Why bother with design school?

Do you really need to go to design school?  The answer is... maybe.

Do you really need to go to design school? The answer is... maybe.

Let’s face it: There are a lot of “designers” out there with little or no formal education. Some of them have no talent; others are very talented and make a very good living from their work. The proliferation of online tutorials for design programs such as Illustrator, Fireworks, and Photoshop have made it possible for anyone to master design tools without a degree. Widely available online resources for design theory seem to negate the need for design school. So, why bother with design school at all?

Here are three reasons:

  1. A well-rounded portfolio — Design school will teach you theory and techniques in several disciplines, so you can enter the job market with a professional portfolio that expands your opportunities.
  2. Prestige — Many of the largest employers require a degree, and others that do not will still be impressed that you have formal training. It can mean the difference between getting a paycheck and getting nothing at all.
  3. Power and profit — Design school will also help you network with others who can open doors and teach you how to get the best design jobs. This is powerful knowledge that puts you at the helm of your own career.

All that being said, it is possible for someone who is truly dedicated to his or her learning to acquire the skilled touch of a formally schooled designer. After all, even degreed designers continue learning throughout their careers. Among the best of the best, it’s impossible to tell which designers have formal training and which do not. Everyone develops their own style.

You might also be competing against international designers who have little or no formal training, depending on where and how you market, so maybe you don’t need design school after all.

What do you think? Is design school necessary to be a professional graphic designer?

2 Responses to Why bother with design school?

  1. Bradly Jackley November 9, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Nice post. Learning photoshop was not that hard to figure out once I went through a couple good training courses.

  2. Brian November 10, 2010 at 9:32 am #

    Hi Bradly,

    Thanks for your feedback! I totally agree that learning professional graphic design software is not that difficult and that there are, in fact, plenty of free and paid resources available for doing just that online.

    What I do wonder, however, is whether simply knowing how to use Photoshop or Illustrator is enough. Do not artistic theory, knowledge of styles past and present, and other considerations factor in? Or do some people just “have it” and others do not, regardless of education? I’d like to think that most of us can be taught to be good designers, but that great designers – much like writers and athletes, in my opinion – are born. That isn’t to say that they can’t learn, but it does mean that these individuals have natural talent in their respective fields.

    What’s your take?

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