The School of Web Design & New Media prepares students for cutting-edge careers in experiential design and digital media. We teach an integrated approach to New Media that is based on four key fundamentals: Design Thinking, Visual Communication, Technology, and User Experience. Web Design & New Media graduates are strategic thinkers, producers, and creative technologists poised to lead innovation on a global level.

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Welcome to Web Design + New Media!

Welcome to the School of Web Design + New Media at the Academy of Art University! The Department Directors, Faculty, and Staff are excited to have you join us in your academic journey. You will learn quite a bit while pursuing your degrees with the School of Web Design + New Media, which we affectionately call WNM. On this website you will find important resources, news, and other materials that we believe you will find useful in addition to those provided by AAU. Please take advantage of this site and check the blog and other WNM social media often!

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Be sure to check out the AAU New Student website here!  

Guide to Getting Started

It’s important that we establish certain requirements and suggestions up front with you in order to make your WNM experience the best and most profitable that it can be. All the points below are things you should be doing to make the most of your time here. Please read through the sections below and make sure you’ve got everything established before you start classes.

What do I need to start off?


All students taking courses in the Web Design + New Media department are required to obtain a domain name and host. This is crucial for the completion of various assignments, projects, and portfolios.

The department does not endorse one hosting provider over another, but here are some suggestions as to where to start: Network Solutions,BlueHostDotEasyInMotionSiteGroundNameCheap. At minimum, the host you choose should have the following: FTP Access, PHP version 5 or higher, and multiple MySQL databases.

Unlimited bandwidth and storage is recommended. Finally, the domain name you choose should reflect your name or the name you intend to use professionally, for example, not


You’ll be transporting gigabytes of data back and forth every day from home to school and back. That’s not just assignments—it’s your portfolio. They’re everything you’re paying for. Please don’t treat your work as though it’s inconsequential. Back it up. Besides protecting your investment, you’re protecting your grade: data loss is not an acceptable excuse for missing assignments or turning them in late.

We recommend backing up your data both locally (to an external hard drive, for example, using Apple’s Time Machine) and offsite to the cloud. The department does not endorse one backup plan over another, but here are some services that may be of interest: BackBlazeCrashPlanDropBox,


Apple Macs are the industry standard for design. We recommend a portable machine that has enough power to run all the applications you’ll be using, like the Macbook Pro line. Make sure to take advantage of your educational discount!

You will need a USB thumb (flash) drive to transport your work to and from classes. Get the highest capacity you can. Label the outside with your name, phone number, and/or email address, and rename the drive on your desktop with your phone number. Never work off a USB thumb drive. Ever, ever, ever. Only use these devices for temporary transfer. Don’t depend on them, for your primary drive or permanent place of your files. See “Back Up Your Data” above.

You’ll also need a reliable firewire/thunderbolt drive for motion graphics and video classes, as many gigabytes of class material pass back and forth.  See “Back Up Your Data” above.

As for software, the AAU has a relationship with Adobe Systems, Inc. that allows our students to download the most recent version of their software.

Students can receive an educational license for the studio version of Cinema4D when they enroll in Motion Graphics 2 or Motion Graphics 3. The license is only valid for 18 months. If you’re not enrolled in these classes, but you still want a license, contact Colin Sebestyen, our Motion Graphics Lead. Our educational contact at MAXON is Scott Quintard. He can answer specific questions about usage or licensing.


Documenting process is extremely important for a designer. Start keeping track of the projects you do, the strides you make artistically, and the hurdles you overcome. In addition, start using Social Media to your best advantage. Accounts with FacebookTwitterPinterestInstagramVine,Vimeo, and LinkedIn can only increase your connectedness and visibility.

Keep abreast of all things tech- and design- related. Share them.

How do I do well in class?

Come to Class and Participate in Crit.

Woody Allen said, “80% of success is showing up.” Attendance and participation is essential to success in your classes. Your attendance and participation can comprise a full 30% of your grade. Nothing impacts your grade negatively as much as missing classes.

