If you’re new to the Design world there’s probably one prevailing question on your mind: Should I go to Design School? Well, this is one of those topics where I can’t give a definitive answer that will work for every person, but what I can do is give you my thoughts on a couple different options that will probably cover the majority of you. So, is a 4 year Design Degree worth it?
Like I said, it varies on each person and what exactly they want to do moving forward. Here’s my initial impression though: I don’t believe that a 4 year Design Degree is as valuable as it once was, and I think that in most cases your time will be better spent teaching yourself the business by doing. That’s probably a shock, right? Well let me explain.
If your goal is to enter the Design world and gain employment through an agency of some kind, then yes you probably want to go to college and get your degree. Like I said in 5 Things Design Students Need To Know, a Design degree is one of those things where you have to have it in order to work in an agency setting, but just because you have it doesn’t guarantee you anything. So, if your plan is to work as an in-house designer of some sort then you probably will need to invest the time, and the money, into getting a degree. Unless of course you’re prepared to put in a tremendous amount of effort and hustle to build such a mind-blowingly incredible portfolio that an agency would be dumb not to hire you regardless of your education, but you’re totally capable of that right? In some instances, if the work in your portfolio shows that you have an extremely firm grasp on Design theory and principles and your execution is top-notch, then they’re not going to care about your educational background. But if you’re going to go that route here’s my suggestion to you, start now and don’t even bother with school.
I’m sure that the majority of you who are either interested in the Design industry, or are even currently in the Design industry, are probably working towards being your own boss and running your own business from home. That was certainly my dream when I first started out. Well, if that’s the case then let me be frank with you: a Design Degree is not in your best interest. Now, I’m not saying that getting a formal Design education is a bad thing by any means, I have one myself, but I think in the world we live in today that it’s no longer a necessity to have that formal education. Think of it this way, would you consider it a good business investment to spend 4 years of your time, and $80,000 (depending where you go of course) trying to learn a skill that you could spend considerably less money teaching yourself? No, probably not. The amount of resources available now that weren’t available 10 years ago is astounding. Almost anything you want to learn you can do so simply by researching. So why not take the initiative to teach yourself, begin to grow your business, and simply start living your dream now? I’ll be frank with you again, this road is not an easy one. It’s going to require a lot of time, dedication, persistence, and willingness to fail because it’s not going to come easy. If you ask any freelance Graphic Designer right now how many times they’ve failed before they succeeded I’m sure you’ll be shocked at the amount. The best learning opportunities come from learning from your mistakes and failures. Remember, “failure is never fatal”.
If I had it all to do over again, I wouldn’t have even bothered going to Design school. I cherish my time there, and the connections I made while I was there, but in retrospect I think I would have been better served going on my own path. The majority of what I know about Design has been self-taught, and I still continue learning on my own accord now, so the knowledge that I actually obtained from Design school was very little. I would have rather spent my time learning my craft, perfecting it, learning how to market myself, and growing my freelance business in the meantime. Now I know that it probably seems like I’m trashing education, but I’m really not. There are a lot of amazing Design Schools out there that have a ton of things to teach you, but what I’m suggesting to you now is that I don’t think it’s any longer a requirement or necessity to achieve your goals. Do you want to work for yourself? Do you want to work closely with your own clients and choose your own projects? That’s great, start right now. Don’t wait until the time seems right, don’t wait for 4 years to get a degree, don’t wait for someone to give you permission. Do it right now. The only way you’ll ever learn is by doing, and no amount of education or advice will fully prepare you for that.
Again, what I’m saying in this post might not be right for you, it just depends on your situation and what you want to do. At the end of the day it’s about doing what’s best for you and trusting your gut instinct, not what anyone else is telling you. Follow that, it won’t lead you wrong.
Do you have a degree in Design? Or have you built a business without one? Let me know in the comments below!