Design insights & tutorials.

Degree or No Degree?

Barton Damer was kind enough to let us repost this article on the zine. What do you think? Do you need a degree to be a designer these days?

Degree or no degree?

There are many potential paths you could follow in the world of “design.” Graphic Art is the term I gravitate towards the most for my own work. There’s often a fine line to distinguish the difference between graphic art and graphic design but it usually relies on less layout of typography and more visual development. A growing field for graphic artists is Motion Design (aka – motion graphics). At it’s basic level, you are simply making your graphic art move. Ultimately, it helps to know a lot about all aspects of design whether it’s web, print or motion. Eventually, you’ll find your sweet spot but you’ll need a good base in design principles first.

School is always a good option but not necessary. It’s a combination of motivation, knowledge and ability. If one is missing, the formula is incomplete. School will provide the knowledge to improve your ability. School not only allows you to learn great design principles and be critiqued by others, but you will always grow faster when you are surrounded and challenged by others who are doing the same. Additionally, the people you meet in school will go on to be in your industry and it always helps to have that connection 5-10 years down the road. School also helps you form discipline. You’ll have to be highly motivated and naturally talented to make a career out of design without an education.

Not all design students are great designers. Motivation is the key to gaining knowledge. Not school. If you have the drive to be a designer, you will find plenty of knowledge online. You can also improve your ability and be challenged by online artist communities. Not going to school is definitely possible in this industry. I have friends that own their own businesses and write code for websites from scratch without ever having gone to college. There are designers that have made great livings for themselves without an art degree. Although skipping school is probably not the norm or the suggested method, going to school does not necessarily guarantee success either. Like any major, people often graduate and do not even find a job in that field.

I went to school for Commercial Art. I learned everything from oil painting to Photoshop. My experience, however, was that I learned principles in class; but not really the software. Learning software on your own or with the aid of tutorials, etc. is a part of the design life. The classroom was more about giving me projects and critiquing them. I learned and tried web design using Flash and Dreamweaver back in the day. I quickly gave that up. I realized that I needed to be able to write code to really have a future in web. That wasn’t going to happen. I’ve learned Final Cut Pro, After Effects, Illustrator, Cinema 4d, and all sorts of software on my own since school. The software is constantly changing so even if you find your classroom setting useful for learning programs; that won’t help you 5 years after you’ve graduated school. You’ll need to learn how to keep up with software on your own. There is no rest when it comes to keeping up with technology.
Overall, I would recommend a good education. That is not available to everyone though so buying a computer and software might make more sense if you are motivated enough to learn what is needed. A strong portfolio will speak louder than a resume or degree.

Discussion

We want to hear what you have to say. Do you agree? Do you have a better way to approach the topic? Let the community know by joining the discussion.

  • Simon H.

    I'm not sure you “need” a degree to be a good designer, but I'm sure of 2 things :
    * Being in schooland have a few classes about the fundamentals of design, color theory and so on helps a lot,
    * Being at school helps to build a network.

  • Simon H.

    Exactly !

  • Nate

    Jeff,

    You are right on. I have interviewed potential designers with degrees, nice resumes, etc but only to be disappointed by their portfolios. I earned my BFA and after really learning my software, I than began to blossom as a designer. One must keep up on programs and be diligent on training themselves. A good education is a good start but to maintain or achieve success, one must keep up on learning new techniques, programs, trends, and etc.

  • Darren

    I am a designer for a large UK retailer, I don't have a degree, when I started out as a Web Designer there were NO qualifications in the UK.

  • Kye

    Schooland tells you to read books and study the fundementals of design, any cunt can do that in their own time.

    The major difference nowadays is people turn to the internet, which is 99% authored by idiots, for idiots. Books are vetted by editors and finely tuned into a worthwhile product, however anyone can start a blog and call themselves experts.

    School doesn't help you build networks either, being in the game does. Clients I met through school/college/uni = none, people I've met through running my business and putting myself out there = everyone

    The best course I ever actually took was A level Industrial Design, why? Nothing to do with design, but we where constantly pushed back and forth between design and specification, with a lot stricter options over what we could do, as well as being forced to justify why everything is done and take into account more things than any graphic course made you, this reflected the real world a hell of a lot better than any other design course I've taken

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Bull/569551617 James Bull

    I personally took a two-year production and design program offered by my local technical institute. Although there was almost no “design” instrution, the program offered two years of in-depth software training.

    This really sharpened my photoshop, HTML, CSS, and various other skills. It allowed me to learn design on my own, and with sites like this one, and all the other great blogs and resources, the design aspect has come naturally.

    I would recommend this route to anyone who wants to learn the tools quick and has the self discipline to learn the other aspects on their own!

