Designers continue arguing about whether you should begin with applying for a degree or trying to study design on your own. Lots of designers you look up to were probably self made man, which proves that design is not that difficult. Your success in the industry depends mostly on your personal desire to learn and improve.

We don’t say that you should totally cross out school off your list. At school you’ll be following a formal curriculum (basics and principles of design, practical sessions, assignments etc.). Supposedly, studying at design school will help you lots in future. Well, supposedly. In truth lots of subjects are pointless and instead could be taken over by practical sessions. Near a half, if not more, of “essentials” taught will turn outdated. 

So what they actually don’t teach at school?


Unfortunately for all of us, degree does not equal receiving a job offer. You will attend tons of interviews and see lots HR-managers before finding a steady job. At first you will receive a lot of “thank you, but no” emails. But, it happens even to the best of us.

Why? There’s one simple reason – no experience, meaning: no skills, no portfolio, no connections. Who wants to hire an unskillful and amateurish designer? Not only would your future employers have to waste their money to teach you, there’s no guarantee you’ll stay for later.

The best solution is to begin building up your portfolio while still attending school. Doing freelance work will help you to gain needed experience and projects for your future job-seeking process.


In contrary to your parents’ opinion – school won’t teach you the skills you’ll need. Firstly, because design constantly develops and the majority of taught courses gets outdated as information losses its applicability. Secondly, it’s impossible to teach you everything. It’s a pretty common practice that a month at work gives you more than 4 years of college. Yup, and we all go through this! Don’t be afraid, just be ready for it!

Understanding your client

Another thing that’ll get you jittery is working with clients. More than once you’ll find the brief totally wrong. A newbie designer tries to complete the task as it is stated in brief, but gets surprised his designs get rejected. Why? No experience working with living and breathing clients before.

Sometimes clients don’t really know what they need and want, and yet they are writing that brief for you. You will have to read between the lines, make the client talk and tell you what they want to see. In some cases you will be the one rewriting brief. Cute, right?

Putting ideas into words

They say that if you cannot put your idea into words – it’s not an idea. Same is with your design. It’s better not to share an unfinished project with a client. Not only will client get confused by where your mind is taking you, he’ll probably not even understand what he’s seeing and get even more confused. Prior to actually designing and creating, you have to put your creativity down on paper. Make the description clear and understandable, so your client won’t freak out. 


It’s necessary to learn how to present and sell yourself to future employer. By attending every interview, you offer your skills and knowledge for sell . Be aware of your good and bad points. Don’t try to appear to be good at everything, instead fairly asses your abilities.

Archiving and collecting everything you create

How cool would it be if everything you’ve ever designed would come handy when you need it? Sounds pretty cool, right? Indeed, it’s possible if you start to store your every work in some kind of private library. That way every rejected design and school work may be put into use. Don’t waste your time and ideas – save them and give them life. It’s okay if clients reject some works – but do not delete them and diminish their value.

Nonstop learning

Technologies innovate so fast. Sometimes you think it’s unreal to keep up with their development. But do you have a say in this? Well, nope. You have to keep up. Professional designers continue to cram their way through new trends and techniques. It’s vital to know where industry is heading, what’s cool this year, how things get done etc.

Beware creative slump

Real design-projects differ a lot from your school assignments. They consume your creativity, your time and your efforts. In real life you get awfully dull clients, small budgets, unrealistic deadlines to meet and tons of other obstacles between you and finished design. It’s very easy for fresh blood to meet creative slump. It is a tough thing to overcome. Slump affects your efficiency, you start to slack off and leave your tasks for later. Do not overwork yourself, look out for signs of burning out and take breaks. Your brain needs it! No matter what your boss or client thinks.

P.S. Don’t look down on newbies! Remember how you struggled up career ladder yourself!