I feel like I need to pre-face this blog post with the fact that I wasn't studying accounting or finance, law or medicine or anything like that. These lessons are probably more relatable to creative studies so keep that in mind. Straight after high school I went into a Bachelor of Multimedia Design which taught me so much, but nothing about design.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM MY 1ST DEGREE
~ You will regret signing up to 8am classes, especially if you're not planning on getting home until 3AM the night before said class.
~ Keep your degree in check. First year I didn't really even think about what I was learning or not learning from that particular degree. It wasn't until I was finishing my 2nd year and heading into my third and final year that I thought 'holy shit, you're doing to get a bachelor and have no skills in what you want to do'
~ Look at the classes that are offered in the course you're going into. To be honest if I had of known I would be mostly having to take IT, Programming and advanced Math classes I probably would have gone with a different degree to start with.
~ You can trust no one. Group assignments I am looking at you.
~ I think this degree really pushed me outside of my comfort zone intellectually. I always felt semi-confident in my abilities in design, business and marketing classes but IT, Programming and Math.... not so much. So many classes were just me or one other girl in a class full of tech guys. It really lit a fire in me that I could do this if I put in enough time to try understand it. I would definitely say that it has contributed now to me knowing that I can do anything because all I have to do is teach myself and take the time to learn. Youtube and Google and self-motivation.
So as I was about to head into my final year of Multimedia Design, my degree changed and the third year classes (that I had been looking forward to) had changed to more IT bases classes. So a month before uni was due to go back a friend (that was in the same degree) and I applied for another course at another uni. We heard we got in a week before classes started and I started a Bachelor in Design (Visual Communication). Weirdly enough, my degree ended up also changing midway through the course.
WHAT I LEARNT FROM MY 2ND DEGREE
~ Show people your god damn work. Throughout school and my first degree, I never showed anyone my work. I would work on it so much then hand it in and pretend it never happened. It wasn't until maybe 2nd year of this degree that I actually started to look forward to showing my work for feedback. It was like my whole mind-set on assignments changed. Really when you think about it, design work is so fucking subjective and your tutor is usually the one to be marking it right? So you are going to do better in those classes and on those projects if you ask their opinion and keep revising your project as you go. That way you can fix everything that's wrong with it instead of reading about it on a mark sheet once you've already handed it in. Seems obvious typing it now but I never thought about it like that previously.
~ Stand up for your work. As much as you should listen to your tutors and their opinion on your work, at the same time you will learn to stand up for your work and what is right for you. In one of my final assessment pieces my tutor couldn't understand what I was doing. There was many conversations how they thought I should do it and at the end of the day I had to just say you know what, that isn't what I am about and that isn't what I am trying to say with this project and I went along with my original plan. Their comment on my marking sheet was something along the lines of that I was right and they now saw what my vision was. I think if you're going to go against the feedback you're given or even when you're presenting your work - do it with conviction. Say why you came to these design decisions and how what you have done communicates that vision.
~ Treat your assignment briefs like they're from clients and you're your own creative studio. Again, this sounds super simple but it didn't really click with me until I started creating more personal work outside of uni. As much as I put a lot of focus on my assignments I never felt like I really made them mine. I didn't try to put my own spin on them and I was just ticking boxes. I think once my mindset shifted everything fell into place.
~ Stop trying to be so fucking perfect. There were a few tutors that I had that really had a different perspective on design that I hadn't experienced in a teacher before. They wanted something with opinion, something that was done by a human not a computer. Something that wasn't clean and vector. That approach by them definitely made an impact on me and changed my work for the better.
~ Push the boundaries. You're at university for design, you have almost complete freedom to push projects to weird places without having your client calling you freaking out.
By the time that I graduated did I know everything I needed to know about becoming a designer? No. but I think you always learn so much more by doing, failing, making mistakes and googling.
ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
Do you feel like you could have got to where you are now without study / was it worth it?
Terrible answer but yes and no. Skill wise, yes. I don't think I really learnt anything skill wise that I couldn't and didn't teach myself. I think if you are willing to put in the time, practice and research you can learn all you need to. In terms of my direction and mindset, I wouldn't be here without going down that path that I did.
What is better, University or Internships?
I never did an internship because I was already doing freelance at the time but I had a close friend who did internships throughout her degree and I think that was extremely useful and beneficial. Personally doing it all again, I would try get into a design studio just as a student or intern before studying again. I also can't speak from an employer's point of view on this.
How did you learn lettering or analogue design?
I was completely self taught on that front. When I started hand lettering there wasn't 100s of youtube tutorials or books on it so for me I learnt through practice and experimentation. To be honest, I hate watching someone else do something or reading a how-to so just figuring it out worked well for me.
Are the technical aspects of design that uni teaches you valuable?
I think it is extremely important to be educated in design as far as basic principles and how to use programs but at the same time you can research and teach yourself all that if you are motivated enough.
What didn't your degree(s) teach you?
Where do I start? Taxes, BAS, Licensing Agreements, Client Contracts, How to market yourself, How to charge for your services, How to make money as a designer/artist, What to do if a company infringes your copyright, How to be inspired without imitating, Working out what your voice is as a designer. I think different degrees teach different technical knowledge but I think the above are things they are missing out on.
Are portfolios important?
100% your work to date is important but I think we could all work on re-shaping our conceived notions of what that might be. You could say that my social media has proven to be my most useful portfolio even. I remember our final assessment at uni was creating a physical portfolio, and instead of making this expensive very formal collection of my work I made an A5 zine of my favourite work to date and even shared what I learnt from each project in the folio. You're constantly creating new work and becoming better so what is the use of having a formal portfolio that only ages once it is created?
At the end of the day, I think it is more important to be self-motivated, hard working, be able to take the initiative to learn things on your own and then ask help/opinions to learn from those around you.
If you have any other questions, leave them in the comments and I will reply there. jasmine x