Going to school will teach you 1. The design software, 2. The principals or the foundations of design.
School will not teach you tons of cutting edge techniques or how to deal with clients in the real world. Going to school did not allow me to teach myself design, but it sure did point me in the right direction!
Let me stop for one minute, in an industry that’s so deep and so wide, school is a must.
There are plenty of art school dropouts and 100% self-taught designers, and I’m not knocking any of them. Some of them are close friends of mine. However, there are foundational things, design principles, that you just wouldn’t know to teach yourself if not for some veteran mentor. Going to school gives you some insight to know what you don’t know.
If you’ve been keeping up with me personally, you’ll know that I started teaching design classes at Lone Star College CyFair last year. One day in my first class, I happened to show my students a somewhat old logo, and I brushed them off a bit, “Oh, y’all probably won’t recognize this one. It’s a bit before your time.”
Many of them nodded their head that they did in fact recognize it.
We got to talking about age, and I discovered that I had a few students that were the same age as me, and that trend has continued each semester! I thought they were going to all be fresh out of high school!
One of the students that’s my age stayed after and began to ask me how I knew so much about this field at such a young age, and to be honest, this is 100% why. I’ve taught myself a lot.
I love this field of digital media and communications, I love to learn, and I’m hyper competitive. Combine those three, and I can’t help but teach myself design.
Whether or not you go to school, you can check out YouTube for techniques.
You can find designer blogs to follow for the business side, or reach out to someone whose work you admire, and ask them a specific question. I’ve been following Jacob Cass and Chris Spooner since day one, and here in the last two years, I’ve added dozens to it, like Aaron Draplin, and Tad Carpenter. These people and their wealth of knowledge have allowed me to teach myself aspects of design as well as several other skills like client acquisition, dealing with failure, and even legal stuff.
There are sites that sell design resources, like fonts, textures, and brushes, and then once they sell the files, they follow up with detailed tutorials to show you a few interesting techniques on how to make the most of them.
I’ve been working on gathering a list of them to share with my students, and I plan on sharing them here as well.
There are other sites focused on high-quality tutorials. If you’ve been on YouTube searching for a tutorial for anything, you know the value here. Some of those YouTube tutorials are mind-numbingly bad, and even those with the strongest mental fortitude may find themselves skipping out or digging for another user with a similar tutorial.
If you’ve already experienced that sort of searching, Skillshare and Lynda are a few great options, (if you’re willing to invest a few dollars in yourself). Both of them offer some good content for free before you commit to jumping in, and you can start off with a discounted rate if you use this link.
School is extremely valuable to you in the design and communcations field, but nothing can replace the self-driven student. It’ll show in your projects. Your peers will notice it, and most importantly, so will your teachers.
90% of the techniques I’ve learned were by copying and looking up tutorials. Techniques, mind you – not foundational skills.
This, in absolutely no way, is saying that you should not go to school. I’m a teacher after all, and I’d never advocate for people to be 100% self-taught.
For the love of God, go to school. Get a degree. What I’m saying here is school isn’t the end all be all, and you have to reach for more outside of the classroom.
I’ll probably sit down one day and write a bit about why going to school is important, but for now, on to the next post about just being yourself.
(Full disclosure, a few of these links are affiliate links)