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Youth Force
Programs quench thirst for design

By Mark Toljagic
Special to The Sun

You only need to look at the popularity of all those home renovation shows on television to realize interest in design is growing rapidly in a world that has long embraced cookie-cutter appliances, cars and even houses.
Centennial College professor Dagmar Glisch in the college's purpose-built studio: "Design is everywhere, we are surrounded by it and it has a huge impact on people."

"When mass production began at the start of the 20th century, it brought an end to unique, handmade products," says Centennial College professor Dagmar Glisch, who teaches art and design at the college's Centre for Creative Communications in mid-town Toronto.

"Design is becoming important again as consumers and clients clamour for unique esthetics, shapes, colours and textures," she says. "Some companies see product design as an extension of their brand, their logo."

All this pent-up demand for fresh designs has prompted Centennial to expand its art and design offerings, spinning off two new programs from its long-established Art and Design Foundation Studies -- a one-year program that introduces students to various media, such as drawing, painting and even digital media.

The five-semester Graphic Design - Media program integrates visual graphics with creative communications strategies for print publications, packaging and illustration. The curriculum also includes motion design skills, project management and multimedia fundamentals. The final semester incorporates a 15-week internship in the commercial design industry.

The four-semester Fine Art Studio program emphasizes contemporary figurative and objective drawing, painting and 3D modeling skills. Courses include a thematic approach to art history, portfolio presentation and protocol for the business of art. Graduates will have a portfolio of work in a number of media, and will be qualified to seek commercial work or become self-employed as artists.

"Ours was the first program to integrate digital art with traditional media," says Glisch of the original foundation program. "Then we brought more structure to it, with additional emphasis on portfolio creation."

Students exited the program with a portfolio of work that became their calling card as they progressed into more specialized art programs and employment. Trouble is, progress meant leaving the campus, which some students were sad to do.
  • Centennial's one-year Art and Design Foundation Studies program is for students with an interest in art and design, but who have little experience.
  • Applicants to Graphic Design - Media and Fine Art Studio are expected to have some art and design experience; a portfolio is also required.
  • For more information, call The Centre for Creative Communications at 416-289-5100, or visit

  • "Our students, the ones we had nurtured for a year, always left us reluctantly because they love our little campus here," Glisch says. The two-storey brick building, which once starred as Degrassi High School on the old CBC TV series, is nestled in a leafy East York neighbourhood.

    Those sentiments, combined with growth in the design industry, inspired Centennial to establish the two new programs that take advantage of the college's flexible, purpose-built studio space.

    Glisch says students in all three programs benefit from small classes, collaborative assignments and client work, as well as the teamwork demonstrated by the teachers. The campus functions as an incubator for other like-minded students who are pursuing advertising, new media design, book and magazine publishing and broadcasting.

    Model for students

    Glisch's own experience serves as a model for students. Since emigrating from Prague 15 years ago with a fine arts degree, she started a Toronto design company with her husband. It was a perfect partnership: her skills as a designer, combined with his engineering background, allowed them to develop new products for corporate clients.

    "A designer is really a problem solver. Your client gives you a concept for a product, and you have to work backwards to create a design that's both appealing and practical from a manufacturing standpoint."

    Centennial's new programs will help prepare students for employment in Toronto's large editorial design, corporate ID, packaging and multimedia industries, Glisch says. "Sadly, there is less and less fine arts in high school, so we're here to fill the gap and foster new creativity."

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