Things and Skills You Won’t Learn In Graphic Design Schools
Graphic design schools simply can’t prepare you for everything you need to know about this career choice, so what things and skills aren’t you getting from your graphic design education?
Graphic design courses have steadily attracted a growing number of students over the last decade. By 2021, the total student population of the top graphic design schools reached 75,000 in the United States. This is not surprising, given the rising demand for graphic services.
Revenues generated through graphic services are projected to go over $11.3 billion by 2024. With the median pay of graphic designers exceeding $51,000, it is not a bad choice for a successful career.
Given the growing demand, many colleges and universities have started offering programs in graphic design. However, they do not necessarily include everything there is to know about this diverse and engaging interdisciplinary field.
I remember graduating from design school and thinking… ya, I’m at the top of my class and I’m in a great position to get hired. Granted that was a long ass time ago, but when I did finally land my first graphic design job, boy did I realize how woefully underprepared I was. Let’s just say there is no substitute for real-world experience. More than just graphic design skills, employers want to see other qualities that they find equally as important.
While Graphic Design Schools can be an important part of your design foundation, this post is going to cover some of those things that a formal education just isn’t going to give you. My hope is that this will help better prepare you for your career and set you up with some real-world expectations.
Check out the things you won’t find in the formal graphic design course content at graphic design schools.
Stay ahead of the curve by learning from the experience of professional graphic designers who practice these skills day in and day out. Make the most of the learning and keep pushing the envelope regardless of the specific type of graphic design you pick.
Degrees are not enough
No matter what you are told about the importance of college degrees, they no longer quite cut it in today’s fast-developing world. Don’t expect your college to tell you this, though. With change being the only constant these days, you should consider your formal education, if you have one, as a good starting point. One that will drive you to achieve more.
This means that you should brace yourself for a long process of iterative learning and development where resilience, adaptability to changing circumstances, and the ability to learn from mistakes often mean more than your core knowledge in graphic design.
In this field, there is no such thing as sufficient knowledge and skills. There is always some new trend to find out about, a different technique to learn more about, or a cheaper method of achieving the same results with fewer inputs. So, make every effort to avoid the misleading sense of complacency with what you know.
Where does one start?
Getting your qualifications is one thing, but making a successful start is the other. Remember that there is no particular lack of graphic designers. In some areas, you might be up for fierce competition, and you must do your due diligence before you hit the market for a full-time job or freelancer.
First things first. Try to go through this checklist of questions to make a good start:
- Have you defined your longer-term goals?
- What is it that you want to achieve over the next 5 or 10 years?
- Where do you see yourself realizing your full potential?
- What kind of work keeps your spirits up?
- Are you aware of your areas for improvement?
- Do you have a plan for addressing them?
Be honest with yourself, and don’t let any stereotypes or unsolicited advice stand in your way. Believe in yourself. Put together a genuine, fact-based, and creative portfolio that will make you stand out. Make sure the portfolio makes you look different and your skills impossible to overlook.
Client management is your key to success. Client management is also one of the weakest areas that Graphic Design Schools can educate you on. Understanding the needs, requirements, and whims of your clients is of critical importance. You can actually measure the effectiveness of your graphic design skills by the extent to which you are able to provide what they expect. In a fast-changing environment, graphic designers need to stay abreast of changing customer behavior to remain competitive and relevant.
It is also more than just communication about a specific project or an order. Being responsive, getting back with clarification when promised, seeking clarification, and soliciting feedback on your performance are all the building blocks of a lasting and mutually beneficial relationship. You don’t get to learn that through your college course, so make conscious efforts to learn the basics on a daily basis.
Time management and priority setting
Given the high demand for graphic designers, you are likely to be busy all the time. However, what looks like good news might turn out to be a blessing in disguise if your time management and priority skills are poor.
There is always a risk that you might bite off more than one can chew, missing the deadlines and ultimately failing your customer. Time management is a skill that needs to be developed. Essentially, it is based on prudent priority-setting skills. When you are able to sort your tasks by importance, urgency, and other criteria, you are in a better position to allocate relevant resources, including time.
