Tuesday, July 6, 2010

So Much Theory...So Little Design

I went to two different state schools in southern California and while I got a great overall education, I realized that so much of what I learned in my art courses was theory. Theory is very important for a strong foundation and critical thinking skills, however, it is certainly not the only thing they should be teaching design students in school.

What about thoroughly developing technical skills? Or teaching us how to develop a strong concept? Or communication skills? Or how to deal with clients? Or how to network? Heck at my school, they didn't even teach us the rules for logo design or how to put together a good portfolio. They were so focused on theory and the creative process, which as I said before are very important, but no one in the business world cares about your process or the theories behind your designs. The people that you design for, in most cases, just want to see a strong concept and a good looking final product.

The things that I really needed to know as a designer I learned after I graduated and began designing out in the real world. Sure I got a great "general" foundation in school...but being mediocre in many things and an expert of none was not what I wanted. I realized that what I learned in school did not prepare me for what I have encountered as a design professional.

The most important things I've learned through my experiences with bosses, clients, other designers, etc. are as follows (in no particular order):

1. Communication and good relationship skills are key. Being able to clearly communicate, maintain relationships and build new ones is incredibly important when you are designing...especially as a freelancer. These skills are necessary whether you are working with clients, your boss, co-workers, or in collaboration with other creatives.

2. Always conduct yourself as a professional. This is something all creatives should know and live by. Acting as a professional doesn't just mean dressing nice and sounding educated, but more importantly it is your ethics, attitude, and beliefs. Be positive and constructive. Be a leader and example.

3. Follow through. Do what you say you are going to do. Don't be all talk. If you work with someone, make sure you fulfill your end of the deal. It won't matter if you're a great designer if you slack or simply flake out on jobs. Simply put, follow through on your promises.

4. Network. Use your connections and make new ones. This is definitely something that was not taught in school. However, so many of your connections can come from the relationships forged with your classmates. After all, they too will be professionals in your field of interest.

5. Having a strong work ethic is vital. As a design professional, you must be willing to work hard and go the extra mile. Working hard in school is one thing...but working hard in the design world is entirely different. That being said, if you are passionate and love what you do, these long hours can be fun and rewarding.

While this is obviously not everything I have learned as a designer, it sums up many of the important things that seem to come up again and again. Bottom line, conduct yourself professionally, have integrity, and value the relationships you build with people.

What have you learned as a designer that they didn't teach you in school?

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