The Art Institutes ( Chicago/Vancouver) Info


Hi guys,
I would like to know if anyone can give me the 411 on the art institute’s game art and design program or media arts program.Is it any good?Know any past students with good jobs now.Im trying to get specific information about Chicago or Vancouver because it’s those schools i’m talking to right now.VFS and Gnomon get most of the verbal wordplay around here for good reason. Anyone know anything about this schools or the art institutes in specific.Any info experiences are welcome.



I’m currently attending the Art Institute of Vancouver in the 3D Modeling for Animation and Games program (MAG).
First off if you want to get into art side of the videogame/vfx industry the game art and design program is the last thing you want to do. Game Art and Design or GAD as people here call it only briefly touches on drawing/painting, 3D Modeling/Texturing/Animation, doesn’t use Zbrush at all, and from what I’ve been told from friends in the program is focused primarily on documentation/research, level design, mini game prototyping, and scripting in languages such as MEL.

3D Modeling for Animation and Games covers quite a lot of ground. The earlier terms are more focused on the fundamentals of drawing/art but for someone interested in becoming a concept artist for example, it isn’t nearly enough unless they put in years of serious focused study/practice before coming to the school. Past the 4th or 5th terms you likely won’t draw at all unless it’s for yourself, at extra life drawing, or in Pre-Production for the Game Production Workshop (GPW). Even since I started in July 08 the teachers for the earlier drawing classes have changed quite a lot so I’m unsure whether it is still at the same level. I was lucky enough to have a high end traditional animator come teach Life Drawing while he was on a break between jobs but he is no longer here. I do not think I would have progressed in drawing as far as I have in the past year in a half if it wasn’t for him and some of the other teachers that no longer teach those classes (Life Drawing, Concept and Illustration, Drawing and Perspective).

Here’s a breakdown of the Modeling classes.

Basic 3D Concepts: Introduction to Maya by someone who knows the program very well beyond simply modeling. You will learn the basics of Animation, Rigging, UV Mapping, Modeling, Deformers, and be introduced to Dynamics during the final class.

3D Modeling I: A number of different people teach this course but it focuses primarily modeling and UV mapping props and simple environments. Some teachers also ask you to model a simple character in the final weeks of the class.

Environment Modeling: You will model, uv, and texture two buildings for the midterm. For the final half of the term you will place your buildings along with those of your classmates into a larger city environment complete with props that you and other students build and texture.

3D Modeling II: You will model something non-organic from your imagination or concept art and model something from reality. The second half of the term focuses on modeling a video game style ‘level’.

Character Modeling I: Introduction to Character modeling. From my experience the people who seem to do well in the class are either those who have modeled prior to entering the school or have been drawing for most of their lives. If you are at all interested in becoming a Character Modeler I would suggest learning a 3D Modeling program if you arn’t already and reading as much as you can about artistic anatomy before you enter school. The current teacher for this course is hilarious and is a very good artist.

Character Modeling II: Another stroke of luck, the Creature Supervisor from District 9 is currently teaching this class. I’ve never met anyone that knows anatomy as well as he has and I’ve already learned a great deal about the art and technical side of character modeling. The only problem is that he might not be here anymore by the time you have this class.

Brushed Based Modeling and Texture: Zbrush, I havn’t had this class yet but the video tutorials at Pixologic’s ZClassroom cover a lot of the same information. You could probably learn how to use the program with those alone. That’s more or less what I’ve done and what I wish I did years ago.

In short: I do know of quite a few people who have gotten jobs out of the MAG program but it has become much more difficult over the past year for obvious reasons. It only recently picked up and if they’re still saying they have a 90% placement rate they must be using old numbers and I question the accuracy of those numbers in the first place based on what I’ve heard around the school.

As for my experience I have mixed feelings but it really depends on what you want to do,

Texture Artist and Prop Modeler: You can learn much of the texturing on your own but it is getting more difficult as there are more programs to learn, more shaders to understand, and games are becoming increasingly realistic. AI will give you much of the technical knowledge needed to become a texture artists but the art side of it is really up to you. Unless you really struggle artistically you shouldn’t have much trouble getting these sorts of jobs out of AI.

