Do Designers need College to become Professional?

diy professional, self taught, graphic design, education, tutorials, illustration

No. It’s that simple.

But there are a few caveats, so stick around if you want to fully understand why, or you can leave because you have your answer.

Yes, you can hop into a local college or trade school and learn design. I’m not going to make this article an entire exposè on the vast ocean of crappy schools with great marketing, targeting naive folks with flashy buzz words and promises of guaranteed fame, fortune and success… “Dolla Dolla Bills Y’all!”. There are a multitude of articles and podcasts about shitty schooling experiences but that is not what this article is attempting to spell out. I’m not going to tell you how great some of them are and pitch to you why you need to go there, spend your limited funding and later, go cash an affiliate check. This is just an article to help you make educated decisions on what path options you do have and DIY education is, one of them.

DIY Education isn’t for the faint of heart. here’s a quick list to help organize your mind and check if you have what it takes. (grain of salt here, folks!)

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      • Honesty: Can you evaluate yourself truthfully for your behavioral traits good and bad? It’s important because to fix errors in your path to education you have to be able to critique your work and performance critically and objectively. If you’re unable to face the fact that you’re not a special case and not get high of your own fumes then we’re all the better for it. You have to be able to accept the truth and that can only be done by being honest with yourself.


      • Resilience: Are you capable of working without knowing you’ll have guaranteed success at the end of it all? Can you take critique from the client that thinks your first idea looks like that of a child that just got of the merry-go-round from the local carnival and purged their breakfast’s ham and egg omelet topped with the pillow case sized bag of cotton candy all over the diamond plated walk way? What about being able to fail at a specific idea or method, repeatedly? You have to be able to roll with these punch’s day in and out.


      • Self Criticism: Yes, you have to be capable of judging yourself as if from another persons perspective. This will really come into play when you go the self taught path of becoming a professional designer. But the snag here is, that if you’re self taught, you’ll have moments that classmates or teachers aren’t over the shoulder to have a second look at your piece (isn’t 100% of the time that you won’t have someone to help). You’ll have to be able to identify the signs and correct them without others help. This is the essence of self critique.


      • Consistency: This is a path that absolutely requires you to show up and show up with routine. Most folks think, “OMG Lyke, I can so do stuff whenever I want so yeah, let’s get faded. YOLO!” This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’re going to, at some point, be the person invoicing, networking, answer calls, emails, and doing the work involved to boot! This means that you need to be able to eat a consistent diet of knowledge and practice, practice, practice. Not just be “in the mood” to work tutorials and self taught classes online, thinking your the special case that was gifted infinite knowledge from the universe and can do anything great the first time.


      • Determination: The Urban Dictionary defines determination as “The ability to put the team on your back and not let anything get in your way.” but that isn’t the determination we’re talking about. We’re talking being able to stick it through when you’re chips are down. This is probably one of the greatest reasons most folks fail at anything, not just designers and artists. Are you one of the folks that walks out of a room after at the first sign of debate or the smell of last nights burrito that you shared with your girlfriend. Yeah, you dropped a heater on her and laughed about it but now the game has evolved into a hot one and now its her turn. She covertly blasts a full fledged attack from under the covers but you roll-out and away waving your hands across your nose with disgust, at first sign of serious challenge. Or, do you stick it out and grade the damn thing? That’s shear determination.


Now, these few items are just to get you started in figuring out if the DIY education path to become a professional is right for you. And really, no matter if it’s through a school or through the self taught path, you’ll need these behavioral and work ethic traits to make any head-way in either path you choose. There are a multitude of con’s to the journey and there can be many rewards. You might end up with terrible teachers and pay a hefty price to learn next to nothing. On the other hand, you have to then do it all yourself anyways but now, with a decent hit to your wallet. There are also many parallels to the self taught path to the in-school way; at times the paths intersect.

I’m not hear to paint a picture that the self taught path is a rock stars journey, because it’s not. (Although some can get lucky) It’s a path of hard learning (for some) but a true journey into one’s self. You really get to know who you are and depending on your support system, it can be easy going or extremely stressful. This is also just a brief list of essential traits you should look seriously at before you go leaping into the self taught path being your greater focus. But I like to put it this way, it won’t cost you much to get started on the self taught path and at any point, school can continue to be an option should you reach an obstacle you can’t surmount. But one thing is true, get started now because the furthest part of any journey is the first step.

Comments (1)

Most def!!! great article!!

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