Back to School Advice for Design Students

I saw my first yellow bus this morning and it got me thinking about those nervous freshmen graphic design students. Here is some advice passed along to me and some I learned along the way.

  1. Don’t stop sketching. It’s a muscle you’ll want to keep healthy.
  2. The next four years are the time to experiment with your design work. Try everything. Your work will probably suck, but through experimentation and failure, you’ll begin to develop your own style and learn new problem-solving skills. Also, don’t stop experimenting.
  3. All-nighters do not make you a hero. Learn to work smarter, and use time outside of the classroom to experience college life and grow as a human.
  4. If your school has an art or design club, join it. If it doesn’t, start one.
  5. Invest in a good coffee mug or thermos.
  6. Back up your work in more ways than one:
    • Get an external hard drive and save your files.
    • Do the research. When tasked with a project, learn as much as you can about relevant history, competitors, audience, everything. This will influence your work and make it more successful and defensible.
  7. If possible, take business, marketing, or public speaking classes.
  8. Go to industry events; participate and make inroads. Get to know the folks in the business, so they’ll remember you post-graduation, and you get a better sense of who you want to work with.
  9. Absorb as much as you can beyond your art and design classes. Become a better thinker. Graphic design is about problem-solving, and the answers can come from anywhere.
  10. Reach out to professional designers and production people if you have questions. They’ve experienced it all, and what is the worst that can happen–an email not replied to or an unreturned phone call? Those things are not the end of the world.