids etc.), promotional materials (brochures, catalogs, signage, postcard, flyers etc), packaging materials, and so on are good examples.
A 2005 study by a group of researchers on competencies and qualifications for industrial design roles indicates that the knowledge and skills required in this field are wide and varied. The study, published in Design Studies, reveals that industrial design education should focus on three categories of competency; i) generic attributes – problem solving, communication, adaptability to rapid changes, ii) specific industrial design skills and knowledge – design thinking, methodology, visualization, product development, materials, design management, etc., and iii) knowledge integration – strategies for system integration.
Postgraduate industrial design education in Nigeria
Today, industrial design is offered in a number of Nigerian universities, including; Ahmadu Bello University Zaria; Federal University of Technology Akure, Federal University of Technology Yola, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Federal University of Technology Ado-Ekiti and others.
For lack of space, this piece will focus strictly on postgraduate training in industrial design at two universities; Federal University of technology, Akure (FUTA) and Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi (ATBU).
Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) Industrial Design at FUTA
With a specialization in graphics, the PGD programme aims at empowering candidates with creative and aesthetic skills in required in contemporary graphic arts industry. It also serves as a bridge programme for HND (printing technology inclusive) and degree graduates who are desirous of proceeding to the master’s of technology (MTech) degree in industrial design.
The key goal is training individuals who can contribute to national development through design innovation, graphic technical competence and creative excellence. The duration is 3 semesters on part time basis, with HND and first degree in relevant/related discipline required for admission. In the first semester of the programme, courses on offer include; industrial design organization and management, general drawing, history and philosophy of industrial design, research methods, African crafts and design, and prototype design for the industry.
The second semester courses are; graphic illustration, graphic design studio, computer application to graphics, repromethods, special project on field survey in graphic design, printing production and manufacturing processes, publicity and advertising. In the third semester, candidates are required to take; project critic development, seminar in studio practices, and practical project in graphics.
Master’s of Technology (MTECH) Industrial Design at FUTA
The MTech Industrial design programme at FUTA has the broad objective of equipping students with specialized technological knowledge in graphics. The admission requirement is a PGD industrial design and HND/degree in related fields. The programme runs full time between 18 and 24 months. First semester courses include; survey seminar on concept and philosophy of industrial design, general drawing, computer graphics appreciation, creative photography, and printing technology. The following courses are offered in the second semester; research methods, thesis/research proposal, advanced textile design and printing, advanced printmaking, and film animation and television technology. The third semester is designed for students’ thesis.
Master’s of Technology (MTECH) Industrial Design at ATBU
The broad aim of ATBU’s MTech industrial design (Graphics technology) is to produce high skilled manpower with both academic and industrial expertise. Graduates of this programme would be capable of combining their intellectual ability with practical know-how to develop new techniques of design and production in the graphic arts industry. The programme runs for a minimum of 12 months (full time) and minimum of 24 months (part time). The list of courses for this programme are; advanced colour and design, advanced studio/industrial practice in graphics, media research, seminar in specialized area, research techniques, history of design, aesthetics, educational statistics, and masters’ thesis. In addition, there are electives in; educational research methods, advanced TV graphics, advanced production, industrial design product development and computer graphics.
Doctorates and Research Careers in Graphics Technology
Both FUTA and ATBU have doctoral programmes for candidates interested in undertaking research relating to graphic arts. For FUTA, the PhD in Industrial design progamme has the duration of a minimum of 6 semesters for full time or 8 semesters for part time. The entry requirement is master’s degree in industrial design/industrial arts, or applied arts. Similarly, for ATBU, a candidate must possess MTech in industrial design (graphics technology) to be eligible for admission into the PhD Industrial design (graphics technology) programme. The duration is a minimum of 36 months (full time) or 60 months (part time).
From HND to PhD: The Making of an Information Design Expert
A new generation of graphic media specialists is emerging in Nigeria. These highly trained professionals are pushing boundaries as they move seamlessly between traditional print media and digital media. These crops of print specialists are plying their trades in new frontiers that hitherto were no-go areas. In this regard, a shining light of the printing sector in Nigeria is Dr. Muripshaka Yibis, a chief lecturer at the Department of Printing Technology, Kaduna Polytechnic. With a Higher National Diploma (HND) in printing technology and a postgraduate diploma, Yibis earned a space in the MTech industrial design programme at ATBU. His 2008 master’s thesis investigated the “Technical Skill Improvement Needs of Graphic Artists in the Printing Industry” with a focus on poor quality printed media in Kaduna State and its environs. The study addressed this problem and provided solutions for the production of good designs and quality reproduction of print for effective communication.
With the MTech in his kit, Yibis proceeded on yet another academic sojourn, this time for a PhD at the Department of Fine and Applied Art, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His 2015 doctoral research assessed the impact of management information systems (MIS) on digital printing enterprise in Nigeria. The study revealed that human capital development, capacity building and organizational restructuring are vital to the full implementation of print MIS in Nigeria. Yibis’ example, like some others that may not find space here, shows the possibility of achieving academic and professional excellence by printing technology graduates (and all graduate printers at that) in Nigeria.