  • AcidicLemons

    I was wondering if having a degree made any kind of difference or not. I've been designing my own websites since I was about 14/15. Granted, going to school gives you a boost of knowledge. I considered going to school for graphic or web design, & the costs are phenomenal. It's not worth it to me. I learned on my own, & I taught myself everything I know. I'll just keep doing that. I also do it for fun, so that could explain why I'm not so set on doing it “religiously.” I have a small network & I make some nice change, & that's what matters to me.

    So I say…degrees aren't necessary if you've got the skillz! :D

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Crocker/19207648 Andrew Crocker

    I went to school, and it was fun. But looking back on it I'm not 100% sure if it was valuable.

    My opinion is this: If you're going to a school, MAKE SURE it's worth your time. If it's a bad school, or some design program at a no-name state school and you're pretty sure you already have good design abilities really think about if it's worth it.

    But if your school is Art Center or some other top school.. yeah. suck it up, get some loans and go. You really get what you pay for.

  • Don Gaines

    I sometimes regret going to college, mainly because of the debt but when I step back, I begin to really appreciate it. I don't think a college degree is necessary to be a good designer(for example some of the people above and david carson, they don't have degrees). I do think that college gives you the opportunity to become comfortable in client presentations, does require you to think critically about your projects and pushes you to always be conceptual. I'm fairly fresh out of college but a bit traditional in some of my thoughts and I'd much rather see a good concept than beautiful eye candy. I don't think if I'd gone to college I would get the conceptual part, I might, but who knows.

    I also made some good friends and because of my college got an internship and because of people met at that internship have just gotten another job with one of the largest ad agencies in my state. Sure, I could've gotten those connections elsewhere but I just don't know how it would have happened.

    The other thing I've seen out of non-degree holders is making some basic design mistakes. I know there's not really a 'set of rules' to follow when it comes to design but if you decide to break something from the norm, then you better have a damn good reason for doing so (aka, a good concept). For instance, on the web, studies have shown that people expect the logo to be in the top left area of your site. If it's not, it's confusing for them. This becomes a usability issue and a flaw in basic design principles.

    Eh, and forgive this, this is pure speculation, but I think there could be a tendancy for self-taught designers to be a little cocky and unwilling to take critiques because they've taught themselves everything they know. That my friends is pure speculation, so please do not assume I am generalizing every non-degree holder out there.

  • http://nicoles-treehouse.blogspot.com/ Nicole B

    I am a graphic designer who didn't go to design school. However I have been studying art since I was old enough to hold a pencil. For me, its a matter of artistic talent. You either have it or you don't. I know plenty of design school students who just don't seem to get it.
    I learned the software from books, tutorials, internships, and the connections I made with people through those internships. But it also goes back to the point on motivation. I tried a lot harder then most designers to compensate.
    There are definitely times when I wish I had gone to design school, but that's usually because I am not always taken seriously as a designer because of it. Luckily, I got a creative director who didn't give a rat's ass about what my degree was in.

  • http://www.tkg.com/ Aaron Van Dike

    I started at a community school (just go get the required classes before going to Akron or Kent.) There I learned the very basics of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. I then took the principles I learned and applied them to my first job laying out ad's and a weekly paper. I think school was a great idea at first, it got me understanding how to use the technical side of things, but where I really started learning was on the job. I currently work as a Graphic Designer for Websites and everything I need to know on a daily basis here was learned during my time as an Intern, on the job training and experience has helped me out an enormous amount.

  • http://www.gomedia.us jeff_finley

    Going to school is a little more than just learning and preparing for the “real world” It's a part of your life that can be a good experience for you. Find a city you want “sort of” live in and then you can get a feel for what it's like living on your own while there are still some strings attached (dorms, mom and dad, etc). School is filled with lots of valuable experiences (like meeting a potential mate).

    Those things are often overlooked. Sure you can do all that without paying for college, but college forces you to do it day in and day out and gives you freedom to learn. Whereas the real world won't be so forgiving.

    It's a good time to “grow up” for a lot of kids. However, if you're 18, and already making a decent living freelancing and already have people knocking on your door for a job, then college might not be worth it.

    Kind of like going to the NBA without college. Sure, skill wise it can be done. But those people are going to miss out on most of the social aspects of college and they might not be able to get those 4 years back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jordan-Garn/1512969658 Jordan Garn

    School motivates me to do the stuff that I need to learn, it also teaches me how to learn. I don't know if you necessarily need to get a degree but School is a great place to learn and collaborate (I wouldn't say that it's the only way though)

  • http://www.trueelements.wordpress.com/ Pedro

    I definatley AGREE 100%.. In the field of Design your portfolio speaks way louder than your degree.
    Awesome post,
    Pedro
    http://www.trueelements.wordpress.com

  • Eric Schultz

    If you want a job, you do. Application and design history/real world training come from school too, but you really get your chops up by doing. But you really can't do that (get your chops up) without a job; and if you don't have a degree, 9 times out of 10, you won't get a job.

