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How Education Can Support Your Design Career

By: Jordan Krueger

Graphic and web design is a unique industry and career choice because it is filled with do-it-yourself lone wolves who learned everything through self-motivated research and perhaps a little help from their peers and contemporaries. There are a good amount of designers who never needed to take a design course and never will. However, for those still getting their feet wet in the world of graphic design, I strongly recommend considering taking at least a few courses to get your bearings.

Education, A Great Investment

When you first embark upon your career in designing, you will likely want to get a new mobile notebook, new design software, new artist's tablet, new printer, and new scanner. All of this can set you back thousands of dollars, and there is no guarantee that you will need all this equipment (depending on your preferred design method) or that you will even ultimately stay with design. Sure you can also research specific design methods that interest you, but this will take inordinate amounts of time and you still might not receive the proper guidance to suit your design sensibilities. Instead, I recommend putting more of your time and money into design education. This could help in a variety of ways:

  • Provides guidance and reveals options. Researching design by yourself can often be tedious and unfruitful because you will find that you have such a limited idea of what graphic design is that your research will be highly limited. You will feel like you are missing key components and techniques, but it could take days, weeks, or even months to realize what these are. A good design class will save you the time and hassle by teaching you from the ground up. You will understand different techniques and when to use them so much better with this type of educational support.
  • Gives you an idea of which equipment is most vital. Rather than overspending on a bunch of gear and software that may not be suited for your design techniques, taking a variety of graphic design courses will allow you to experiment with different pieces of design equipment to see which techniques and equipment are suited for you.
  • Qualifies you for discounts on design equipment. For most design equipment vendors, you only need to be enrolled in one class at a higher institute of learning to qualify for a variety of discounts on both design hardware and software. These discounts can cut prices by as much as half. While it seems counterintuitive to pay for courses to qualify for discounts, consider that you may save on equipment more than you actually spend on classes, depending on the price of the institution.
  • Builds your portfolio. While you can always build your portfolio through contracted design work, you are always delivering to the expectations and standards of your clients, not yourself. Having a few self-conceptualized projects will add variety to your portfolio and show your design personality.
  • Networks you with people in the design field. The networking power of the design instructor alone is usually enough to warrant taking a class. In addition, you may also meet plenty of other designers to share design styles and techniques as well as projects and clients.
  • Networks you with clients and employers. While you may have to do a little work and a bit of searching to find clients and employing design firms, a good design program can aid you in finding both. Obviously you would receive more help from a tight-knit 2-4 year program than from a couple community college courses, but never underestimate the networking power of learning institutions.
  • Qualifies you for work or student visas. Have a love for traveling and enough money to support it? Taking design classes abroad can prove to be a worthwhile experience with a student visa. And once you earn a design degree, you can qualify for a work visa in various countries including Japan, the UK, and the US.

With all of these possible benefits possible from simply attending a few design courses, you should really consider whether an education in design could help your career. You don't necessarily have to pay a lot or even take courses from an accredited university (there are many noteworthy unaccredited private institutes but keep in mind they won't get you a degree); with all of these options available, you owe it to yourself to do a little research and see whether some classes could help support your design career.