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by Roxanne Lee September. 16, 2010 1978 views

Degree to not Degree, that is the Question
Many high school students that are interested in a graphic design career wonder if it is really necessary to attend a school and get a degree or certificate in graphic design. Do I really need one if I’m really artistic to begin with? They can be great at sketching, painting, and so on. Others might have some good experience working with software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, and so on. They think that since they understand software, and have gone through the tutorials, that they can do this graphic design thing. You might have a chance if you can piece some of these things together, and the employer isn’t at all picky. You might be able to fluke it.
But graphic design is not just about creativity and / or software. Graphic design is about visual problem solving, and meeting the needs of the client. It’s not about making something look cool, but rather to sell a product or an idea visually in a captivating way. A quality graphic design school will mold and shape you so you can do just that.

But can’t I learn this on my own?
Some people I suppose can do this. If you are disciplined enough, you can go through all of the design theory, typography and art history that you need to be able to discern a good design from a bad. Often though, it can be hard to know where to prioritize your time and efforts. A good graphic design program will have this all set out for you.

I can do that without a graphic design school or program! Is there anything else that I’d be missing?
Well, a load of potentially strong connections for one. Your classes would be filled with like-minded people that are interested in a lot of the same things as you. Most often, schools will have connections in one way or another with the industry. Some employers almost have a partnership with some of these graphic design schools.
You will most likely miss some of the teamwork aspects of things, which can be really important if you end up at a graphic design studio. Learning to work along side with others can be really important. This is most often a part of the graphic design program.
You can ask your educators or classmates questions about anything you are unsure about. You can get feedback and critiques, learn and grow a lot faster in a class environment. In a solo environment, you have no real way to measure how good or bad you are, and if you are on track or missing the mark.
Most good programs offer a work practicum, which is a great way to get your feet wet with some experience, and at the same time, potentially land you a job where you’ve been placed.
All good graphic design programs will be geared towards you building a portfolio of your work to present to employers. This will represent your best designs that you will use to sell your talents to an employer.
I can create my own portfolio. I’ve seen portfolios before.
Yup. You can create your own portfolio to be sure. You might be able to fill it with some great work, impress them with it, and get a job. At the end of the day though, the majority of employers will not even consider someone without a degree.

Hey, but if I’m good enough, that’s not fair.
Yes and no. When hiring a graphic designer, an employer wants to know that you understand the whole process of graphic design. They want to know if you will be able to work with other members of the team. They want to know that you understand design principles, typography, color, the art of selling. A graphic design degree or certificate from a recognized graphic design school and a reference from the teacher can give them peace of mind that the person that they are hiring will most likely have the foundation to do well and succeed. Hiring someone who has done all of this on their own is a big risk. They really just have to take the word of the person being interviewed, and most employers don’t want to take a leap of faith like that.

In Summary
There are some people that have done everything on their own, fluked it, and have landed a job. But for most people, attending a school and earning a graphic design degree is the only way to go. A good graphic design program ensures that you are getting a strong base in what you need to do well as a graphic designer. It will give you connections, friends who are into the same kind of things and help direct you and guide you with your portfolio. It will give you a diploma that gives employers a clear sign that you have the foundation and knowledge to go and do your job, and do it well.

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