  • Mandy

    I have a degree and to me its worth nothing. I had been designing for years before I went to college. When I got there, we started off with pretty much 'Opening Photoshop How-to'. I went through 4 years of learning the programs for my degree, not so much theory. No one in my class had any experience and it lacked almost any competitive drive. (well maybe for the rest of the class, but to me it was all just a breeze.

    Before I went to college I was completely obsessed with design. I knew trends, patterns, everything current. I feel like I completely lost this at school. They don't teach you how to keep your designs current, only teach how to do the basics. (Of course I went to a state school) I think that is a major flaw of most schools. To me, being in the front of things is the most important design skill. Making your designs look fresh and it will stand out for years to come.

    Also, design is something changing rapidly. Designers who went to school 10 years ago's degree's should pretty much be void about now, and most of them are probably still paying on it. THAT right there says just how useful design school is.

  • http://twitrounds.com/ twitrounds

    A lot of fields in the industry of art and design present this battle between Schooling and Individual Training. Both sides have their benefits and disadvantages, but School is a great place to network and a degree on a resume is always helpful. However, I agree that keeping up with the times in terms of trends and software can really be accomplished through staying dedicated on your own and putting yourself out there to learn. And of course developing your portfolio as you learn.

    With the beauty of the internet, there are so many helpful avenues to learn graphic art/design on your own. You just have to be committed and motivated!

  • http://jessefrye.com Jesse

    good post. I'd say that regardless of education or not. You learn more if you have the opportunity to be thrown in and gain the experience first hand. Nothing is a better teacher than experience. Some people just need school to force them to get that experience.

  • Oscar Cole

    A man was thrown into a remote jungle and had to survive for 5 years.
    In a city, a man was taught how to survive in a jungle for 5 years.
    After both of the mens “training” was complete, they were both thrown into a remote jungle together. They both live, but the man who had the actual experience did better than the man in school.
    school is good..but experience with a serious dose of drive and determination almost always triumphs…in my honest opinion

  • http://twitter.com/VRizo VRizo

    I'm a highschool senior currently in this dilemma. Like Jeff said, college is a major part of life, and I don't want to miss out on that. However, I don't even know the direction I'm going in, so college could end up being a colossal waste of time and money. This would be easier, though, if I could sustain myself freelancing, which I can't. So going straight to the job hunt isn't really very enticing.

    One bit of advice I've received is to go to college for design, but minor in business, which would give me a nice fallback plan and also administrative skills if I were to ever go that route.

  • Amatatomba

    I just graduated high school (today actually) and I considered going to school for graphic design. But ultimately the high cost of tuition forced me to choose another school. I still very much want to pursue graphic design, but I'm not sure if that will happen or not. I would have loved to go to the art school though, it was a lot more alluring to me than a traditional 4 year college.

  • graF.pt

    I have to say your post is a little harsh. I have a feeling you just went to a bad school, bc yes those DO exist (Full Sail in Orlando, FL would be one of them) and its unfortunate that you could have attended one. So your telling everyone that the top designers who run their own companies, and have for 10+ years dont know what they are talking about? I have to disagree on that.

  • http://www.joebarondesign.com/ Joe Baron

    Here are my thoughts.
    It seems like a lot of people are complaining about a going to college. Well, first not many know exactly what they want to do in life. I did not know what I wanted to do and my father was recommended by a motion/graphic designer that he worked with to go for graphic design, because it's the most successful way of making a living off art. I was not allowed to go to a strictly art school, because what if I didn't like graphic design and wanted nothing to do with art, I would've been screwed. Yes, I would've transferred, but that would've been more debt and a year behind of graduating in the 4 years that I wanted to. College has many uses just like Jeff said.
    Now as for the design part of college. Some people need to know color theory and the design basics. Yes, you can learn it on your own, but not everyone is motivated to do so, especially if you're enjoying your college experience. College is to help you learn design and build your portfolio. If you do not take it serious, then it's going to show in your work. I know plenty of my classmates that did not take it so serious and it showed. It's really no surprise either that some of them aren't designing professionally. I treated every class like it was a job and every critique like it was a client critiquing me. I worked hard looking up design blogs and it was very fortunate for me to find Go Media via istockphoto(it was showcasing the first poster). I'm not a great designer, but I have to work hard. Yes, there are your freelancers that don't need to go to college, I believe Chuck Anderson(No Pattern) is one, but you have to work twice as hard. College should have a leg up in networking, but taking initiative does more for you. One important lesson I learned when I was young is that your schooling is what you make of it. You can go to the best school and not care and you can complain. You can go to a not so great or popular art school and try and learn as much as possible and you can come out pretty good. It's all about the effort that goes in, but with school you can learn about design without being too motivated. I wouldn't pass it up, but I don't think you should look down at schooling. There's so much to learn. If you feel that you have the knowledge, tools, and portfolio to start working then do so. What's important is really doing what you love.

