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Thread: Courses to prepare for planning school?

  1. #1

    Courses to prepare for planning school?

    I've recently been accepted to planning school, and will be attending in the fall. I was wondering if there are any current students on here who can shed some light on what it might be useful to brush up on before I head to school.

    I have the opportunity to audit classes at my undergrad school for free, and they offer a graphic design course (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator) - is this something that would be useful to take? As a planner would it be useful to start learning something like AutoCAD?

    Any help/advice is much appreciated.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Your best bet would be to start taking some GIS classes. It'll make your life much easier if you've had some GIS ahead of time.

    Things like graphic design, AutoCAD, and Sketch Up could be useful to know but you may not be given an opportunity to really utilize them. From my experience, people use those skills on terminal projects and that's it.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I've been out school for a while and not doing much math, so might need to do some brushing up on statistics at the very least.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    While it's very useful to know Photoshop, I think it's the least vital program for your interests. InDesign is seriously valuable, and while he doesn't offer any information on InDesign (or any layout/organization software) per se, the work of Edward Tufte is incredibly helpful in understanding why such a program can be so important. Planning is about information, so some facility with the principles of presenting and sequencing information, along with the software programs you'll use to do that, is a good thing.

    I agree that GIS classes will be very useful. A few programs are now making GIS coursework a requirement, and it remains a very popular elective, so getting a head start if you intend to take the class or enough education to obtain a course waiver (if required) or to bypass it (if not required) can really come in handy.

    For my own pre-program preparation, I've been checking out the course syllabi of classes I'd like to take at the schools I applied to, just to get an idea of the articles, journals, and books covered. I came up with a reading list, and have been spending down time reading through it (got a lot more to go) in a low-pressure environment. I read pretty slowly, so unless I have this kind of buffer I'll be bugging out in the fall. Anyone else tried this out? Does it blow up in your face once the professor updates the reading list?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Blide View post
    Your best bet would be to start taking some GIS classes. It'll make your life much easier if you've had some GIS ahead of time.

    Things like graphic design, AutoCAD, and Sketch Up could be useful to know but you may not be given an opportunity to really utilize them. From my experience, people use those skills on terminal projects and that's it.
    Strongly disagree. I have used all of them in equal measure and several others, both in school and out. IF you are seriously considering a more design-heavy planning career, or a mixture of both design and non-design, I recommend you start familiarizng yourself with these programs. See previous posts.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  6. #6
    But... isn't the point of planning school to teach you these programs?! I have strong freehand design skills, but have never had the opportunity to learn photoshop, autocad, etc. Having applied to urban design concentrations, I was assuming and hoping that they were topics of instruction, not prerequisites!

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Urban design can take different forms and not all people pursuing that concentration necessarily want to directly design. Freehand skills will probably be enough but you can take electives in InDesign, Sketchup, Photoshop, AutoCAD, and whatnot but they are by no means required.

  8. #8
    Get a leg up on the Adobe suite, ArcGIS, SketchUp, and maybe AutoCAD. Also, don't forget Word and Excel! Learn some of the more advanced techniques in word and excel... easily overlooked.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by mr_garrison View post
    I was assuming and hoping that they were topics of instruction, not prerequisites!
    Ha! Funny. School doesn't teach these things. Basics at best. I had to self teach GIS because of my interest, as well as photoshop and indesign (back when it was 1.0). I learned CAD/Indesign/Illustrator/Google Earth/Google Sketch-up all at work, going through the motions of projects. OJT man.

    Honestly, this is all good advice. Learn excel (formulas, etc), the ins and outs of word, how to do a decent powerpoint and arm yourself with software including:

    GIS, Adobe Creative Suite, Google Earth (importing shapefiles, renderings) Google Sketch Up maybe toying around with urban planning software simulations if you can get a hand on them.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by mr_garrison View post
    But... isn't the point of planning school to teach you these programs?! I have strong freehand design skills, but have never had the opportunity to learn photoshop, autocad, etc. Having applied to urban design concentrations, I was assuming and hoping that they were topics of instruction, not prerequisites!

    Part of the issue is that you'll need to learn the capabilities of the program while learning the commands of the program, and integrating them isn't as easy as we'd like it to be. "Clicking on the wrong thing" can derail the step-by-step learning early on in the process, and sometimes in a classroom of people, it's easier to fall behind than to hold up the class and have someone get you back on track. I went to a one-year masters program for planning and design, and a lot of the talented old-schoolers who didn't have any familiarity with Adobe or Excel were wishing they'd taken a course or read a manual or something beforehand. It might make for a boring few classes, but that's what youtube is for.

  11. #11
    Thanks guys, this is good to know. I'm [unfortunately all too] familiar with excel, but learning photoshop, autocad and revisiting GIS will be like trying to stuff toothpaste back into the tube.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian
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    You don't need to have these programs under your belt for admissions. I was speaking as a practicing planner/designer. However, it is never to early to start teaching yourselves these programs (and it will make your portfolio for graduate admissions more noticeable). I taught myself GIS by trial and error (the one GIS class was an elective and most of it was theory). I also taught myself Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Sketchup, Revit, Microstation, and a few others, but learned AutoCAD and Photoshop on the job.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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