Wondering about Art Institute...


Hello guys, I have a huge interest in becoming a video game developer. I would like to eventually end up as a creative lead, similar to CliffyB from Epic or Paul Barnett from EA Mythic. I know that you have to work for years and years as a developer before being granted such a prestigious position, which I am willing to do. With this being said I would like to begin my career in development as a map/item designer. I have been accepted to the Art Institute of Washington and I am filling out my final enrollment paperwork on Friday. I have heard mixed reviews on large profit art schools such as AI, and I fully understand that in the end my demo reel is what is going to land me a job. I also know that I could save 80,000+ thousand dollars by learning 3D modeling on my own. However, I do not think that I personally can motivate myself to do this. I will be taking out loans to go to school, but if I prove myself my parents will eventually help me. This means I will most likely only have to pay around $40,000 for my education.

Do you think it is worth it? From my understanding I will be learning ZBrush, AutoCAD, and 3D Studio Max. I currently am a novice 3D Studio Max user and I’m sure a formal classroom environment would be very beneficial to my education. I also know that Art Institute has some sort of affiliation with Mythic Entertainment; many developers at Mythic have degrees from AI.

Any help/direction is very much appreciated as I pretty much have to make a HUGE life decision by Friday afternoon.


Well if you’re learning Max you won’t need AutoCAD. Also, the art institutes are probably up there with ITT Tech as far as being mediocre schools. You really would be better off doing 1-2 years at a community college and transferring to a school specializing in 3D. Or I’d recommend going to a more well known school such as VFS if you want to jump right into asset creation as it’d cost the same and it’s only a year long.

As you said you’d like to be a “map/item” designer which would fall under level design. If you want to land any roles at a company as a level designer I’d recommend joining a mod team, or get your feet wet in an engine such as Unreal 3 or Source, even Cryengine is pretty good. Become an expert with their level/script editors, and 3D studio max to create assets to import into those engines. Think of art school as a kind of foundation for that. Pretty much nothing you do at the art institute from assignments is going to impress developers, they’re going to look at how motivated you are and how you work without an instructor hanging over your shoulder (IE: personal projects or projects for a mod, or their engine specifically).


I think I’ve all but decided against Art Institute. From what I hear it is more of a broad education rather than specialization in any one department. I am leaning towards Animation Mentor at this point. Item creation would be neat, but I really would like to get into animation as well as it seems very fun and challenging. Thank you very much for your reply.


I’m an AI student and I think the education I’m getting is worth every penny.
I intend to continue my education when I leave, but I feel AI gave me a great start.
I’ve been exposed to an insane amount of technology and a wide variety of programs - Flash, 3DS Max, Maya, all of the Adobe suite including After Effects and various sound and non-linear editing programs.
They’re are extremely well equipped. I’ve never had to fight for a computer and all the software I need is installed in most machines.
Having said that, you get out of it what you put into it. AI has a trade school sort of mentality. That means you can’t expect to get great basis in the fine arts there. You take the entry level studio courses, but that’s it.
They’ll show you all the tools you could possibly want to create your artwork and make you proficient in it, but it’s up to you to use it creatively. The focus of the school is technology.
One of the things I love the most about it is the freedom they give me as an artist.
Because it’s a small school, I was able to customize my education somewhat.
For instance, when I was co-producing a short film, they let me take an independent study in film producing. I got the benefit of having access to the faculty, their contacts and resources, whenever I needed help.
This quarter, my last, I’ll take another independent study in concept art. It fit in better with what I’m hoping to accomplish than the required 3DS Max class, so they let me substitute it.
There are also student tutors available to help you for free when you get stuck and several of the beginner level gen ed classes can be taken online.
My instructors are also phenomenal and the great majority of them do work in the industry.
I wouldn’t trade my experience there for anything.


I’m planning to attend the art institute of portland in a few years, and Im a little worried now. Im looking to see what else there is to offer here?


I used to attend the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. I wouldn’t recommend going to the Art Institute because it’s very expensive. Even if you won the lottery, I wouldn’t recommend spending that much money on an education. Also, the school that I went too didn’t have many teachers with the industry experience I was looking for. I don’t think a single faculty member had come from any studios I wanted to be at.

If you don’t think you’d be able to teach yourself, then I’d recommend finding a much cheaper alternative. In my case, the best school I could ever go to for animation was Animation Mentor and I don’t think you’ll find any cheaper or better program than this one. It’s only $17,000 too! Try to look for something like that…a cheaper alternative that is even better than the Art Institute.

Good luck!


I guess it depends on whether you’re looking for a school that will give you a degree or not.
Animation Mentor is a great school and so is the Vancouver Film School and GNOMON (I can never spell this properly, so forgive me if I screwed it up).
However, they only grant diplomas.
I hear that at the core of the industry, what matters is talent, not the piece of paper.
To me, however, a degree matters. That’s a personal choice.
That’s why I opted to go to AI first, then apply to VFS to further my skills.
I know several people at AI who plan to attend Animation Mentor after they graduate. Some folks I know at the nearby Univ. of the Arts in Philly are also going to AM.
When choosing a school, you need to decide if a degree matters to you.
But you also should take into consideration a number of things and price is one of them.
Other things to consider is going away for school vs. staying near home, the faculty, the school environment, your own learning style, the requirements of the program you’re interested in, etc.
Also, every AI is different. Different locations offer different majors and have different admissions requirements. All are nationally accredited, but not all are regionally accredited (which would affect you if you plan to get a masters degree later).
Also, most AI schools grant a bachelor of science, not liberal or fine art. That means the school is more technology than fine arts oriented. It’s still an art school, but you won’t see anyone majoring in some of the fine arts like sculpture, metalwork or museum studies. They don’t offer those. That’s something to take into account.


I was actually wondering what happens after Ai (currently enrolled,) you mentioned VFS. From what I know its a damn good school but its hella expensive. But what your saying is that your going to enroll there after Ai? It seems like a very good plan and I think I’ll make that my goal aswell! I’m also wondering what Ai school your attending or attended, cause as I can tell from other comments on here, the schools seem to vary from each other. I’m in the Minnesota Ai 8D and it seems decent so far (Freshman.)


Yes, all of the AIs are different and the programs are different depending on which school you’re in.
I’m at the AIPH (Philadelphia) and I really like it.
During your last quarter and after you graduate, career services kind of takes over. They get you ready for the interviews, review your resume, send you job listings and host demo reel events and invite employers to attend. You also have access to the school on weekends, if you need equipment you don’t have. If you move elsewhere and there’s an AI there, you can use their career services even if you graduated from a different location.
I graduate in September and I’m going through all this stuff right now.
And yes, I’m going to VFS in the summer of 2010. I’ll be in their advanced character animation program (I just got in and I’m doing all the paperwork now).
It’s an expensive program. I wanted to do it because my focus is 2D animation right now. I wanted to focus on that during my undergrad and focus on 3D afterwards.
We do take a lot 3D classes, but they’re 3DS Max. VFS works with Maya and you come out of the program I’m going into Maya certified. Unlike the other VFS programs, this one is only six months long.


Might be too late now, but if you’re still interested in AI, you can visit http://www.artschoolreviews.ca/category/reviews/art-institute-of-vancouver. There are several personal and realistic reviews about the school.

This one sums up the program nicely.


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