What Grinds My Gears: Design School Braggers

Curator: Robynne Raye
date: June 10, 2013
Categories: Design for Entertaining
Tags:
Illustration by Sam Maxwell (who attends Cornish College of the Arts, the number one school in the universe)

I don’t really care where you went to school; let’s see your portfolio. A college or university may have a lot to offer, but it doesn’t make the designer. And spending your summers in Italy for “professional development” with the celebrity designer-du-jour does not make you more talented than the next (but let’s at least hope you drank a bunch of good vino). 

So if it’s the first thing you tell me in order to get your foot in the door, then you may as well turn around and march your ass back out. The only people who care if you went to RISD are…other people who went to RISD. 

  • http://nomayo.mu.nu Anonymous

    As a designer who has been working for 20+ years with degree in Journalism I have to agree 100%.

  • Michelle

    I don’t think a single potential client ever asked where I went to school, or if I had a design degree. Ever.

  • Info

    Exactly!

  • Brian Piper

    I share this opinion whole-effin-heartedly Robynne! Thanks for sharing this universal truth :)

  • bdunham

    Beautifully said!

  • Alison L, USA

    Sounds bitter. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/illegalkral Yasin Erkan
  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.huaranga Laura M Huaranga Tuesta

    I would be careful to let our biases get in the way of evaluating someone’s potential. I would also be wary of disregarding the power that education could have on someone’s life. If you pursued a specific degree, regardless of where you went—I want to know why. If you weren’t able to finish school, I want to know about your interruptions. If you did not pursue a bachelors or associate degree, what has been your process for self instruction? These are questions you want to be thinking about. Everyone is struggling to achieve their dreams in the best way they can, and I believe this struggle can be indicative of a person’s character and drive. I find it logical for anyone that has worked through any challenging experience (an academic program, internship, etc) to want to lead a job application by alluding to these accomplishments. 

    After having evaluated and read many applications myself, I acknowledge the problem lies wherein misplaced pride leads to entitlement—but I think this is referring to a very small minority of people.

    To everyone reading this, I challenge you to think about the way you are treating potential colleagues, and everyone else in your professional, and even personal life. Are you coming from a place of judgment, a place of wanting to put others below you—or are you coming from a place of openness, a place of security in yourself and your own story & process. To all of you, especially the recent grads and all young aspiring designers: do not compare yourself against others. This will prompt you to take a stance of either false superiority or false inferiority. Measure you against yourself instead. Only then will you be able to gauge your own progress and incremental success.

  • Brian Pirman

    Very well said.  Check your ego and sense of entitlement at the door.  As an educator the sense of entitlement goes beyond a very small minority – it is running rampant in recent, current and future graduates.

  • SirPoopsAlot

    I agree – can’t tell you money MICA students I’ve had simply couldn’t function in an office environment

  • http://about.me/jaynawallace jaynawallace

    Can we take this a step further and say “I don’t care IF you went to design school?” If it’s your portfolio (and subsequent experience) that really matters, then make that be what matters. Holding a degree, design or otherwise, doesn’t make you a good designer. It just means you were afforded the opportunity to go to college, and you figured out how to graduate.

  • Kristin(e)

    Very well said – Education can be very important and though which school you attend doesn’t matter it does matter what you make of your education and/or the lessons you have learned. An artist is an artist, a designer a designer – it is an internal need to create and do something with it. For me personally I feel better learning in a school format but it is not something that defines me.

  • Jack Blue

    I agree with the outlook on school and that it does not guarantee you are a good designer but at the same time I think we need to be carful because whoever wrote this comes across like they are too good for school. Like as if saying where you went to school is now the uncool thing to do. If I was hiring a new designer the school they went to would not matter much but the fact they actually went to school would. I think you learn a ton of good life lessons and most important you often learn the ability to problem solve in school and that accounts for something.

  • Manuel

    I agree, it sounds bitter. School actually should make you a designer, or give you the foundation to becoming one. And good programs do that. But the purpose of education isn’t to train you to work in an office. Its purpose is to provide a framework in which to learn how to think and to make. Of course students coming right of school can’t function in an office — they’ve probably never worked in one.

  • Kevin Paolozzi

    This post is nonsense. While a designer’s portfolio is the true measure of his or her worth, completely disregarding the importance of an institution’s ability to form an intellectual signature is an ignorant move. Graphic design isn’t only about pushing pixels — it is also about having a high level of cognition, which most often, is shaped by an individual’s educational experience. That’s why you can pinpoint the differences between work coming out of Yale, RISD, Cranbrook, MICA, SVA, etc — there is discourse driving the design methodology, and that drastically alters how a designer approaches design practice. The aforementioned schools are top-tier for a reason: because they produce excellent thinkers, and consequently, practitioners. Naturally, this is not an “all or nothing” way of determining talent, but it _is_ a factor that should not be ignored.

  • harry ardon

    I’ve been working as a designer in the creative field for over 10 years and yes my degree has opened up doors that would’ve been locked if I didn’t have a degree. I didn’t go to some fancy school but I did go to a school that taught me the basics of advertising design. Than I went back to school to get a second degree in digital media and website design, that opened up more doors. Education and experience is the why to get ahead in our field. I hire designers and I do look at where they went to school if they are a young designer. Go look at designer’s portfolio with a degree and than look at designers without a degree – you will see a different level of design quality. The ones without a degree are designing for “eye-candy” – aka pushing pixels. The ones with a degree are designing with logic – aka the user experience.