  • Luis Lopez

    A degree is not an obligation on design, I Have one on Graphic Design but I've never had to show it for a job, soo your abilities are more important, but going to scholl you'll learn how to interact with the others and a diploma is valuable if sometime, you need it.

  • http://www.famouslogos.org/blog Roberta Seldon

    I agree. A strong portfolio does speak louder than a degree. What a degree tells us is that an individual was able to pass the courses he or she had taken. It tells us nothing about that individual's artistic capabilities. So while brushing up on tips, trends and techniques is definitely necessary in order to stay in the loop and improve upon one's skills, a degree is not an absolute necessity.

  • http://www.artficionado.blogspot.com/ Henry

    I believe that you can excel in graphic design if you have a natural talent, passion and determination.
    School is very beneficial and should be considered if you can afford it! Everything else depends on opportunity. I know plenty of extremely talented artists with degrees, that can not find a decent paying job and I also know of a few artists that have degrees and can't design they're way out of a paper bag.

  • facebook-769575853

    This article is phenomenal as it has been very relevant in parts of my career (especially in the beginning). I never studied art in college and had a hard time finding fulfillment in any job I found. I was doing freelance on off hours which developed a portfolio that was able to land me my first design job.

    While working there, my colleges all had degrees from art schools and I felt like I always had to prove myself (although as I found later, no one was testing me). I was very insecure in the fact that I never had a degree related to the industry. I did at one time have a new co-worker who went to a prestigious art school in Philadelphia, and was sure to make me feel inferior simply because of where he attended school. The irony is that he was the worst designer in the company and was let go 4 weeks from the day he started.

    After all is said and done, I wouldn't advise not going to school for working in this industry…..however, I wouldn't deem it necessary to succeed if you are highly talented, and motivated as this article suggests. Having those key ingredients, coupled with the drive to make it “on your own” and you may be able to create the opportunities you're hoping for.

    After not having any kind of degree in the digital arts industry, I have been a Creative Director for the last several years. I am secretly (secret from my company, of course) about 1 year away from having my own business.

    I created a quote to sum up the path that lead me to where I am today. About a year ago, I had it tattooed over my heart: “Some say I'm going the wrong way . . . when it's just a way of my own . . . away from the rest.” ~ Jeff San Juan

  • http://www.crearecommunications.co.uk/ Mat

    It all comes down to if the person can do the job or not, its that simple. If they can they can, if they cant they cant no matter their qualifications or lack there of.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk/ Michael Thomas

    What a great blog, this is something I think about on a regular basis. From the age of 16 I stayed on at school choosing graphic design, art, history and IT, I then went on to college to do a years art foundation diploma and then a 3 year BA Honors degree course in Graphic Design. That means I was 22 when I left university and I had many friends who had been working full time for the past 6 years, when I finally started work I was at the bottom again as I had so much to learn. If at 16 I had started the job as an apprentice then at the age of 22 I would be a master in what I do, so I am not sure if education is the best way to go for certain jobs, but then when would you ever find the time again to spend 6 years doing minimum work and partying all the time?

  • Mandy

    Yes, I do think a 10 year old degree is basicly void. Everything you learned in school 10 years ago would be useless. None of the programs existed, none of the same rules apply really.

    But those who have ran companies for 10+ years do know what they are talking about because they have ran companies for 10 years. I'm sure even they will say that they theories and processes they learned that long ago dont apply now.. Many schools were still teaching graphic design on paper when top designers started.

    Just that fact shows me that school is completely unnecessary (past a technical level)

    Design is just something that if you know what you are doing, it is easier, and can be more effective to learn on your own.

    Yes, I had a bad school, but so do a lot of people, with degrees. Again proving its lack of importance. When your school lacks challenges, competition, etc, you loose all drive.

    To sum it up,

    Either you go to a
    cheap school – learn little and teach yourself how to become good

    or

    expensive but good school – they teach you how to teach yourself to stay good

    Why not just skip all of that and teach yourself from the beginning.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com/ Geoff May

    Ah, the old “school vs. no school” question. I went to art school and looking back I definitely picked up some valuable skills. Mostly I learned a good deal about color theory (which is important since I'm colorblind), composition and time management (funny sounding, I know!). I also was able to explore a ton of different mediums and get a feel for what I actually want to do.

    That said, I learned a TON more on my own out in the “real world”. A degree is nice and it's definitely a good way to get your foot in the door with an ad agency or design firm, but it's not the be all end all. In the end, your portfolio and work experience are going to do more for you than your degree.

    As far as making connections from college goes, I made none. I see people from college every now and then but it's not like we're now industry contacts with each other. All my contacts/networks have been made due to being out in the real world and actually working.

  • http://www.geoffmay.com/ Geoff May

    I should also note that college DEFINITELY helped me form a thick skin. Getting critiqued on everything I did went a long way in understanding that criticism isn't a bad thing. There's too many self taught designers who get all bent out of shape when someone says something negative about your work.

    Art school also helped me deal with the competition in the industry. I'm a competitive person by nature, so it wasn't too big of a deal. Still, it's a microcosm of what you'll be dealing with once you're out in the industry working.

  • realitysyndrome

    I went into a 2yr program for “Graphics Communication” at the local community college, mostly because I didn't want to be yet another fine-artist who can't piece a few bucks together. I did all my art courses in the first year, and swore up and down that the the teachers were out of their minds. One in particular swore to me that if you really liked design as a career you'd never stop learning, and I should continue on to a 4 year school. This from a woman who carted around a load of design magazines and books. I didn't understand or appreciate that.

    In my third semester I was asked to transfer to the digital illustration field (where my abilities were far outstripping my fellow students, in contrast to how badly I was doing in the hand-drawn design classes)… In either regard, I began to hate aspects that demanded I “conform” and when financial things fell through the roof I withdrew. 1 Figure Drawing course away from a Certificate and a few English and math from my associates.

    I took an almost five year break from the art-field, with the exception of artwork for people I knew. Some paid, some unpaid and just for fun. One of these landed me a job. It was simple at first, clean up artwork and prepare it for printing. Then I started designing my own, setting up standards and procedures for the artwork at the business. In the almost-2years since I started there I have a whole new appreciation and love for Design and Graphic Arts which school failed to give me.

    I now find it to be an addiction. One that comes with magazines, blogs, and various online tools to help me get better. Even so I still struggle with the same thing I struggled with in school, mixing and blending color. It just doesn't come naturally to me. In some ways, I look back and think it would have been nice, if I could have appreciated Design this much, back then and actually gone on to the 4 year school. But I don't think it would have done me any good unless I were to go now. If I went now, it would be purely to see what others are doing and refine myself even further.

  • http://www.divadev.com/ Toby Cummings

    I graduated from a 4-year college with a B.S. in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Visual Communications, and I can definitely say that I was not taught that much of the CS suite. I was basically on my own. Luckily, I had already been using it before I started college, so it wasn't that big of a deal. But still, you can't just assume your going to learn everything you need from college. I mistakingly thought since I graduated, I really didn't need to delve any further in to Adobe products or other design software.

    So, I can definitely relate about having teach yourself things. You can't just expect someone else to show you everything, sometimes you have to discover it for yourself. And you have to have the drive to do it.

  • http://www.ok3.org/ chris

    No, you don't need a degree for design.

  • http://www.krop.com/solamstutz Sol Amstutz

    That is something that I see as a huge advantage, Geoff. I just graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Graphic Design and I think that is at least one major thing that I appreciate about my schooling. Being critiqued (and harshly) at times helps you build up your ability as an artist to be critical of yourself, which I think is extremely helpful. You can in no way be successful as an artist/designer if you can't take or appreciate when people criticize your work.

    However, the flip side of my opinion on the matter would be that I, in some capacity at least, feel that I almost wasted four years going to pointless classes when I could have been focusing on my skills/connections as a freelancer and my general art skills in general. I do feel like when it came down to finding a “real” job that I might have a slight edge over someone without a degree just for experience sake, but in the end I think you're motivation and work as a designer will be the deciding factor in any situation. A degree doesn't make you good at anything. Drive and motivation and willingness to constantly improve yourself are key.

  • JoeG

    Sometimes I feel as if college was a waste of my time, and that I could've saved money and learned more on my own. However, I realize now that without school, I never would've known where to start. Being in school taught me not just the programs I would need to be familiar with, but how the industry works and what it involves. I never could've figured that out on my own, mainly because I was completely ignorant about it. Not only that, but school forced me to learn the things I needed to even when I hated it. If I was doing it on my own, I might've given up and never realized that this is exactly what I wanted to do with my life. School is what got me into the field of work that I love and I don't regret going one bit (debt or no debt)