As a college student, whether you are a current student or a former one, you must appreciate the value of time like no other. College students always have busy schedules, multiple assignments, and tough deadlines. Those who are smarter trust essay writer to take some of that burden off. Thus, they are able to benefit from the assistance of professional writers who complete essays before the deadlines, strictly follow the college instructions, and ensure the highest academic standards.
Power of imagination and inspiration
Alfred Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” He believed that knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand. I couldn’t agree more.
Sketching, doodling, and drawing help stretch your imagination to its limits in a positive way. Don’t rush to get overpriced software or apps to get things done. Try it yourself first, and use digital tools to build on whatever you are able to draft.
While I don’t want to downplay the importance of skill and knowledge, the craft of a graphic designer is essentially a creative one. To me, it is more of an art than a science, as it were. If your power of imagination is not powerful enough, you will end up producing a series of run-of-the-mill products that will soon turn your customers disinterested.
The last thing you want is to be predictable and lukewarm as a graphic designer. It’s better to be provocative by pushing the envelope and constantly challenging established norms than to be tepid and weak-kneed about innovation and change. Motivation and imagination can move mountains!
Communication and people skills
Do not assume that it all starts and ends with your graphic design skills, even if your skills are world-class. Communication and people skills come to the fore when you start building a network of contacts that are essential to your job and, ultimately, your success.
Learn how to speak in clear and unequivocal terms. Clarity is a sign of both a powerful intellect and immense self-confidence. When your speech gets contaminated with truisms, non-sequiturs, and redundancies, your risk projecting the image of an insecure, somewhat incompetent, and struggling professional desperate for some sort of survival or approval.
Don’t send out these wrong signals and vibes. Your graphic design skills are as important as your ability to talk about them or your skill to present the results of your work.
Keep honing your graphic design and management skills
Much is said about the skills and habits that are not directly related to your core graphic design skills. Whether you are a self-educated graphic designer or an established professional with a formal college degree, you should always aspire for more.
What was thought to be an extraordinary skill or a piece of knowledge in graphic design 2 or 3 years ago might be common knowledge these days. Make it your habit to constantly challenge yourself with new or more difficult tasks irrespective of the success or profits you must be enjoying right now.
Don’t get stuck at the moment by overestimating your success. Indeed, from the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step. Stay abreast of things by setting aside at least an hour for reading and reviewing updates about the world of graphic design every day. Combine work and study where possible.
Make sure you sharpen your skills by learning everything there is to know about new graphic design tools and techniques. Identify and follow industry-leading professionals. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The point is to learn from them rather than repeat the same blunders over and over again.
Not only that, don’t limit it to graphic design only. Broaden your horizon by learning more about art, literature, fine arts, and design in general to boost your creative skills. Before you know it, you will find yourself making unprecedented and amazing ways of doing things differently.
Workspace and shortcuts
Make sure you organize your workspace so that it is ergonomic and comfortable. Avoid the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle.
Make the most of useful hacks and tips. This may look like a no-brainer to some, but keyboard shortcuts can save you lots of time. Speed in your work as a graphic designer matters. But you need to learn how to work fast without damaging quality. In this respect, keyboard shortcuts can become your best friend.
Invest time in learning about how you can use your keyboard to save time. Every extra, redundant click has a dollar value, so make sure you don’t make it any more costly than it has to be.
Staying abreast of the latest developments and trends
Graphic design is a world of opportunities, constant developments, and innovations. What you have learned in school or college might be obsolete by the time you get down to work to complete your first order. Both hardware and software designers and producers never stop looking for improvements, tweaks, and revisions.
Instead of playing catch-up, stay tuned to all the developments. With increasing focus on digital ads, graphic designers go up against one another in a fierce battle for customers. Only those who can offer state-of-the-art, cutting-edge solutions can win the hearts and minds of demanding clients. Keep taking refresher courses, keep experimenting, and keep your subscriptions active to benefit from regular updates.
Graphic design is a fascinating field offering ample space for creativity, innovative graphic design solutions, and business opportunities. In the era of digital transformation, the demand for graphic designers is skyrocketing. You can enter this exciting domain either as a hired professional or a self-motivated entrepreneur.
Whatever your motivation and career goals, Graphic Design Schools are a building block of your formal education by developing seemingly unrelated but critical skills, such as goal-setting, time management, creative thinking, and others, to pave the way for a successful and rewarding career and work experience.