What They Don’t Teach You in Design School

A lot of techniques and methods are taught in design school, but there is one important point that is lacking.

Design school changed my life. The entire way I view the world and everything in it is forever warped, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can never look at anything the same, especially not a piece of art or design work. Now, a simple beam of light coming through a window perfectly illuminating its subject before it, catches my full attention minutes at a time. I find myself consistently critiquing the typography during the opening credits of movies, and opening the menus at restaurants just to decide whether the layout and design is satisfactory to my taste. I find myself needing to document everything, even things that seem mundane, as a form of understanding process.

Despite all of the things that design school had taught me, there is one thing I’ve had to learn on my own. This one thing almost goes against everything you’re taught to do as a designer. With all of the research I’ve done, I’ve realized a myriad of recognized designers, from Marian Bantjes to Elliott Earls, have this one thing in common: if you want your work resonate with the viewer, sometimes you have to throw out all of the rules and work from the heart. This is a value, I’ve realized, that is taught to fine artists but not designers. The idea is that the technicality of the work almost doesn’t matter if you’ve poured your soul into a project. The way to effectively do this as a designer is to create designs as if it’s your own piece, as opposed to going into a project thinking of it as a piece for a client.

**One pivotal aspect of this that shouldn't be misunderstood is that this has to come after you’ve learned all of the rules. You have to know the rules in order to know when it’s okay to break them.

These designers will say over and over again, the aspect that sets their work apart from others is that they work with passion and emotion. They strive to put both of these responses into their pieces, as well as make the viewer feel both of these responses looking at it. This resonates with the viewer, and as a result they remember the piece as well as the designer. As difficult as it is to create a piece that is effective as well as passionate and emotional, this is something we should strive to do as designers, and something that should be taught in schools. At times, skill and talent does not mean anything if you can’t channel it correctly. Every designer is taught the rules of aesthetics and to pay attention to the details. The real skill is when you know how to channel it into work of your own, work that sets you apart from everyone else and is utterly and unmistakably you.

Further Reading: