Digital Arts Program

Frequently Asked Questions


Why study both Art and CS?

In the world we live in today, technology is integrated into just about everything and everything is very visual.  Students with a Digital Arts degree understand both how to develop unique software and how to make it aesthetically pleasing and intuitive for the user. This is a difficult degree in which you will take a lot of programming and math classes because code and math are at the core of all the interactive programs you use on your computers, mobile devices, and game consoles. In order to be able to let your creativity run wild and create anything you can imagine on a computer you need to understand the language and algorithms to speak to the computer. 

Many student ask why all the math?”. Math is at the heart of how you move around any interactive computer program and what makes virtual scenes look so beautiful. Say you’re playing a game, using a simulator, or trying out virtual reality. You do something as simple as stand in one place and move the camera left and right to look around.  That simple movement was possible through matrix multiplication. Or maybe you’re watching an animated movie and the sun is shining down on and reflecting off a serene lake surrounded by lush fields of grass and trees swaying in the breeze. Vectors and other mathematical concepts were used to render the reflections and shadows in the scene.  Calculus may have been used to create the curves of the blades of grass. Fractals and recursive algorithms are common tools used to make a forest full of realistic trees.  For some really awesome examples of math and art combined (and interviews with people at Pixar), check out Khan Academy’s class “Pixar in a Box’: . The “Environment Modeling” module is great. 

The amazing thing about this degree is that by the end you should understand how all of these visual applications work behind the scenes as well as how to use these tools and algorithms to assemble scenes, interfaces, and other visual work that is truly unique and connects with your audience.  Plus both programming and art are both highly creative fields. Developing your open ended  problem-solving and  creativity skills through classes in two different disciplines will help you develop a broader perspective to use in both individual fields and when you bring the two together.


Student Work - Galaxy Render


Do I need a portfolio to be admitted to the Digital Arts major?

You do not need a portfolio to begin our program.  Anyone who is admitted to UNCW can major in Digital Arts.  You will create a portfolio of work and a website to display everything during your coursework here.  Students should save all work from their classes in a secure, backed-up folder that they can access and add to during their years in the DA program. 


What transfer credit will I receive for classes completed at another college?

Please use UNCW's Transfer Articulation Form to determine if classes you have taken or are planning on taking at a community college or other 4-year university will count for classes needed for your degree at UNCW.
If you have taken a class you beleive should count for a class at UNCW but is not listed in the articulation agreement, please contact Dr. Morago (moragob @ uncw . edu ).  You will need to provide a syllabus and sample assignments for the class and will be directed to the appropriate department chair at UNCW to check for course equivalency.

Student Work - Feldman Castle View


What computer do I need to buy to complete the Digital Arts degree?

There is not one required computer for this program. You should get the best computer you can get for your budget. There are so many computers out there and sales are always changing so there's not a one-size-fits-all. Check Newegg, Best Buy, and Amazon plus manufacturer's actual websites like Lenovo, Asus, Dell, MSI, etc.

It's a pretty safe bet that computers that are made for gaming will get you through your work for your major but they can also be overkill or sometimes cost more than a different line of computers with similar specs. It just depends on what combinations of hardware and features are being sold. It's a good starting point for comparisons though.

This link gives the minimum system requirements for Autodesk Maya which is probably the most intensive program you'll run.

This link provides a list of graphics cards that Autodesk has specifically tested Maya on (though others will work as well).

The main specs to try to maximize are RAM and processor. Get at least 8 gb of RAM. If 16 or 32 is an option that's great. It is strongly recommended that you get the largest screensize that you're comfortable carrying around. Doing 3d modeling and longer programming assignments on a tiny screen can cause a lot of frustration and take extra time. 15 inches is a good compromise between portability and still being able to see stuff. If you decide to go with a smaller laptop for portability, you might consider buying a large monitor to keep in your dorm/apartment that you can hook the laptop up to for working at home. Even with a 15 or 17 in laptop that second monitor can be really helpful.

A lot of laptops now come with a combination of hard drives or the ability to add a second one. A nice combination is a smaller SSD (like 256 or 512 gb) with a larger HHD (1+ TB). You can run your OS and just install programs on the SSD. Software boots and runs faster off of SSD's (but they also cost more). Then you can store all your files on the HHD. It's a good combination of having a lot of storage that's relatively affordable, keeping things booting quickly, and having a backup if something goes wrong with your OS and you have to reformat. All your files will already be saved on a different drive.

You will also need a 3 button mouse - a laptop touchpad just isn't going to get you through all your classes. Having an extra external drive and some thumb drives is also great. You will get some free cloud storage with your UNCW account plus other sites offer free space here and there. But it's also good to have your own physical backups for when the internet is out.

Plenty of students do the majority of their DA work on school computers because they find that easier than using their own laptops. It usually also takes a few semesters for students to get into the classes where they need a good computer. So if you have an old laptop at home it'll probably be good enough for the first semester. Sometimes it can make sense to wait to buy a better computer until you get into the 200/300-level classes. Prices go down as hardware gets better and it gives you less time to spill things or install so many programs the machine slows down before they really need it. (This is based on many stories senior level students have shared about their laptops.)



Can I get credit for an internship?

Digital Arts students are strongly encouraged to complete internships while at UNCW. There is not an option to get credit toward your degree for internships but they will help build you knowledge base and portfolio. It is possible to tie an internship project into your capstone project to double-dip your efforts. If you have an internship during your last year, check with your advisor and ART 496 instructor about how you can do this.


How do I declare the Digital Arts major?

If you want to change or add a major or minor, log onto mySeaport, click on “Academics”, then scroll down the right-side menu to find “Major Change Declaration”. This will redirect you to a new site where you can change your degree through drop-down menus.

During the month surrounding the beginning of registration each semester the Major Declaration system closes. The university does this so that your advisor is not reassigned in the middle of registration. If you’re considering a change try to take care of it at least a month before registration.  UNCW’s Academic Calendar can tell you when the Major Declaration system closes and reopens each semester.



What other programs does UNCW offer related to Digital Arts?

One of the many perks of UNCW is that we offer many degrees that have a partial overlap with various aspects of Digital Arts.  If you find this isn’t the right degree or balance for you, please take a look at some of these other options. They may be designed more for your interests and career goals. You may also want to double-major in Digital Arts and one of the degrees listed below.

UNCW also offers the minors listed below that can all be combined with any of the above majors and can help you
find the right combination of topics in your studies:

All Digital Arts majors automatically complete the minor in Computer Science without taking any extra classes. Add this minor to your degree.