    Keep that mind when writing on this subject or at least be a journalist and go interview different designers – aka go do your research first. 

  • Bubbles

    Thanks for all the comments. Just to clarify, I never said education wasn’t important. But some of the worst work I’ve seen in recent memory has come out of some of the “elite” design schools. While I believe education is important in setting a design foundation, I believe the designer should lead with their work, and not their academic accomplishments. (and by the way, I would never call myself a journalist. I like being a designer too much.)

  • CentralPA

    I work in the Harrisburg, PA, area, and sadly, many of the local agencies here really do their initial screenings based on what school the candidate attended. Then, their second criteria is often if the candidate has been an ‘agency’ or ‘corporate’ designer. And if you’ve been a corporate designer in the recent past, you can pretty much forget joining their agency world. (You are considered not well-rounded or an out-of-the-box thinker.) And both of these judgments come before ever seeing a portfolio, which is very sad. I’ve been lucky, and have crossed the agency/corporate line with some success, but I have spoken with agency heads who agree that they do “profile” in this manner.

  • Marie Doucette

    And the only people who complain about people who went to RISD are….the people who didn’t get in. There’s a lot of bias against our community. I’ve had SVA grads tell me they were so in interviews, and admit they pulled me in just to see my book to check out the competition. Now that’s insecurity. It’s there on my resume, and I just want to talk about my work. Trust me, it’s not me doing the arrogant bragging routine. I’ve had Art Directors admit they won’t hire RISD, only SVA grads.

  • Not a RISD grad

    While I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that the work is more important than your alma mater, your wording of “just show me your portfolio” leaves out a major factor in designer recruitment: personality. You can have great work, and be a downright terrible person and awful colleague. If you have the choice between Mr. Young Gunz #1 with a million dribbble followers who thinks their rear end smells like Gardenias, and someone with a slightly less than spectacular portfolio but a great attitude and willingness to grow and work together with their team and superiors, who are you choosing?

    This discussion has veered towards comparing college-educated vs. self-educated, a silly argument. It doesn’t matter what institution you attended, you had the advantage of mentorship, critique, and collaboration for 4 or so years to build your skills. I’ll take that over some hack teaching himself adobe software alone in his basement any day.

  • Bubbles

    Good point about personality coming in ahead of the book. I think anyone is capable of doing great work if they want it bad enough.

  • DOLRUSS

    It’s nice to have that art school “label” but if you can’t produce, what good is it? What did you learn at that institution? If you can’t THINK, then you may as well become a WalMart greeter. And on the subject -  if you can’t draw, take some drawing classes ASAP. I live next to Disney – if you can’t draw, forget it. And I”m not talking cutesy Mickey Mouse either. Animation Studios want to see REAL drawing – not just nudes, cartoons, video characters. They want to see what you KNOW. There’s a lot to be said for the artistic mind and psyche . Journalists we aren’t.

  • DOLRUSS

    It’s nice to have that art school “label” but if you can’t produce, what good is it? What did you learn at that institution? If you can’t THINK, then you may as well become a WalMart greeter. And on the subject -  if you can’t draw, take some drawing classes ASAP. I live next to Disney – if you can’t draw, forget it. And I”m not talking cutesy Mickey Mouse either. Animation Studios want to see REAL drawing – not just nudes, cartoons, video characters. They want to see what you KNOW. There’s a lot to be said for the artistic mind and psyche . Journalists we aren’t.

  • DOLRUSS

    It’s nice to have that art school “label” but if you can’t produce, what good is it? What did you learn at that institution? If you can’t THINK, then you may as well become a WalMart greeter. And on the subject -  if you can’t draw, take some drawing classes ASAP. I live next to Disney – if you can’t draw, forget it. And I”m not talking cutesy Mickey Mouse either. Animation Studios want to see REAL drawing – not just nudes, cartoons, video characters. They want to see what you KNOW. There’s a lot to be said for the artistic mind and psyche . Journalists we aren’t.

  • Photographysnap

    Well done Laura. Thank you. 

  • Photographysnap

    Well done Laura. Thank you. 

  • Photographysnap

    Well done Laura. Thank you. 

  • Anonymous

    The bigger issue is with Metropolitan areas within design. In NYC if you didn’t go to SVA, RISD, Parsons, Yale you literally have no chance of finding a start in design. It’s an elitist clique that has forced me into advertising. I would have loved to be considered at some of the big design firms, but the creative directors weren’t my instructors. That’s what gives SVA Designer as Author value, most are provided with doors that are there purely from the instructors.   

  • Anonymous

    Exactly what I run into. It’s sad. I didn’t go to any of those schools and I have no chance. Its discouraging. 

  • Anonymous

    This is a discussion that needs to happen, thanks for bringing it to light. On the other end some blame has to go to the art directors that have their preferences. 

  • http://www.lme.com.tr/ Demir Fiyat

    Engrossing..

  • http://www.konyawebtasarimi.net konya web tasarım

    Great Post ! Thank you for sharing

  • http://www.pepeeizleyin.com Pepe

    And good programs do that. But the purpose of education isn’t to train you to work in an office?

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