  • Christine

    When I was picking out my course preferences for University 6 years ago, my first few preferences where all comp sci/ sci based courses, Visual Communcations/Design was my forth preference as I was pretty interested in it back then because I was just curious how it was all done and taught myself Photoshop during the HSC (equivlant to SATs I guess). I'm actually pretty glad I fell into design, I think it was fate/meant to be, because my passion for it grew while I was at Uni. The course was heavily theory based and more about developing your ideas and concepts so there were a few essays and research projects. We were taught a few basics in each of the programs, but we were left on our own after that and it was up to us. So motivation is definitely a Key Factor. Though I found that with my course in the 3rd and 4th years my motivation went downhill because I felt I wasn't learning anything new, it felt repetitive to me. So a good course program is important as well. Though nothing beats industry experience and learning from others and meshing creative ideas, it's pure inspiration and passion. And while most of the work we do is design and corporate based or has an established branding, I still try to keep my mind rolling with the Arts side of things when I do personal projects or tutorials for new techniques.

    If I were to go back to do it all again I'd probably go to a college that specialised in design. I find that their classes are a lot smaller had have a 'studio' sort of arrangement which make it easier going into the real world.

    Great article by the way.

  • http://www.redrhinomedia.com/ John W.

    I don't necessarily think school is just for the knowledge, but more for the interaction with other creatives and instructors that have been there and done that. I recently graduated from design school and I look back on the time spent there as more of a mentorship than school. I felt like I had a better idea of the design world because of school and all the interactions. And plus, school is the easiest way to start a network for the business world.

  • http://behance.net/exurban Jayson

    I think it depends.

    One thing that seems to crop up in literally every design discussion thread I see is the discussions all seem to revolve around freelancing and freelancers, or people that have grown into an agency career. As someone who's spent their professional life employed in in-house positions, I will say that 95% of them want a person with a degree, at least based on what I've seen. The remaining 5% of them usually say something like a degree and 2 years of experience or 4-6 years of experience with no degree. Most are looking for Bachelor's level people, although I've seen some that are asking for an associates (I've seen a few that are asking for a Masters too!) I think this is because companies look at people in a risk-management sense and degreed people are may be considered less risky. That's just a guess though. I'm not saying that it's right, or whatnot, just that if you're looking at in house jobs a degree seems to be a thing.

    I'm not sure how to put it, but it seems like while having a design degree isn't a big deal not having one is, if you know what I mean. I think a lot of us that went to school have this idea that a degree=a job. Colleges certainly do nothing to challenge the assertion. So when we're out in the world and not snapping up a job, you start thinking 'Why'd I do this?'

    To digress a little, portfolio doesn't mean a job either. I find people have passed on me because I don't have any proven experience designing things that look like what they want designed.

  • http://www.blog.mookiedesign.com/ Cam

    I disagree. I went to school for illustration/animation learning traditional painting and drawing and i'd say 80% of my class has helped each other w/ jobs or leads. We're all really good and resourceful which also helps. Learning the fundamentals is never wrong ( i use my color theory and light/shadow knowdlege damn near every day as a designer). Doesn't mean you NEED a full degree but if you have more ambition than “lowly designer”, i'd recommend it.

  • exigent

    I say it all comes down to motivation. Most TRULY creative individuals are constantly trying to achieve the next level of design. For many of us high school taught us little to no information about the fundamentals other than ROYGBV and CMYK and other terms in order to pass a test and get a decent grade. College is more of a proving ground to see if you can cut it among your peers. A training ground for seeing how well you can deal with intense workloads of creative projects one after the next. We are taught the rudimentary tools of the trade, but end up learning that great designers or artists will only truly come to being from hunger. Hunger for knowledge and hunger for the abilities to create the art that dwells within us. A way to create what is in our mind's eye.

    For those not easily motivated, but talented nonetheless, go to college.

    For those who are immensely talented and establishing themselves in both connections online via twitter, facebook, various blogs, personal website galleries and clientelle in general, then I say go without college.

    I would say at this time I would say that Yes… college is necessary in this day due to the existing owners and employers that have the old school ideal of college makes better. Yet with the internet exposure and tools / bastions of learning, talented individuals can circumvent this quagmire. Many places of employment want to see the degree… no matter now talented you are, they search for your credentials first. Solid portfolios are a must… but in many cases so is a 50k dollar piece of paper.

    SO – Go to class, load up on coffee, go buy a beret and make PERSONAL connections with people from all walks of life. Enjoy it, it will be the best 4 years of your life.

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk/ rory

    Ive got a HND and BA Hons, personally I think the HND taught me everything I needed to know about the design industry and the degree just rinsed me of money…A few months into the degree I realised this but didn't want to give up because of all the money I'd already spent on the 'education'!