A huge part of classroom participation is your involvement in critique. You must submit work for critique by the class and contribute to the discussion of that work. We design for other people, and your input on how someone’s design is perceived is absolutely necessary for everyone’s success. You want others’ input on your own work in order to see potential problems—give them the same courtesy and help!

Know the Ins and Outs of Online Classes

Everything you read in this document applies to your online classes. That said there are is a bit of extra planning you should undertake. Consider the following when taking an online course for the first time:

  1. The first thing any new student should do when taking an online course is to complete the online orientation. This orientation will give you a good introduction to the Learning Management System(LMS) the Academy uses for all of its online courses.
  2. Because of the unique situation taking an online course presents, it is recommended that students prepare by setting aside specific study and assignment time. The amount of time is dependent on the amount of courses you are taking. Don’t use this time for anything else and stick to it.
  3. Discussion and critique is highly important in your online classes (it is a large part of the grade). Therefore every online student should be prepared to answer discussion questions as well as interact with their fellow students in the discussion area of their online class.


You’ll need a sketchbook for concepting ideas and for writing down notes and critiques in class. More than that, you should have it with you at all times to write down ideas that come to you as you go about your day. It may sound odd, but you need to jot them down immediately or they’ll disappear.

Beyond that, DRAW EVERY DAY and watch your skills grow. The most successful students are able to translate their ideas visually. Sketching will will help you design, outline, analyze, process ideas, and even code!

Keep Your Grades Up.

A high GPA (Grade Point Average) isn’t just an indicator of how well you’re doing academically. It leads to potential internships, admission to special topics classes, agency tours, and other opportunities. Maintaining the highest standards for your own work is your key to unlocking these doors.

Stay Honest.
Plaigiarism (the appropriation of someone else’s work as your own—i.e., stealing) will not be tolerated and may result in your expulsion from the department or the Academy. You may not use other students’ code.

It is OK to:

  • Look at another students work to gain insight into your own problems
  • Be inspired by other students’ and designers’ visual & interaction design
  • Work together to solve problems, provided you hand in unique projects

It is NOT OK to:

  • Download another student’s work to use as a “starting point.”
  • Hand in files not authored 100% start-to-finish by you.
  • Download templates or tutorials from the internet and submit them as your own projects.

And here’s a link to the AAU’s official Student Code of Conduct.

All image content for the projects you create in your classes must be original. Primary photography must be your own. Primary illustration must be your own. The following exceptions may be made:

In UX and Web Design courses, with the prior authorization of the instructor, the following may be used:

These sources may NOT be used in Visual Design classes.

How do I get help?

Take Advantage of School Resources.

Seeking help in your studies or with personal problems is not a negative thing. In fact, it’s an entirely positive, pro-active choice! 


Stay in Touch with Your Student Services Advisor!

Your advisor is a tremendous resource for you. They are both an advocate for you and your liasion with the various Academy departments. They not only help make sure you're on track to graduate but can answer questions about things like:

  • Registering for classes
  • Portfolio or Thesis review processes and requirements
  • CPT and OPT
  • Internship requirements
  • Available resources to students onsite and online
  • Financial Aid
  • Housing
  • and more!


Come to the Workshops!

Every semester, workshops are offered outside of regular classes to provide you with one-on-one help you may need in any given discipline (web design/coding, motion graphics, visual design, etc.). Take advantage of these workshops. The schedule is posted in every classroom at the start of every semester. Drop on by.

Bonus: often, the best conversations and critiques happen in workshop, because it brings together students of varying levels and disciplines.

View the schedule here.


Use the Mac Lab!

The Mac Lab is an excellent resource, located on the 4th floor at 180 New Montgomery.



Monday–Friday: 7:30 a.m.-12 a.m.

Saturday: 8:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m.

Sunday: 10:00 a.m.-12:00 a.m.


Visit the Library!

The Library is located on the 6th Floor at 180 New Montgomery. Whether you're curious about a topic or doing research for a project, our library staff can help you find what you need. There are also additional computer and printing facilities located in the library.

Library Home Page


A Word on Web Tutorials...