Character Modeler: Only one person has gotten a job as a Character Modeler right out of this school. It is an extreamly difficult job to get and I would be astonished if that person hadn’t been seriously studying art (especially Artistic Anatomy) on his or her own for years prior to entering the school (and had probably also been drawing for their entire life). They probably also had experience modeling or sculpting prior to entering the school.

Concept Artist: Only one person has gotten a job as a Concept Artist right out of this school. It is an extreamly difficult job to get and I would be astonished if that person hadn’t been seriously studying art on his or her own for years prior to entering the school (and had probably also been drawing for their entire life).

Personally speaking my long term goal was to become a Concept Artist/Character Modeler with the shorter term goal of becoming a modeler/texture artists. Prior to applying to AI I was given advice from people in the industry that an arts education was the way to go, and programs like Maya, and Zbrush could be learned with books and online tutorials. I decided to go to the Art Institute primarily because I thought it would be a less risky and quicker way into the videogame industry. I thought that if I went to a traditional art school even while learning those programs I might not become a good enough modeler on my own to get a job once I was done school. While that might have been true I wish I had taken more time to research traditional art schools or Ateliers. If I had known what I know now I would have found a place that teaches the construction school of drawing, one that stresses the study of anatomy and the ability to draw from imagination. The study of anatomy alone has the dual benefit of helping inform you when creating characters in a program like Zbrush and allowing you to more easily draw realistic figures from your imagination.

I hope that wasn’t too rambling or telling you things you already knew…


Hi Tbone,
thanks very much for the information. I have been wondering about Game art and design versus a more general pursuit of animation and digital art. From what yo are saying consistency may be an issue at the school and I would want to be sure i get the best teaches.I have some books on anatomy but i cannot draw without reference as of yet but i will work harder at it. Thanks for all the info I appreciate it.


What do you want to do for a job though?

If you want to be a Game Designer you might not need to study human anatomy all that much, at least at first. Both MAG and GAD are fairly general, just in different ways.


I’m thinking of doing modeling and concept art. If possible maybe some animation. The only thing i do right now in tearms of art is draw. I’m trying to find a good school to help me get better and with good networking as well so i can have a chance to get a job.


If you want to get into concept art the GAD program is probably the last thing you want to do. The program offers barely any drawing classes (maybe two? and only in the first term). The Modeling program at AI Vancouver is pretty good but the more you can learn about Maya or any other 3D Modeling program before you come here the better. It will give you much more time to focus on the art of modeling rather than learning how to operate the program.

For concept art though I think you might want to consider different schools, especially those the emphasis drawing with volume, drawing from your imagination, learning anatomy, perspective etc. Schools or ateliers that teach sight-sizing will help you become better with colour and tone but you will probably want to learn construction on your own if that school doesn’t teach it.

I found this thread on very informative:

Some schools to take a look at but that thread has a larger list: Sheridan’s Animation Program (Ontario, Canada), the Art Centre of Pasedena (very very expensive), Ringling College, Capilano University’s Animation program, Ashland Academy of Art (Construction drawing, but don’t have any Entertainment design classes), etc.


Thanks for the info. Its quite a alot to go through but very helpful.


I was mostly pointing out the thread for the first post. Hopefully it helps.


Please be aware that the Art Institutes are not accredited, and that they therefore do not grant recognized undergraduate degrees. This could become an issue if you ever seek to work in a country outside of where you currently reside. I’ve known several students who have attended either AI or other non degree granting institutions (Gnomon, etc.) and the lack of a degree has meant that they have had to return to their home countries after they have completed school.


Art Institutes are accredited.


I met an AI (Santa Monica) graduate last Tuesday who is having problems being accepted into a Master’s program at Cal State Fullerton, because they won’t recognize his degree.


I believe AI also offers certificate programs, I know 8 or 9 years ago that’s mostly all they offered. I have a full blown BS degree from AI, they are most definitely accredited.


Most(all?) of them are not regionally accredited, which is probably why Cal State isn’t recognizing it for their masters.


Are you 100% percent that this is not accredited.I spoke to a representative at length and she said that they are accredited.Is it just a situation that the BFA is not recognised. I stepped away from gnomon because if i got a certificate there i would not be able to stay in the USA or get work in other countries. Is it the same with the chicago school?


