How to Attend Design School, Drop Out of Design School & Not Become A Worthless, Homeless Hipster

Advice from an unschooled, balding, divorcé who might ruin your life if you actually follow the advice given. Then again, it may just make your life better?

I never went to college or to a university, hell, I never graduated from high school. I was too busy snowboarding, skateboarding or just plain being a lazy piece of shit hooking up with every girl I could along the way.

So in many respects if you are in school I have to say, “Congratulations, you’re not an asshole.” Because I certainly was and … I still am—it’s all part of my manly essence.

So now that you’re aware of my faults I want to make you aware of yours. Let’s begin with the fact that you are paying money to learn how to be a designer.

Ugh… seriously. (See, I can say that because I already told you I’m an asshole.)

I’m being smug, I know. So, let me continue to be smug and tell you how you should continue your school career.

1. Drop Out Of Design School IMMEDIATELY!

I know, you’ll actually miss out on some really great stuff like having far less talented students tell you your work sucks and doing assignments that have no real world relevance.

But seriously you will miss out on some great concepts and principles of design.

However, you know books exist because you just had to pay ungodly amounts for them at the beginning of the semester. So get on amazon and buy some awesome books on design and on typography like Type Matters! by Jim Williams.

Type Matters! by Jim Williams

Once you have some great design books in hand go to the admissions office, change your major and…

2. Get A Business Degree

I know, not the thing you were expecting me to say was it. You see, I tell you this because if you get a business degree you’ll be far ahead of the rest of us dickheads that draw pretty little pictures all day to earn money to feed our hungry-pig-mouths.

I know it’s not the fun, creative thing you were expecting to do for four years but that leads me to my next point…

3. Don’t Stop Designing

While you’re hard at work earning your business degree you should be equally as hard at work starting your business. How do I do that you ask? Well you…

4. Start Building Your Reputation

There are many ways to do this but the only advice I can give you is to watch and learn from other incredible designers out there. Below are some of the designers I’ve worked with closely and the things I’ve learned from watching them: (I’m creepy like that)

  • I’ve learned from Ben Cline how to use social media to your advantage and how it gives you a voice in the community. Communities like Twitter, Dribbble, Behance, Cargo Collective and many many more will aide you on your way.
  • I’ve learned from Claudio Guglieri how writing articles like this one help get your name out to a wider audience. It’s also really nice to share the things you’ve learned along the way so others can benefit and grow from them as well.
  • I’ve learned from Tobias van Schneider that constantly creating and posting your work on as many different networks as possible gets your work seen by more than just other designers.
  • I’ve learned from Anton Repponen that hard work and extreme attention to detail not only gains respect from your peers but also wins clients hearts.

Speaking of paying attention to details in your work the very best way to start learning details and nuances is to…

5. Get Freelance Work, Loads Of It

Shoot man, I don’t care who it’s for. It can be for your grandma’s book club so long as the work pays but most importantly your work has to be your very best, every time.

The first work I did was for a real estate company in Salt Lake City, UT and I can tell you right now… it was utter dog shit. But I got better and better by simply getting more and more freelance and working my ass off.

I like to find freelance by looking at websites of things I’m really interested in like motorcycles and then straight up cold-calling companies and asking if I can redesign their site or do an app for them.

There are awesome sites out there like the new invite only created by another awesome designer Julien Renvoye and the team there.

By doing freelance you’ll not only be learning through real world experience you’ll also be able to…

6. Build Your Portfolio & Your Client Base

As I mentioned earlier, posting your work on as many different networks as possible really does get your name and your work out to more than just other designers. Many designers I know get a lot of business inquiries from people who have seen their work on the previously mentioned design communities.

Also mentioned above is the fact that your work should be your very best every time. Don’t get lazy. Don’t settle. Don’t just hand off your PSD’s, AI files, etc. to a developer, printer, etc. and wait for the result. Be extremely involved in the whole process. Don’t be a dick about it. Simply be involved and make sure the results meet your expectations. One thing I learned from David Martin at Fi is if your expectations are not high and you can’t deliver on those expectations you won’t survive the competition and clients won’t come back.

The best advice I can offer about clients is your attitude toward clients will make or break you. You can be an amazing designer, you can have all the awards and all the best ideas but a client will still be happy to drop you on your ass if you’re a jerk to them.

Yes, clients can be tough but because you are busy getting a business degree you’ll realize pretty damn fast they are the ones feeding you. They are putting you through school and/or paying your bills. Thus, they own you.

But all that is ok because you know you’re well on your way to reaching a goal that you made back in freshman year to…

7. Create Your Own Studio

I really can’t help you with the day-to-day elements on owning and operating your own studio. But if you can make it there, you’re pretty amazing so be proud and give me some kick-backs for helping you get there.


Now if you can do all that in real life and not just dream about it…

8. You’re Never Going to Be Homeless… Asshole.

So let’s recap shall we? Here are the elements that I feel are the most important:

  • Don’t waste mom and dads money on design school.
  • Learn how to run a business from others who can teach you in school and from running your own business in the real world.
  • Continue your personal learning of design in the real world.
  • Learn to network through social media and design communities.
  • Always do your best work. Stay motivated enough to never deliver lazy, subpar results.
  • Treat your clients with respect. The community is smaller than you think so don’t be a dick.
  • Give back to the community and show others how they can benefit from your knowledge.
  • Earn your paycheck, buy food and have a roof over your head.

Added Aug. 14, 2013:

The comment was made above that designers need some kind of feedback in order to really grow. I felt this was a very important thing to address. Freelancing alone all day every day can really make you feel like you aren’t growing.

My advice to you is find a mentor. Find a designer you respect and/or really like their work and reach out. Ask for their opinions on your work. You’ll grow much faster if you’re willing to listen and actually apply the things they share with you. Don’t let your ego tell you you’re too good to be even better.

I’m always available to help out as well. You can reach out to me on twitter @brijanp.

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