    Guess it depends totally on your course, but mine sucked, and was taught by a bunch of pretentious dicks, who'd rather have you queue up for 2 hour to talk to them rather than you go out and design. Bar the good friends I made, sex I had and quality drugs I took it was a big waste of time…the best daze of my life.

  • Lacy

    I think it depends on the education you received. Your answer can vary just on that factor. I can say that I have learned some from experience and some from schooling. I have also learned that it is not always about where and how you learned your skills, but also how well you network and that your fully aware when an opportunity is staring you in the face. I graduated from a technical art school ( name withheld) and received a pretty shitty job doing photoshop exercises 8 hours a day, several months later. But, it was a foot in the door. I am currently working on a BA from a University in design, and feel now, 3 years later, I am simply working towards a paper, because I am already doing what I want to do, and getting paid well for it. However, it was an internship that really got the ball rolling, and my own motivation, and hours up all night spent learning CSS, coding, Flash, etc. I believe design fundamentals are hard to learn on your own. A formal education can really help you in that area. Technical skills can be learned primarily on your own. You don't need to pay an institution or university to teach you that. And your own ambition and determination is what will really ultimately define your career.

  • Lacy

    I think it depends on the education you received. Your answer can vary just on that factor. I can say that I have learned some from experience and some from schooling. I have also learned that it is not always about where and how you learned your skills, but also how well you network and that your fully aware when an opportunity is staring you in the face. I graduated from a technical art school ( name withheld) and received a pretty shitty job doing photoshop exercises 8 hours a day, several months later. But, it was a foot in the door. I am currently working on a BA from a University in design, and feel now, 3 years later, I am simply working towards a paper, because I am already doing what I want to do, and getting paid well for it. However, it was an internship that really got the ball rolling, and my own motivation, and hours up all night spent learning CSS, coding, Flash, etc. I believe design fundamentals are hard to learn on your own. A formal education can really help you in that area. Technical skills can be learned primarily on your own. You don't need to pay an institution or university to teach you that. And your own ambition and determination is what will really ultimately define your career.

  • Dennis

    A degree is essential. Where else are you going to learn the fundamentals like perspective, spacial cues, contrast, hierarchy, focal point, typography, color theory, etc? You can read as many books as you want but developing ideas in a classroom with an experienced instructor present, you quickly learn what works and what doesn't. That is where the value is in a degree.

  • http://vectorlady.com/ Vector Lady

    No. You don't need any degree to be a designer.

  • http://vectorlady.com/ Vector Lady

    For example in design studio http://turbomilk.ru only one graduated designer. But there portfolio – rocks! =)

  • Nad

    I agree with you 100%. I am going to a college that prides themselves on becoming a University when their graphic design department sucks and the teachers/professors barely know what they are teaching. I keep learning on my own but there is no motivation or excitement when you are in the classes and the teachers give you the project, which is making a map in illustrator. Another fault that my teachers had are that they play favorites in their classes and then treat others like crap. Its unfortunate when the focus should be on helping the students get a solid foundation of design and guide them towards learning in an efficient manner.

  • Nad

    I recommend Ringling College of Art and Design. I'm hoping to go there after graduating in a year. Its a great art college.

  • J

    Not that we should all be so lazy but I find it so encouraging and reassuring to know that it is my motivation and and my drive to succeed that will get me through any challenge.

  • Jhaynna05

    yap, i agree with this one.. experience + talent is much much much more needed..

  • dd

    love the sarcasm, sounds like bitterness . . .

  • http://blog.exurban.net/ Jayson

    Well it's possible to be really motivated, out there working and doing all the social networking crap and have it not pay off. There's never any sure things in life.

    It does seem like any discussion like this always has a few people that will bring up the motivational aspect as a panacea for any challenge or issue in the field. I think it's a good attitude, but it doesn't necessarily represent any kind of 'mechanical' answer to someone that can't find work.

    But I don't agree that the question of a degree or not comes down to motivation. It's not illogical for someone who really wants to be some kind of commercial artist to think the best way to achieve that goal is formal education.

    Right now it's an easy and understandable time to be a little bit bitter.

  • http://blog.exurban.net/ Jayson

    Well it's possible to be really motivated, out there working and doing all the social networking crap and have it not pay off. There's never any sure things in life.

    It does seem like any discussion like this always has a few people that will bring up the motivational aspect as a panacea for any challenge or issue in the field. I think it's a good attitude, but it doesn't necessarily represent any kind of 'mechanical' answer to someone that can't find work.

    But I don't agree that the question of a degree or not comes down to motivation. It's not illogical for someone who really wants to be some kind of commercial artist to think the best way to achieve that goal is formal education.

    Right now it's an easy and understandable time to be a little bit bitter.

  • http://twitter.com/marybaum marybaum

    I'm hearing a lot of focus on design and getting a job – not much focus on education. And yet my parents both worked into their 80s – my father, at almost 83, is still going strong.

