Last updated on January 20th, 2023
While conversing with a successful graphic designer about starting a career in this field, we often ask about the need for higher education. Not everyone answers in the affirmative. Does education give you an advantage in your work? Should designers have degrees in philosophy and sociology? Do employers look at a candidate’s graphic design diploma? Is it not too much to study for four years? These questions arise when discussing the need for graphic design education in building a successful career. There are some myths associated with graphic design education. This article aims at discussing those myths to know the truth.
Value Of Graphic Design Education
Graphic design as a profession is gaining popularity with each passing day. It is because the services of graphic designers are central to developing a brand’s identity and promotional activities. But experience will not help in this field unless you have a solid educational foundation, preferably a university degree in graphic design.
Graphic design as an industry began to develop in the 19th century in Great Britain and the United States. The first educational programs for graphic designers started there. And today, the two nations are home to the top universities for graphic design education.
Indeed, mastering advanced design methods, internships in foreign companies, participation in significant events, and professional and friendly connections formed during graphic design education help build an international career many graphic designers aim at.
But even when you cannot access renowned universities for graphic design, courses and sites, such as StuDocu, significantly help with high-quality study materials for different universities. Thanks to it, you are no longer restricted to a particular country or university to get an education.
Unfortunately, even in 2022, some myths about graphic design education continue to rule.
Here Are The Top Myths And The Truth About Graphic Design Education
Myth 1: Higher graphic design education is too time-consuming — graphic design courses can be completed much faster
Indeed, a bachelor’s degree takes four years, while a design course can be completed in a year or two. However, the goals of these education formats are different.
The courses usually teach technical skills and tools. For example, graphic designers are taught to work in Photoshop, Illustrator, and Figma, create a portfolio, understand branding, and create a brand identity.
The Aim Of The Graphic Designer Higher Education Is:
- To give comprehensive knowledge not only in narrowly focused subjects but also in related disciplines.
- To immerse students in an environment and professional community.
- Teach how to learn: To understand theory and graphic design tools so that students can effectively do it on their own and after university.
- Give in-depth technical knowledge: Technologies, regulations, and state standards.
Imagine that you are going on vacation to France for two weeks. Knowing three words in French would be enough: “hello,” “thank you,” and “goodbye.” You can learn them in three minutes. But what if you are moving to France to live? You need to master the language to adapt more easily and quickly to the new environment. It takes more time.
Similarly, higher education in graphic design gives you a professional language you can speak fluently forever. Higher graphic design education teaches students where to look for information and process it so they can continue to learn the specialty independently. This is one of the critical skills – it will help a designer adapt to a constantly changing environment.
“If we could transport a designer from 30 years ago to the present, what would they make of UX design, coding, and the online world? They’d find it bewildering. Well, 30 years from now, it will be the same [challenge]. If you think you might be working as a designer three decades from now, get used to a constant regime of self-learning.” – Adrian Shaughnessy, co-founder of Unit Editions, a British publisher that publishes books for designers
Myth 2: A designer does not require education in philosophy, sociology, economics, and psychology
It is a myth that graphic designers do not need education in other fields. The reality is that designing is a multidisciplinary field. To design, for example, a cafe interior, the designer needs to understand who will come there: what kind of habits these people have, their income, their cultural and historical background, what is convenient for them, and what is not. It’s one thing to create the interior of a family-run pizzeria, another thing to create a luxury restaurant.
It’s not just about interior design. Any product that a designer creates: a magazine, a website, a logo, an NFT, or a mobile app, is always focused on the person who will be using it. Without the human knowledge that the humanities provide, it is not easy to design this product with quality.
For example, many students are skeptical of philosophy. When the lecturer just tells them that philosophy is helpful in life and creativity, they won’t believe it. They need inner motivation. And it appears in people who have already faced a creative or existential crisis.
Philosophy is a way of independent thinking, a departure from stereotypes and templates. It is a bold and even daring way.
It is difficult for those students who take this path. Each of them needs to know himself and understand his motivations, desires, and abilities. This requires a classical education, not a real one. You learn a lot by doing something with your hands. But without a deep understanding of what and why you are doing and on what basis you are standing, you will not be able to create something interesting, new, and fresh.
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Myth 3: The employer does not care if the graphic designer has a degree or not
According to Harvard Business Review:
- 87% of employers look at a candidate’s degree specialization and check it against the job opening.
- 78% of companies will hire a job seeker with no degree but the necessary experience.
However, getting a managerial position without a diploma in state-owned companies is impossible.
The most valuable thing that the university gives, in addition to knowledge – is the development of communication skills: the ability to make acquaintances, present themselves and solve problems differently. Students do not always realize that what matters is not grades but the community around them – other students, teachers, and industry representatives. Higher graphic design education today is not just about the diploma. It’s about networking.
Employers do not want to see those who have only received theoretical knowledge in graphic design but those who have developed some practical and flexible skills. There are many answers to the question of where to get graphic design experience. One of them is internships.
Myth 4: Universities can’t keep up with the latest tools, and they’re taught by people who haven’t practiced for a long time
Yes, it is right that not many universities have yet come close to the ideal educational scheme where students can get theoretical knowledge and an opportunity to practice. At some universities, practice is still limited to academic projects that have nothing to do with the real-world tasks that a graduate will face at their first job.
But the situation is changing steadily. Major universities are opening career development centers that organize internships for students in large companies and help graduates with job placement.
Good universities offer a balance of theoretical and practical teachers. This is a must.
Practitioners share the most relevant information with students. The theorists who teach the history of design or typography are also not out of context. They participate in conferences where current issues are discussed. Moreover, such teachers can project trends. Design is constantly evolving, changing, and if you study its history, you can understand what it will become in the future. Not every practitioner can do that.
There are university lecture halls where famous architects, designers, art critics, illustrators, photographers, and business people are invited to. They share with students everything new and vital.
In many higher educational institutions, students work with real cases and briefs. They learn how to act in a team. They divide roles, and get an expert opinion from a teacher or a company that gave a task. This is how graphic design education offers a combination of knowledge and experience.
Myth 5: Design can’t be taught at all: you either have talent or you don’t
Graphic design is a vast field, and each design is different. Therefore, the level of talent required to create design also varies. So, an illustrator should be able to draw to be a successful artist. But a UX designer can succeed without artistic talent, as his “talent” is analytical thinking.
Motivation and experience are the two factors that make an excellent graphic designer. Of course, a certain amount of talent probably plays a part, too. But if a person doesn’t have a formal education in graphic design, he can still be a great graphic designer if he is willing to learn and practice. That person can still be a successful artist by knowing how to draw hair, face, hands, eyes, and other human organs.
In the days of Steve Jobs, Apple invented the slogan “Think different’’, which is the basis for graphic designers. The deeper you can think differently, the better your chances of succeeding in the profession.
If you decide to get higher education in design, choose universities in Italy, the USA, the UK, Germany, and Finland. The top universities are easy to google, and everything depends on your financial capabilities. You can also study at a good university for free, for example, in the Czech Republic, Germany, or Austria. True, to do this, you will need to pass the exam for the relevant language, so it is worth starting to prepare at least a year in advance.