Is Design School Actually Worth it?
Image by D Sharon Pruitt
Let’s be very clear. School isn’t mandatory to be successful in a creative industry. Nobody cares if you have a degree or if you went to a prestigious school. No matter how you get there, the only thing that matters is that you’re good. That’s it.
So what value does school have to offer if not a degree? Why should you even go?
The Hard Stuff
Please don’t go to school to learn Software. What a gigantic waste. Software is easy to learn. Just search for some video training for any tool and you will find hours of people showing you what each and every button does. Learn that stuff on the weekend and test out of those classes. Instead, while you’re at school, learn the hard stuff like design, color theory, typography, story telling, composition, animation, editing, and compositing.
School helps to get you ready for working with clients and getting projects finished by giving you hard deadlines to work with. A project due on monday means a weekend of working your ass off. Learning how to create great work and put it out for the world to see is THE KEY to being a creative. School projects give you great excuses to stay up all night worrying about a big project. And, that’s EXACTLY where the learning happens.
Ask anybody that went to school what they thought of it, and you will get the same response. “It was ok, not great. But this one teacher made it all worth while.” It’s exactly that one or two teachers that you connect with that make the school experience “worth it”. When you find your mentor, go out of your way to take more classes with them. Ask them for guidance and have them critique your work HARD. Their advice will be more than worth the tuition.
Being great is only half of the equation of course. You also need people. Without people, you don’t get work or show work. Great work without people is useless. Don’t end up being a great artist in the basement. People hire or recommend, or see, or enjoy, or buy what you do. Your classmates and teachers are the usually the first contacts you have and these relationships can help you throughout your career.
Most importantly, school gives you the time you need to play and learn. You must make many many ugly things before you start making pretty ones. School gives you that time to go though that phase without the pressure to “Get A Job”. Especially for young students, school is where you make all your mistakes and find out what your strengths are.
Really Worth It????
Is it really worth all this time and money just for the piece of paper nobody will ever ask you for? Of course not. It’s all the other stuff that goes along with school that you are really paying for. In the end, you get out of school what you put in. Can you skip school and save the cash? Sure! Many successful talented people have. Can you get some of these things on your own? Yep. There are always outliers. But as a rule, If you are thinking about going to school, do it.