I always believed that the 'School of Life' (as written by Saatchi & Saatchi art director Paul Arden in his book 'It's not how good you are it's how good you want to be') promised so much more than formal education. Starting my career as a designer at 20, from mac operating up to an mid-weight designer I found myself leaps and bounds ahead of older designers that had undertaken university level education.
However 5+ years into my career and several things seem to be missing.
• A well rounded knowledge of art + design movements/theory
• The creative discipline learnt through formal education rather than in the working world where clients want solutions NOW, no matter how terrible.
• In Australia, it does not seem to matter much, but internationally (currently working in Canada), not having university level education seems to be a huge disadvantage. No matter how creative you are, people that have undertaken formal study will be given more favor.
• The initial love for design seems replaced by apathy as one never got to explore with paying work, hence you need your own projects to keep you passionate.. But when do you ever have the time?
This leads me to believe that a formal education ALONG with working experience seems to be the best idea, which is why I have decided to enroll in university next year.
If anyone has any suggestions for Melbourne universities, to become more creative and also future proof against a stale creative career, let me know!
I've experienced two types of design education - a year 13 course, and now a University course. While both these courses have taught me skills, I believe these skills are things I could have taught myself - either through trial and error or through reading books and tutorials. I'm not the only Uni student to say that either - most of my peers feel the same way.
What I feel I'm gaining from the course, and what I'm essentially paying for, is the chance to be around so many like-minded people who also share a passion for design. I'm there to hear new ideas and nut out the philosophy of design and to be involved in up-and-coming design movements. I'm not there to be taught how to use paragraph styles in InDesign - I don't need four lessons on that, I need an afternoon and a few tutorials, then some trial and error.
So far I've noticed my course is teaching me what can happen in the corporate world of design if everything is simple and runs smoothly - but I'd venture to say that things very rarely run simply and smoothly. We're still very much babied and not prepared for what may come - besides having to fork out a heap of money. We know that's going to happen, and already is.
That's why I'm trying my hardest to put myself out there and into situations that are more like that of the 'real world', trying different things and experiencing what it's like working with all sorts of people with all sorts of ideas. And I'm learning practical things along the way... like SAVE A VERSION OF IT THAT ISN'T OUTLINED, GODDAMNIT.
Personally I don't think anything can replace a university degree. But not so much for the actual course content, I think it's more about the knowledge and skills you develop as you acquire the course knowledge that makes the biggest impact.
I spent a relatively long time at university (7 years) and I'm also midway through a Masters degree I have no immediate plans to complete. Having said that, I'm not even working in the same industry that I originally trained in. I'm actually working in a job that doesn't even require any formal training.
When I first graduated and started teaching, I can honestly admit I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn't so much the content that was the problem. The problem was struggling with the reality of working from 7am until after midnight (first year teachers always work insane hours), staying on top of all of my administrative responsibilities, getting my head around my professional relationships and also remembering to care for my body in terms of remembering to eat, sleep and exercise. Those are the things that you don't get taught in university/ TAFE/ school but, eventually do come with experience.
However, the things that I noticed working alongside industry trained teachers (teachers who may have been chefs for 10 years and then spend 9 months training in teacher training) and in teaching nationally certified subjects (TAFE subjects such as Certificate 2, 3 & 4 in IT) was that my university course prepared me in ways that were different to industry training did for my peers and students. The core differences were in my preparation, research, writing and evaluation skills.
The skills I developed in learning to meet deadlines, working in a team and delivering content that was well researched and then consequently being able to evaluate my progress, were all skills that I wasn't specifically taught, but were a by-product of having spent an insane amount of time at university.
Those skills I developed at uni weren't necessary for my current position - but I have no doubt that my ability to write press releases or business plans without any business or media training has been enhanced by the amount of time I studying at university.
I should also add that all of this relates to my own experiences working in education and business/ fashion. Someone who wants to work in design and specialise in photo retouching is probably not going to need a fine arts degree. However, I know from living and working with a designer who is university trained, is that it does add an extra dimension to a design project when we actually do run the risk of working together. When I ask for advice about a design reference to a specific era, or about an artist or about colour theory I know he's not referring a magazine article, it comes from a solid knowledge base.
i think people without qualifications think Uni is only for academic minded smarty pants who read alot - so when they succeed without any they let everyone know . in the past it was possible to almost do a design or printing 'trade'.
i think not doing a course is almost a thing of the past too.
You can fumble your way through technical stuff, applications etc on the job, via tutorials or whatever floats your boat, and you can gain invaluable skills working. However, you will not learn theoretical, psychological and historical sides of design which are vital.
p.s. Since I don't live in Melb, I can't recommend anywhere to study there.
Obviously, in a sub-conscious manner we're all trying to self-justify our own journey through our opinion. (Note: There's nothing wrong with this).
- I am a design studio owner + creative director.
- 29 yrs/old
- employ 30
- entirely creatively self-taught with no design qualifications
- studied engineering, and have Honours in commerce accounting + info systems.
- Have tutored many classes in Sydney uni
The driving factors in my approach to career and life:
While you're in the corporate world, at the end of the day, you're just a cog in the big machine.
While everyone is different, I truly believe that the only way to be truly happy professionally + in life, is to be your own man/woman. As creatives, we have so much MORE opportunity to do this than in other industries, where your skill must be tied to a larger company.
Creatives should be educated and skilled to be better business people. At the end of the day, 99% of the time, we are creative to help marketers sell stuff. Creatives need to better learn to sell themselves, so they give themselves the best opportunity to show their true colours, doing the work they want to do. Creatives need to get how their best skills can best help society.
We learn best through failure. The only way to fail, is to get out of the classroom and have the balls to go exploring in life.
I spent six years prior to enrolling in Uni this year doing design myself. I felt my work was good enough but no one took me since 1. jobs were in small numbers 2. people who got the jobs were more qualified and had an educational background. So that, for one, is a benefit.
Another benefit I found being at school is that I've pushed myself much more than I would have on my own. My teachers, being pretty awesome, actually look at you and say "is this good enough for you? Can you do better? Can you actually pull out what you imagine?" And I've done the best work I've ever done in the last six months, my first semester at school, than I have in the last six years.
So I don't think it's so much about what you know. Knowledge can be acquired whether you're sitting in a building with fourteen other people and someone is there telling you, or it can be acquired by reading it yourself, or putting yourself in an experiences that forces you to learn. I spent six years until I got to this point, and I am very much all for the idea of being self taught. I would have kept going if I could but I think life was just calling for me to be here and it feels really good.
I think it's about experience- whether you're in school or out, and what you allow yourself to accomplish. People go to school, get given an assigment and do what they think they can do. But if you sit down and seriously challenge yourself then you could accomplish heights you never thought you could, and I'm not sure just doing that in your own space on your own would allow you to do that. Especially if you don't have the support network- such as other students and teachers- there telling you to push yourself, and giving you avenues where you can find the practice and information you need.
Most of the high paying jobs here in our location requires a college education, but enterprising people would do well in business even without a university degree so it really depends on the person. In my case I got into my field of work through my college education but learned a lot from my work experience that brought me to better positions in the company I worked for.