    It's highly likely that the rest of us will work that long – a total career span of about 60 years.

    Who knows what the technology will be then? That's a major reason the better programs teach concept and design, not technology. Technology is always ours to keep up with on our own – and generally, design profs are going to be teaching an old version. (I've heard of courses that are still teaching web design with tables.)

    But to fuel any creative career for 60 years? That takes ideas, and an idea of where to find those ideas and generate new ones, which is in the world.

    And the place we learn about the world is not really in design classes. It's partly in the social experience of school, but it's really in those other courses we take to meet those pesky distribution requirements: literature, history, math, science, a foreign language or two.

    Which is why I recommend not just a degree but a degree from a university – one with a great design school.

    It's not just learning about the world – it's learning how to understand the world. To learn something about how it's put together – the math and science of it – and the people and ideas who have made it what it is today, in all its forms.

    And if there's one thing the social web should be teaching us all, it's that being a designer is no excuse for not being able to write clearly and coherently. (Or if it is – think how you can stand out by writing well!) What I've found is that nothing helps us understand how our language works – all that grammar that sucked in eighth grade – like learning the grammar of a foreign language. Plus, it's the easiest way to get exposed to another culture, even if it's only twice a week at 10 am.

    Finally, the images we encounter in those non-design courses are the source images for a lifetime of design projects. Right now none of us – age 18 or 58 – knows who the next client is going to be, or the one a year from now. Will it be hamburgers or biotech? We've all seen the double helix of DNA a thousand times. But a college-level biology course will give that helix meaning and suggest design directions that would never have occurred to you if all you saw were two parallel spirals.

  • http://www.eddieadolf.com/ Eddie Adolf

    Awesome article. I went to college for about a year and a half, then left. Prior, I knew a lot from teaching my self, and my high school had few graphic design classes too. When I decided to leave, it wasn't a hard decision. When classmates started asking me for help, and not the teacher, I had to question if I was wasting my time/money.

  • Dan

    Excellent job..
    dizi izle

  • Anonymous

    ı am like gastirizon design thanks

  • Refused to reveal name

    I am very much anti-college because we are very talented and why the h**l we need college for? Companies say and even college professors said to me that all you need is a portfolio, not a degree but then they say you need a degree then the joke goes back saying you need a portfolio. I am sick of the joke out there.

    Second, because of costs, I could not afford to go. I was living on Social Security and no way I could afford housing, utilities, automobile, etc. Not even mention the cost just for schooling and the expensive supplies and materials and books for Industrial Design.

    I hated the idea I had to go to a vocational training school just to take their only program: AutoCAD Drafting Design. My teacher saw I was very smart, very skilled in manual drafting (been doing this since age 8!! My first client when I was 12!

    Guess what? I had a classmate who is a female and she had very hard time with CAD so my teacher asked me to be tutor and I accepted. I helped her for many many weeks in our full-time class. Ok, guess what!!!?? She got the job BEFORE graduation and I did NOT get a job at ALL! i mean what the f!!!!

    Here is another problem. I am Deaf. I can talk very well and read lips. And I noticed most employers do not hire Deaf people. I personally know so many Deaf people are not working what they have earned in college. Hey, I know one who graduated in Mechanical Engineering who is Deaf and he could not find an engineering job. So, his wife suggested him to work with her in the POST OFFICE AS MAIL SORTER! Hey, another one, he graduated as Computer Programmer.. What he is doing? Stocking and delievery for a shipping company. Another graduated with Evangelism and Pastorship Ministry degree and he is just a sorter at a hardware store. All are Deaf. Need me say more? That is my concern that if I go in to get a Bachelors at an art and design college.. I would be discriminated and face thousands of dollars in the hole for life.

    So, I am working very hard to get my own design company running and we will have to built products or vehicles to showcase with my money whatever I have.. (actually none).. then get it to the trade shows. That will get attention alright. Say I want to design and built this RV trailer.. then I built it and take it to the National RV Show in Louisville, KY then that is when manufacturers will take notice and make deal with me. THAT is the best secret way you can be successful. Hey, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Z all started their own high tech computer related companies without finishing college! I am sure there are others too did not finish at all and went on to become way successful.

    I am going to do the same way and be successful.

    I rather to spend money to make money (working) than spend money not making money (college). Walt Disney said, “You have to spend money to make money.”

    When I am successful, I will focus on hiring designers, CAD Drafters, etc based on portfolio strictly and RAW TALENT.. NOT college educated! If I see his/her CVs/Resume that says college on it, I will say thank you for coming in and will still review. Meaning, “Good bye!!! You are not hired! Now, get out!”