FGCU’s newest major: Digital Media Design
By Brooke Stiles
Assistant AF Editor
With the recent groundbreaking of The Water School, the opening of the new recreational center, and construction starting for the School of Entrepreneurship, it’s clear Florida Gulf Coast University is growing.
In addition, FGCU recently added another major to its ever-growing list: Digital Media Design. Prior to this, it was only available as a minor.
“We always had a view for creating a design degree,” said Mike Salmond, the Digital Media Design program coordinator. “We had the minor that got madly popular; then we had the design concentration.”
Salmond said because the minor and concentration were successful, the design program was launched last semester in response.
Ninety-two students have joined the program since its start in fall 2019. According to FGCU’s website, the program is considered to be an umbrella for many disciplines within creative industries that can advance students into a wide range of careers, from web design to digital marketing to electronic sports producers.
“I was initially an art major, and I loved it, especially once I saw there was a Digital Media Design concentration,” said Levi Stewart, an FGCU junior. “I’d always loved art, but a love of digital art always fueled it.”
Steward watched shows like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z when he was younger. It fascinated him to see the drawings moving, talking and breathing.
“I always wanted to create something of my own,” Stewart said, “so animation has always been my long-term goal.”
Within the design program, students can gain experience in a variety of design mediums, from interactive design to video game design and, the most recent addition, animation. When the program originated, Salmond was a one-person show regarding the program’s administration.
Eventually Dr. Rama Karl Hoetzlein became an extension of the program, which opened doors to more classes. Hoetzlein has a background in 3D animation, something students have been wanting for a while now.
“Our main specialty would be interactive design, but we’re also adding 3D animation,” Salmond said. “We’re building a program based on kind of what I want and what Dr. Rama wants it to be.”
According to Salmond, as new faculty members join the program, it will change based on their disciplines and expertise.
“Our main thing is looking at what the industry wants because we want to be able to put students in positions where they can beat out people from other institutions,” Salmond said. “Design is so broad, and that’s why we try to get the students to know a little bit [about it all].”
The idea is to expose students to all elements of design so they will be more marketable after they graduate.
“I appreciate the major for giving me more insight into different disciplines of art and connecting more directly with my passions,” Stewart said. “Beyond simple graphic design and typography courses, the major has things that just speak so clearly to the geek that sleeps in my chest.”
Not only does Salmond want the students to know different characteristics of design, he wants FGCU to be recognized for developing excellent performers in the workplace.
“I’d really like to see more of our students running their own businesses,” Salmond said. “We’ve had two students set up their own design firm where they actually hired two of our students, which is fantastic. More of that would be great because that’s where innovation happens.”
Aside from the hopes for digital design students beyond college, Salmond said he wishes to compliment the significant growth of the major with more faculty, resources and available classes. Students have asked about fashion design as well as interior and product design, and Salmond said there’s nothing stopping the program from moving into such areas.