I didn’t study design at university – it was film and theatre for me – so I’ve always been curious about what I missed. Yesterday I tweeted a request for design graduates to summarise in 280 characters or fewer what they had learnt from their degree … and was rather taken aback by the volume of responses. Some highlights:
I learned an awful lot about the history of art and design, even more about the construction of books and how things can be produced in multiples, the value of a single line, and absolutely zilch about business. I would not change a single thing.
The relationship, value, and exploitation of the intersection between thinking and making.
That there is a hidden arrow in the FedEx logo … that's all I truly remember, which is awful. However, I think that in terms of design it just gave me the space to explore my creativity alongside fellow creatives which is priceless.
Design can’t be ‘completed’ in three years at Uni. We experimented, learnt from people willing to share. Failed, failed again & this will keep happening. Your idea is not original, it is what you do with it that brings it to life. The mac was a tool. Explore!
I learnt that becoming an illustrator requires far too much effort … and that before you're allowed to start any project you need to fill eight sketchbooks with research.
Critical thinking, how to critique your own work, understanding and implementing feedback from peers and tutors, semiotics, and always use a spraybooth if you are using SprayMount.
The importance of ideas. The role of a designer in culture / society. The ethical significance and power of design for good/ill. The techniques and tricks to grab attention, to confuse, to communicate etc. The importance of group crits and sharing. Also, Foosball.
University lacked knowledge, real life experiences and learning about potential business problems. How to go around winning new business, invoice, chasing clients, brand promotion have been things I've learnt the hard way since graduating. Seemed too relaxed.
DO NOT paint your face with cadmium red oil paint.
They taught me to learn and keep learning. To study current and past design solutions and techniques. Study the masters and what made them tick. To observe current trends. My teachers weren't extraordinary designers or business managers, but I value what they gave me in four years.
That in countries where secondary education is very STEM focussed (looking at you, Deutschland), having the time to slow-poke your way into creative thought structure at a Dutch design academy can be invaluable for the rest of your life in design and beyond. Art school basically taught me this.
How to learn. And that a career in design is about constant learning (and unlearning).
It seems to be an equal balance of lessons in the philosophical, practical, social and redundant. Pretty much in line with my own experience, just a few subjects over. Anyway, thank you to everyone who responded! The thread is still open if you want to add your own experience. Hopefully it will all be of some use to educators and prospective students wondering what they’re letting themselves in for.