Capilano University – Web Designers Look No Further

Capilano UniversityA review of the Capilano UniversityInteractive Design program.
By Ricky D. who graduated in 2007

If you’re looking for a foundational program that will propel you into the world of web design with a wide breadth of knowledge, then look no further.


  • Personable and informed instructors (most work in the industry)
  • Hands on
  • Prepares you for real world stress
  • Lab access almost 24/7
  • Covers a wide range of software
  • Friendly for newbies but challenging for veterans
  • Specialization available second year


  • You must own (or purchase) an Apple laptop before starting
  • Never delves too deeply into any of the subjects
  • Some classes get more focus than others
  • Unnecessary class on QuickTime VR
  • Not enough time on video/audio
  • Nothing about writing for the web or online copywriting

How I Got Into It

I had just graduated from high school and decided to take a year off and work. I ended up selling shoes for a commission based sporting company, and while life was decent (money, very little bills), it wasn’t enough. Eventually, my parents upped the pressure for me to get a real job and get on with my life.

They knew I had skills in graphic design, specifically when it came to the web. So the first thing they did was drag me over to the IDEA program. After the quick information session, I quickly realized I wasn’t an artist – or at least an artist the IDEA people were looking for in their program. My drawing skills hadn’t progressed beyond the fourth grade. It’s okay; I would later learn some high profile art directors trace their sketch work…bunch of cheaters.

I spoke with [AI’s] information guy for five minutes and learned, to my amazement, that he had no confidence in what he was selling.

Dismayed, I then went to the Art Institute to check out their web design program. I spoke with their information guy for five minutes and learned, to my amazement, that he had no confidence in what he was selling. When pressed with the question, “does your certificate have any clout in the industry?” he twitched nervously and went silent. I thanked him for his time and left.

Back at Cap University, I heard about the Interactive Design program. I quickly gathered my work and went in for an information session. Contrary to belief, the Interactive Design program at Cap University has been around in some shape or form for a very long time. I actually worked with a senior project manager who had taken a similar program from the same instructors back in the 90′s. It was in these sessions where it became apparent that this was what I needed. It was pretty much what I was doing on my own for side money (coding and flash aside) anyways.

I signed up for an interview and after the brief – but necessary – pony show, I was accepted! Happy times. Let’s fast forward now and dive right into the program.

Just What The Hell Is Interactive Design?

Interactive Design is an all inclusive course that touches on most subjects you will need to build a skill set when designing for the web (either on your own, or with companies/agencies).

It Covers The Following:

  • Photoshop
  • InDesign
  • Illustrator
  • Dreamweaver
  • Flash

And For Audio/Video:

  • Quicktime Pro
  • Final Cut (I think)
  • Protools / Audacity

Programming And Markup:

  • HTML
  • CSS
  • SQL
  • Javascript
  • Actionscript
  • PHP

And Other Things You’ll Learn:

  • Information Architecture
  • Visual Design (just the basics)
  • Project management
  • Presentation skills
  • Communications (based on your English credentials)

Yeah. A lot of stuff but no copywriting or writing for the web (I’m talking to YOU, professors!).

So What Was It Like?

Like Nick wrote, the instructors are awesome. Our class also started out large (22+) and finished small (less than 7 graduated) for a variety of reasons, but for those that stayed it was incredibly beneficial.

Being a two year program, it doesn’t delve too deeply into any of the aforementioned subjects, but the second year does allow for some flexibility for you to learn more about a particular facet on your own. This program gives back what you put into it. Keep that in mind.

After the whirlwind of projects and stress, you’re sent off to find a practicum in the industry. This I had mixed feelings about: one because I got lucky and two because the timing was a bit off. Your practicum is six weeks in March and then you have to come back for graduation – interrupting a smooth transition to job heaven.

My teacher tipped me off that a small, but very high profile interactive agency was looking for someone to write photo captions and maybe do some cropping. Weird job task, right? She dropped my name with the company’s VP and I sent him an email. After a few back and forth emails, I landed an interview with their Associate Creative Director (a guy who would later become one of my mentors), and they told me to come in for six weeks. Suffice to say, it was not just image cropping. I was offered a small contract as a Production Designer, and over the course of the summer, moved into a full time Junior Copywriter/Designer position. Over the next year, my life completely transformed.

I was chosen out of a handful of big name writers to become the blogger/designer/copywriter for McDonald’s North American Employee Site. I wrote blog posts, newsletters, and designed materials for over 10,000 users. In between that, I designed and wrote ads for some of their biggest clients such as Future Shop, T-Mobile, Rogers, Tourism British Columbia, MTS, Ronald McDonald House Charities Global and more.

And the best part? I learned even more than I thought possible by working and associating with some of the best in the industry.

This wasn’t the case for a majority of the students. Quite a few struggled to land anything. However, some were able to freelance through friends and associates and a few others found great gigs with smaller boutique companies.

All good things must come to an end. As of this February, I was laid off – mostly for political reasons and due to the economy. It came as a relief, though, as most of my friends had left the agency and my passion for the work had long since burnt out. Now I’m working with a friend at an outdoor company’s HQ, part time in their internal studio, making comparable wages and working TWO days a week. I’m also developing my own social media idea that I hope to have up and running in the next few months (stay tuned).

If one wants to get started in the interactive and online industry, this program is the best place to do it.

So In Conclusion…

If one wants to get started in the interactive and online industry, this program is the best place to do it. Mine and Nick’s success stories are but a small sample of some of the great stuff students have moved on to do. Out of my close classmates, one still works for a small boutique company; one is now a successful freelancer (slammed with work even in this economy); another started his own company (earning over a $100/hr); and another discovered that while web was great, he wants to be a true artist and is now back at Emily Carr with two paintings already sold.

Sometimes the best part of a program is seeing what happens after you go through it. Being only twenty-three, I can’t wait to see what happens next.


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