By: Paige Peerenboom and Whitney Richelle
So this post, I’m not going to entertain you with any of my crazy problems, awkward adventures, or just plain outright silly stories, BUT I am going to enlighten you on an AWESOME school right here in Florence, Italy!
Today I had the opportunity to go and check out IED Florence, or the Istituto Europeo di Design di Firenze, and it was wonderful. Whitney and I got the grand tour of the place, got to talk to many important staff members, and even got to sit down with the director himself!
I’m inspired, of course, by Brunelleschi, but also by Gillo Dorfles. He’s a design critic and expert with clear visions and a contemporary view… and he’s 103 years old.
-Alessandro Columbo, IED Director
We had a ton of questions so we could give you guys the best scoop possible on one of the top design schools in Florence!
IED is a design, visual arts, fashion, and management school, founded in 1966, with campuses in six Italian cities, two in Spain, and one in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Their teaching is based on practicality, which is something I wish ALL schools would agree on. When you enroll at IED, you are not a student but a “young professional.” Your education prepares you to enter the workforce the day you graduate. And the tangible skill set you develop won’t just be something to be proud of, but something you can actually put into use – which I think is the coolest part of all.
The Florence campus:
IED has had a campus in Florence since October 6th, 2008, but, this past October, they moved into their new – much bigger – location on Via Bufalini (near the Duomo). With just a half a year under their belt at this new space, they’re already in the process of expanding! By October 2013, IED Firenze will have added on an new laboratory wing, plus an entire second story to their school! Obviously October is their month! And along with seriously increasing their size, they’ll be increasing their programs and courses, as well.
The school’s mission, however, will remain the same: “high technology, high craftsmanship.” All IED campuses have strong ties to their region, and IED Firenze strives to unite the innovative world of design with the handmade excellence Tuscany is famous for. So you get the specialized knowledge of materials, tools, and tradition from the artisan aspect and the wide array of marketing, communication, and business practices from the design side. What an incredible way to bring the culture and history of Florence into the future of design! (Can you tell I was loving this place?)
Right now, the campus is made up of lecture halls, a library, study facilities, exhibit spaces, a courtyard, a conference room, and Mac and PC computer labs equipped with the latest versions of the most popular creative software in the field. Each space is beautifully minimalistic, modern, and well-composed – you can tell you’re in a design school from the minute you walk in the door.
There were some pretty sweet details inside the school that I thought were too cool not to share with you guys:
- Remember the territorial connection I was talking about before? Well, all of IED Florence’s rooms are named after places in Tuscany and the product they specialize in! For example, one of the lecture halls is named, “Santa Croce: La Pelle,” because Santa Croce sull’Arno, a small town near Pisa, is famous for their leather goods! Seriously so unique and a great way to get to know your surroundings (and where plan future educational trips!).
- The school has its own sort of logo, a reoccurring design theme that was integrated everywhere you looked and created flow from one room to the next. The coolest part was that, on the main hallway walls, they had pictures explaining how it was developed! What an innovative way to 1) show your students, prospective students, and visitors the real meaning behind your logo, and 2) get them to learn the steps to create one in the process. I was in love. (Especially because I can’t design a logo to save my own life).
- With all of their furniture, displays, projects, etc., IED tries to be as green as possible. An exhibit in one of their study halls today featured environmentally friendly product packaging to help inspire student designs. I thought it was really great that the school not only wanted to promote that message, but actually lived by it, too! We found out that the really awesome GIANT pillow-like things we kept seeing around campus were actually truck transport void fillers that IED had recycled into unique seating. SO COOL.
- Courses that require computer design work are held in classrooms with computers provided. So you don’t have to haul your PC to class everyday or worry about coming up with the money for a laptop if you don’t have one.
- Half of the classrooms have this view (and bright green is a rare commodity in Florence):
IED offers many different levels of courses in both Italian AND in English. They truly are an international school with a student body that’s 50% Italian, 50% rest of the world! From getting your bachelors or masters, to summer and specialization courses, to semester and year abroad programs, the school has a ton of options to offer their “young professionals” – and they’re so involved in all of them!
The average class size is only 17-20, which means you’re not just a seat filler in a enormous lecture hall. Teachers really try to get to know their students so they can cater to their learning, their internships, and their future careers. The school’s director even teaches some courses (he likes to be in the classroom as much as possible). And three months before your program ends, you have a one-on-one meeting with your professor to decide your next step and create a plan of action to achieve it.
To apply, a CV/resume is enough for bachelor’s students, while master’s students need a letter of presentation and (if enrolling in a design program) a portfolio. All applicants must provide an exam certification (B1 or higher for Italian, TOEFL certification for English) or participate in a Skype interview to verify their language level. For those who need a little more practice before jumping in the deep end, IED Florence offers the option of coming early and taking prerequisite Italian courses (outside of tuition cost) before your program starts.
One really unique thing about IED is that they have 50 free, open to the public, workshops per year – FIFTY – where you won’t just get to learn something new, but you’ll get to create something new that you can actually take home with you. Definitely check one out if you’re a design student or aficionado in Florence… I know I will be signing up the minute I finish writing this post! Some workshops feature special guest designers in collaboration with world-famous events like Pitti Uomo. Others are led by IED professors and related to program content, making them sorts of “sample lessons:” a fun way to meet the staff, visit the campus, get a taste of what it’s like inside the classroom, and see if the course (or IED) is right for you. Personally, I think every school should follow suit because I would not be in some of the classes I’m in now if they did. We’ll leave it at that.
On top of all that goodness, IED also offers scholarship AND internship opportunities. Scholarship-wise, they offer 1 or 2 at 50% tuition for each course, but no full rides. They believe that students aren’t as motivated if they have a full scholarship, and that’s exactly why they stop at halfway – WHICH I LOVE. I have seen far too many people that get to go to school for free and then end up wasting their AMAZING opportunity by not working hard because they don’t have anything to lose. All of IED’s scholarships are awarded based on your portfolio or work submitted for one of their design contests. You get a scholarship at IED because you really want it.
When it comes to internships, they’re a standard part of every program. Anyone (with good attendance) interested in participating will be placed with a company. But not just any company. Students can request their agency of choice! AND internships at IED aren’t only something to put on your resume, they’re a foot in the door at serious companies with a high possibility for hire – especially if you’re an EU citizen (making work visa complications a non issue).
Some IED students have been given full time jobs BEFORE they even graduated; others have gone on to work at GQ, Braccialini, and Luisa Via Roma for their annual Firenze4Ever fashion blogger event; and a very high percentage find work immediately after graduation. If you work hard, your chances of finding a job are even higher. IED has connections with a huge network of companies, and their best students are personally recommended.
Talk about a great school.
So basically, IED Florence is incredible as is, and is only going to get better with the renovations that are currently in progress. My trip there today really got me thinking about what I want to do with my Graphic Design major (and where I want to go… Italy?). If you are looking at studying any kind of design, I urge you to check this school out – who knows, maybe I’ll end up back in Florence for my Masters, sitting next to you in class!
*If after reading this you’re like, “Oh my god. I have to enroll at IED Firenze… NOW!” check out our other article on their summer courses, 2013!
– Campus photo credits: Whitney Richelle
– Director Portrait by Paige Peerenboom