Is going Design School a waste of time?

By Rachel Won / 1 October 2018 / Tags: Education

Some of my friends asked me, “Is going to design school a waste of time?” I was a bad designer when I finished my formal design education about 15 years ago. The difference in quality between my current work and what I was producing previously? Huge.

After attending many years of short and long design courses, at least, they taught me the importance of critique when it comes to learning, and for some time after graduating, I find out what are the best practices in our design industry, kept seeking the advice from better designers. Slowly, my work improved, and the learning mindset has helped along the way.

Design isn’t a dictatorship. It has to go hand in hand with the clients and the people involved in this project. Clients will sometimes push back against potential ideas, or your developers may not be able to deliver certain functions, and when they do, you can’t just believe you know best. If you think you’re always right, you’ll never listen, never improve.

Going to formal design education has its own benefits.

The History of Design

It’s the study and history of our industry’s existence. It taught me wonderful things like the Art history, better understanding on artists’ philosophy such as Piet Mondrian and concept of Minimalism, manifesto, typography in the industrial era, the Bauhaus Era, Post Modern Design, Surrealism, Pointillism, Dada, Photography, offset printing, and many more… Beautiful pieces of historic designs that are awe inspiring and are still strongly influenced by our modern world.

Without school, I would have bypassed all of this and would not have a solid understanding of our design history.

“It pays to look back into our past, see what has been done, how we evolved and influence today’s design.” Rachel Won

Dedication & Practice

Education has positive impact on me, not just the formal ones and also self-taught ones. It helped me to widen my horizon when I was in Australia. I was able to interact with overseas designers and see how they problem solve a design project. To me, going to school is just like equipped myself with the design skills and the right knowledge. However, knowing when and where to pick up the right tools, is very much depends on one self and accumulated experiences.

I love clean look and white spaces. In this information and digital age, most of my works are designed in minimalism. At its core, minimalism is the intentional bring out the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It directs the users to focus what is important.

My dedication and practice don’t stop after graduating from school, I always keep an open mind, explore with the clients on the options and ideas. Be curious why people do what they do. It can be an outdated method that they need to change or the processes can be streamlined. The best people to ask are the clients and the end users. I have learned so much from various clients, because of their wealth of knowledge, I also learned some of their trade secrets and what are things to look out for.

Keep Learning, Keep Growing
Formal design school isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a successful designer. But if it isn’t part of your path, well, having the empathy and attentive listening go a long way. I have a ex-colleague, who never had any design education but he self-learn the design theories and his works are amazing. He has eye for details and he asked the right questions. From there, he proposed design solutions for the clients. When we have the heart to learn, everything is possible.

One of my university lecturers asked,” If our right leg is 2 inches shorter than the other, what will happen to our world?” That idea really blown me away, the entire way we live, will be totally changed. Design is not just about aesthetics pleasing, it is also about functionality.

Designers have social responsibility. In my career, I’ve always tried very hard to think about the consequences and meaning behind every project I am involved in. I can always offer “green” options to my clients, offered eco papers for printing their brochures / flyers, sending out pdfs instead of printed materials to their customers. In this way, the client is doing the right thing, without even knowing it.

For young designers out there, if you would like to improve your work. Seek constructive critics, and you will see how your work improved leaps and bounds.

#EducateMyself #KeepLearning #KeepGrowing

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