We encourage you to be curious and resourceful. Besides a pencil, Google can be a designer’s best friend. There is huge amount of information regarding web design and new media. Like all information on the internet, some is incredibly valuable and some will waste your time. Many students look to web tutorials to supplement their classroom learning, but you should be aware of some problems with them:

1.They can contain unverifiable or incorrect information. Your instructors have proven techniques and a lot of experience using software and building projects. They’re experts, and you’ve paid for access to their expertise. They take their job very seriously. They’re beholden to you. Free online tutorials creators have no such obligations.

2. Originality issues. If you follow an online tutorial and include it in your portfolio, you haven’t really solved much of a problem. You just followed a recipe. And industry experts will spot tutorial-based work and dismiss it instantly. Remember, this is a school environment and we expect all design work to be 100% original.

3. Tutorials are Junk Food. They may be momentarily satisfying, but solving problems over and over again and receiving feedback and revising makes your design skills stronger for the next project. They’re great for checking out new techniques or expanding your general knowledge base, but they don’t develop your skills the way a real creative brief does.

Additional Resources


How do I make my work impressive?


Always Use Good Content.

Textual content for your projects may be culled from web sources and cited appropriately.

Do not use placeholder text (“Greek” or Lorem Ipsum) in your projects.

Images for the web should be in JPG or PNG format (for photographs), SVG format (for vector illustrations), or GIF format (for limited-color, graphic images).

High resolution images should be in uncompressed PSD or EPS format. They should be in the colorspace of the appropriate output medium (RGB for the screen, CMYK for print).

Never stretch or compress photographic content—use photographs and illustrations at their original proportions.

Use Good Type (Fonts).

Type forms the basis of 90% of the content we produce. Take it seriously. Get to know it intimately. Get to know these Type Guidelines.

You should register with a Webfont service in order to be able to use professional-quality type in your assignments. Though there are some decent Google webfonts, they are few and far-between. Look at and H&FJ Cloud Typography.


How do I get ready for the thesis (MFA Only)


Know the Basics.

The thesis project is a major part of the MFA program. It is a self-directed project of your own choosing that you develop from concept, research, user testing, visual design and all the way to a working prototype. This project is designed to allow you to innovate and stretch well beyond the foundation that is established in your studio classes.

The MFA program works a little differently than the BFA program. After a few semesters of studio classes in design, UX, and technology, you will prepare and present a proposal for your thesis project, known as the Midpoint. If the Midpoint committee agrees that what you have proposed will be an appropriate Thesis project, you will move on to small, directed study classes where you will get support in completing your project.

Get Thinking Now.

You won’t officially begin developing your thesis project concept until WNM 643 in your third semester, but you will be much better prepared to find a concept that works for you if you start the idea process now. Keep your eyes open for cool new technology, problems that could have an interactive solution, and topics that interest and inspire you. Your project will become your whole life for several semesters, so it should be something that you care about.

Recent thesis projects have included explorations in mobile applications, learning games, interactive storytelling, wearable technology, solutions for the social good, and even an interactive art installation. Check out some examples for inspiration.

Know these Dates.

Find the grad calendar here for Final Review sign-ups deadlines, presentation timelines, semester dates and registration deadlines.

Know these Resources.

Take advantage of WNM workshops. They are a great resource regardless of where you are in the process. Come check in to make sure your concept is on track for the Midpoint, get critique on your visual design and UX, help troubleshooting tech issues, and clarifying expectations and requirements. Find the schedule here.

Ask your GDS instructors! We encourage you to ask your GDS instructors in WNM 801, 810, 820 and 830 for feedback on how to push your project to its potential. 


What if I have other issues?

Talk to Us.

In closing, we just want to remind you that your work is the primary reason we’re here. (We also want to remind you that your work is the primary reason you’re here!) Everything we do in class is there to build the skills and great designs that will give you a killer portfolio and find you an amazing, fulfilling job in the industry. Nothing pleases us more than when students suddenly pick up momentum and exceed beyond our wildest expectations.

That’s what we want for you: nothing less than your own dreams.

—Your WNM Faculty and Staff