Are you talking about the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, or are you talking about the chain of schools referred to as the Art Institutes? These are very different schools. The former, SAIC, is very prestigious primarily for Fine Arts. The latter, the chain of schools known as the Art Institutes, is nationally accredited, but not regionally accredited in the Western part of the US which includes California (it’s not WASC accredited). WASC accreditation is an assurance to the public about the quality of a school. The Art Institutes chain of schools does not meet that criteria at least in the Western US.

 The reason why the person I met with a degree from the Art Institutes - Los Angeles is having difficulty being accepted into a California graduate school is because the [b]chain of schools called the [Art Institutes]([/b] are not regionally (WASC) accredited. So that means that despite having spent $80,000 on a degree, he may have to repeat his studies at an undergraduate school that IS WASC accredited in order for him to enter graduate school in the Western US.
 What this boils down to for you is that, should you decide to attend a school that is part of the Art Institutes chain of schools ([b]of which SAIC is NOT a part [/b]- it is a reputable school) - you might (or will most probably) experience difficulty having your credits accepted by a graduate school to which you might want to apply, should you ever wish to do so.

Whether or not a degree from the chain of schools known as the Art Institutes will be acceptable for visa purposes is beyond my knowlege of the visa system.

FYI, I have known of several international students who have studied at Gnomon and have had to return to their home countries after graduation, since they did not have a BFA (Bachelor’s of Fine Arts) or other type of Bachelor’s degree. You need to do research (not by calling the Art Institutes chain itself, they will give you whatever information you want to hear) to determine if an AI degree will be acceptable as a bachelor’s degree for visa status.



I’m talking about the Art Institues (AI) in chicago.Thanks for the info. I really like the idea of gnomon but if i study there and go back home the only choice i will have is to work for myself. Its risky and since im already working here and getting good salary for my qualifications this could be a real problem. Im leaning towards a good 4 year college so that if I pay that much money I have a accredited degree that I can use in addition to my skills. Well now I’m back to square one really to see where i can go to for a good art education and a accredited degree because I will need one.


I thought it was a no no to assess or discuss schools like this? There’s a thread that blew up into a ton of arguing which is this:


If thats the case my apologies I will remember in the future. I have no intention of flaming the school I just want to know as much as I can. Thanks for the information everyone.


They did mention, I think, at one point that if you want information that you should do this through pm. So I think it would be best to continue your conversation with the other users using the pm system.


I am discussing facts, not my personal opinions, regarding the Art Institutes (the chain). The fact is that it is not WASC accredited. Whether or not it’s a good option for someone for whom this kind of accreditation is not important is not something I’m here to offer my opinion on.

The other thread you posted (which I haven't read in its entirety because it doesn't interest me) seems to have 'blown up' because of a person's rant against a particular school based on their opinion. You should also note that that thread is still open.

Accreditation is a matter of fact and not opinion. It would be silly to not be able to discuss facts and opinions about schools (within reason) in a forum dedicated to Courses and Schools. If someone comes here and asks if a business school teaches art or not, I don't think that answers to these kinds of questions need be confined to pm, that's ridiculous.

To the OP - it is a catch 22 for many students these days - places like Gnomon offer the best in terms of up to the minute technical training, but without being accredited, international students are often in a bind if they do not have a degree. Please note that I have no visa expertise but do know that to be sponsored by a company to gain visa status you must have a bachelor’s degree of some kind. I am fully aware that in very rare cases there are exceptions, but these are the exception and not the rule. If you want proof of that I can put you in touch with 2-3 Gnomon graduates with excellent reels and qualifications who are all back in their home countries now because they could not get visa sponsorship without a degree. Please note that I have no idea if an AI degree will count toward a visa - you need to figure that out by doing your research. It is not an impossibilty, just something about which I am unsure, and it’s worth finding out a definitive answer before plunking down money for the school.

In the US, some of the better 4 year schools which offer programs of study in CG are SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design, in Georgia) and Ringling College of Art (in Florida). Out here on the West Coast, there’s AAU (Art Academy San Francisco - research this forum to see a whole thread on the pros and cons there) and I teach at Otis College of Art, which has a strong traditional (drawing) Foundation program as well as a strong Digital Media program. I’m never an advocate of a particular school, I am always more interested in the best match for a student. I think you ought to check out SCAD and Ringling. VFS I don’t know anything about in terms of their offering a degree, although I do believe it’s only a 1 year certificate program. Canada’s system is an entirely different story about which I have no knowlege.