Ten things they don’t teach you at University

March 11th 2010 - Design

Every now and then I meet up with old school buddies and as the night progresses we always have one of those conversations about what we didn’t learn at Uni. Sadly it seems what we were taught goes out the window soon as we enter the industry.

I started to wonder that if I knew then what I know now would I be a better designer? Or would it have prevented me from developing as a creative person? Do we need to learn in a ‘blue sky’ thinking environment even if what we are taught may never be used? I believe there is scope for certain truths to be taught to students to better equip them when they are entering the creative industry.

So with this in mind I decided to compile a list with the intention of advising students still in Uni and perhaps those who have just graduated. Hopefully it will give a bit of insight in what the real world of design can be like.

1. You probably won’t get a job at your end of year show

I’m not saying it doesn’t happen though I’ve never met anyone who has got a job from their end of year show. I feel a lot of emphasis is placed on the end of year show, almost like you’re wrapped up in cotton wool, given the impression that this show is the be all & end all. Its not.

2. You won’t get 12 weeks to do one project

The reality is in the commercial world, especially in advertising, you may only get a week to produce something. I’ve had projects where I’ve had a couple of days to produce something from start to finish. Even if you have more time to work on something chances are it won’t be the only thing you are working on. But don’t stress you do get faster over time.

3. Your qualification means nothing. Your portfolio is everything

I’ve never shown my degree certificate in an interview. I can’t even find it 🙂 Even if you haven’t got any qualifications your portfolio and experiences are the only things that will get you that first job.

4. You have no experience – work experience, work experience, work experience

Nothing opens your eyes more to what the industry is like other then work experience. And if you get along with the people enough and produce good work the chances are they may even hire you. And even if they don’t it all adds weight to your CV.

Another way of getting your foot in the door is to contact as many design agencies as possible asking if they would mind meeting you, taking a look at your portfolio and giving some advise (keyword here is advice, that gives experienced designers an ego boost and you gives you your first foot in the door).

5. Good design takes time / designers block is overcome through hard work

I remember the term ‘designers block’ used a lot when I was a student and it was usually by people who often did the same thing over and over again. So I don’t think it’s a good starting point to design something with any preconceived ideas or templates and expect your work to be stunning. Good design takes time, research and effort. Grind away and you will get there in the end.

6. Don’t take it personally

Design is subjective. Everyone has their views on what’s good or not. Though most people can agree on what’s competent design. However don’t take offence or view it as a personal attack if someone criticises your work. If you’re not sure why they don’t like it then ask them to explain in more detail. At the end of the day most creative people want to see good stuff around them and constructive criticism will help you become a better designer in the long run.

7. Creative and Technical ability are equally important.

Web designers get a lot of stick for being ‘techies’. I’ve always argued that because you can develop a site using CSS or Actionscript it doesn’t make you less of a designer. In fact I think that it makes you more. When Leonardo Da Vinci or Picasso mixed their paints and made the frames to their paintings it didn’t make them less of an artist, just more aware of the medium and visual experience as a whole.

However with that said using filters and drop shadows won’t make you a designer. Techniques should be mastered but the actual work should always be about the idea / concept. Sometimes we do get caught up in the technology and it’s important to try and bring it back the design to the core idea.

8. Do what you want to do, not what other people want you to do (this one came from Billy Hardnoyz)

It’s your career and it is in your hands. You are a professional and have a right to make decisions on your work. Of course there is a balance but then there is also integrity.

9. Confidence will get you employed

If you walk into an interview and are doubtful about your work the people who interview you will be also. They don’t know you. They don’t know if you’re having an off day or if you are generally like that. And everyone likes a person who is enthusiastic about his or her work. If you are unsure about your portfolio then change it. Get it to a place where you are proud of it and show it to as many people as possible so that you get used to talking about it.

If you don’t like your work then other people won’t like it either.

10. You never stop developing

It applies to even seasoned designers. I’ve been lucky to have worked with some amazing designers and what has often shocked me is there emphasis on learning and developing as it’s a never-ending process. Oscar Wilde said it best.

‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.’

Well I hope this helps. I would like to say it is all advice, so treat it like a plate of food, take what you like and discard the rest.

2 comments to...“Ten things they don’t teach you at University”
Avatar Bryan

Loved every single bit of it. Thank you alot ^^

While we’re discussing things related to Design – Ten things they don’t teach you at University | Design Today, I’m sure we’ve visited websites where you have to scroll horizontally. This is an absolute no-no in modern web design. A good designer will develop websites that fit on most screen sizes. The current optimized layout for websites currently is 1024 x 768 pixels.