General Question

JoeyDesignsStuff's avatar

Your collegiate Design experience?

Asked by JoeyDesignsStuff (756 points ) December 5th, 2008

There are more than a few professional designers here, some who have been making a living in the field for longer than I have been alive. Have any of you gone to college for a design program related to the career you now practice and felt that you benefited academically from it? What did you learn that has really helped you out since then? Why might you recommend going to school – other than the obvious getting a degree – for something like graphic or web design?

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18 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

I studied Studio Art at CSULB -as a designer and illustrator, the lessons I learned about color, composition, and balance still serve me daily.

sharpwriter's avatar

I benefitted from my experience in a design program (@SCAD) for three reasons: it gave me the chance to experience true competition without having to risk my livelihood, it taught me how to collaborate with other strong-minded designers, and it gave me an opportunity to experiment and find my own style, again, without risking my livelihood. The getting a degree part helps in getting an interview for a job, but I like to think that it’s the experiences above (and the portfolio created during that time) that helped me on the interview.

crunchaweezy's avatar

I can honestly say I have more experience than most people that have had formal classes, I teach myself a lot. :)

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Everyone that I’ve ever met that’s come out of Western Kentucky University’s communications programs, are really top-notch. They come out not only with great design and production skills, but they understand how the business fits together—design, production, pricing, creative brief, client management. If your come up with a design that costs $10,000 in time to produce, and your client has a $5,000, then you’ve created a bad design.

I’ve worked with very “creative” people who were not trained as designers, but self-taught, and it usually showed in the production costs for their work. The time it took was always over budget, no matter how good the production artist was.

You have to be able to bill out at or above actual cost. That’s a whole lot different than being artistically oriented.

sharpwriter's avatar

@crunchaweezy, there’s experience and then there’s experience. If you think the only experience you’re going to get out of going through a design program is a bunch of software tutorials, then it probably isn’t for you. You can most certainly learn those skills from a book or by spending time in any given application, poking around.

The reason to go into a design program (or go to an art school) is the experience; the chance to live and work in an environment of like-minded souls, competing against them and collaborating with them…and being challenged by them, and your professors, everyday. You can’t learn that from a book or teach that to yourself.

Breefield's avatar

Just remember this, and although I haven’t been to college, I’ve done a lot of research on the topic, talked to a lot of successful designers and such about their opinions. It was quite unanimous.
For the design / web design field, you don’t need college for the education, you need it for the connections, the experience as a person. You benefit in ways other than education. In fact many of them said high school wasn’t even necessary. As it’s quite easy to get into private design colleges on a GED. Either way, that’s quite my opinion. But like I said, I haven’t put it to the test, so to say, because my parents would like to keep me around for another year :p

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@breefield, with almost 30 years experience in advertising and marketing, I wholeheartedly disagree with your research. My experience in agencies has been as a production manager and account service. Production managers take the art files and turn them into something tangible. Account service works with the clients. At smaller agencies, designers do what I do. Unless you intend to design T-shirts, or work as a “graphic artist” for a small printer offering creative services, you need a college degree. Creative-on-demand is different than being artistic. It’s a business. You need business understanding, not only the advertising business, but how to assess your client’s business. You don’t get that in most art schools.

fireside's avatar

“You don’t get that in most art schools”

-Probably a good reason why so many creative types should not be running their own companies.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Yeah, but if you’re client is a car lift manufacturer or caskets, you also need to be able to understand the industry and the competition in order to design well. You’re paid to design to client’s needs.

One of my favorite people to work with was a designer whose job title on his business card was “Creative Whore”. His work is mostly national accounts consumer goods campaigns.

fireside's avatar

~ So maybe a skull and cross bones logo for the casket guy and some pretty pictures of a Ferrari for the car lift manufacturer, right?
—-
A designer absolutely has to know how to research the client’s industry and produce something that is in line with industry standards while still finding unique differentiators that will help the client to stand out. To do that, you need to be able to get excited about any industry and talk to the clients about their industry.

That’s where college comes in handy because you get a lot of projects that may or may not interest you and you get exposed to a lot of different types of people which will help you relate to your clients.

The problem a lot of creative people get into is when they have been successful working for themselves and need to grow their business to include a staff. If your only skills are personal management and design, you will have a very hard time understanding why your employees think things like employee handbooks, proper accounting and operational management are so important.

Obviously, that applies more to people who want to own their own business as opposed to working as a freelancer or gettig hired into a large company.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

This is your competition from college educated young designers and the types of portfolio items you will be competing against for work.

fireside's avatar

Wow
This one probably took at least an hour…

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Why stay in college?
Why go to night school?
Gonna be different this time.

This is all you need to be a success.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@fireside, is that one of John Passafiume’s designs?

fireside's avatar

@alfreda
Paul Grabowski
TDC NY on the DRUPA 2008

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Pretty darn awesome.

o0's avatar

As a practicing graphic designer I would strongly suggest that any designer needs to be classically trained. ASU has a strong design program. Before you can become a poet you need to learn how to write. The visual language is no different. Most “self taught designers” lack the technical and typographic skills that a professional needs. I’m not talking about knowing how to work software either, I’m talking about how to set a balanced hard rag, or custom kern a pair of letters. What you will get out of a good design program is priceless: a sensitivity for design. Hopefully you will pick up a few mentors and friends along the way.

Georgia_Printco's avatar

My education built the foundation and my experience is my overall teacher.

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