Photo by Jeff Sheldon via Unsplash

8 things I learned in Art School that changed my life.

Choosing to go to Art school was one of the most defining moments in my life. For those of you who didn’t go to Art school, I have to tell you it’s definitely not what you expect! It certainly wasn’t what I expected.

Growing up, art was never one of those things that was highly praised in school. In fact, you’d probably go to detention for doodling in class instead of being told how beautiful your doodles were. Being an artistic kid meant almost nothing next to the math whiz and doctors-to-be.

I went to a high school where you’d ace Art class if you could put pen to paper and draw a straight line.

As you can imagine, my choice to go to art school didn’t generate the most positive of impressions amongst my peers — especially given that I decided to ditch my pursuit of medicine 2 months in to “Pre-med,” for this “not-a-real-career” path called Art.

But, it turned out to be the best decision I ever made!

Studying graphic design was a far more rigorous experience than I’d ever imagined it to be. It wasn’t short of sleepless nights and stress dreams. But, an education in the arts also turned out to be the best kind of education I could have received. So much that I learned in my 4 years at art school has not only translated to my professional life, but to the ways in which I approach so many other things as well.

Here are some of the many lessons I learned —

1. Beautiful is not a bad word

I’ll never forget the day I walked into my Graphic Design 1 class, and my professor uttered these words. In a world that’s constantly moving so quickly, where we often forget to stop and look up from phones and laptops, this is one of the most important lessons I will ever have learned.

We’re always looking for “meaning,” for the next “big thing,” for “perfection.” And our society’s become a little robotic.

It was a nice reminder that there is something meaningful in simply appreciating something for it’s inherent beauty — be that a pencil sketch, or a leaf on the ground.

Creating “smart” solutions is not predicated on the non-existence of beauty. Aesthetics matter — Sometimes it even works hand in hand with function. But, at the end of the day we are all naturally attracted to the things we find beautiful.


2. Passion, First!

I was always told I’d make a great doctor — that if I studied hard, and spent my time with my head in the books, I’d save lots of lives and make lots of money.

It was my mother who opened my eyes to my passion for creativity, and I’m sure as hell glad she did!

Taking the “road less traveled” has resulted in a life I am truly proud of. Design is what I do best, and what I enjoy most. There is something to be said for pursuing your passion regardless of “popular opinion.”

Design school taught me that an all-nighter spent doing something I love was far better than one doing something I didn’t really like at all.

If there’s something you love, and you do it well. Do it all the time.

3. People matter

Design is an empathetic art. It may go without saying but you can’t design for people if you don’t understand them.

Going to art school taught me empathy, and it has not only resulted in a better and stronger ability to communicate my ideas. It has also strengthened my relationships with the people around me.

Design teaches you to work from the inside out. I learned that my “gut-feeling” does matter.

4. You’re never too old to play

We grow up, and grow out of the idea of “play.” When I was a little girl, I believed I could be batman, or superman. I thought one day I’d find a way to fly myself to another galaxy. I wanted to build castles and rule the world.

As we get older, “reality” sets in and we forget the possibilities we once believed in.

Part of an education in art and design is learning that no idea is a bad idea. I was re-taught that there are no limitations to human imagination — that play was the best way to find solutions.

I learned again that anything really is possible — From 60+ hours of sleepless work marathons to coming up with a thousands of ideas out of thin air.

Can’t is not a word they let you use very often. It’s all about figuring out ways to bring any idea you have to fruition — by pushing yourself, learning more, creating more, making more and BEING more.

Play allows for us to surprise ourselves, and learn a little more about everything, every day.

5. Every experience counts

I had a science professor (yes, we have science classes in art school too!), who traveled to Antarctica for Geological Field Research. I had a design professor who had been to Sri Lanka and told us stories of her experiences with children in villages there.

I also had professors who showed us artifacts from their travels to Amsterdam, and Italy. My college mentor recently even traveled to Thailand in search of his ancestral heritage.

The practice of art and design requires inspiration, but more importantly it requires a thirst for knowledge and experiences — for learning about the world and being more connected to not just one thing, but to anything you find!

Because, like one of my professors very eloquently put it, “Design is not an isolated field.”

6. We all need a little inspiration

Whether you find it on a vineyard in Napa, or in the Swiss Alps, or in the comfort of your own bed room spending hours on pinterest, staying inspired matters.

Being and staying inspired not only keeps you going, it brings you a sense of joy and appreciation for the world around you.

Every moment I spend reading a book, or surfing the internet, watching a movie, listening to a song, or just spending time with my friends, is a productive moment for me. If I can find an ounce of inspiration in my every day, I’m already better for it.

7. We’re all a little weird. And, that’s ok!

Being an artist sometimes comes with the territory of being a little “weird.” That’s ok.

I think we’re all a little weird and a little different. It’s what makes you unique and interesting, and what makes you, you.

Art school taught me to embrace my quirks, and idiosyncrasies — and to take advantage of them — to utilize them in creating a style of my own and coming up with my own unique and interesting ideas!

8. We all have the power to change the world

Any idea can spark revolution. One person can affect change. Any one can change the world. All it takes is a little creativity.

Going to art school taught me a lot more than just the 8 things I’ve shared, and they are lessons I carry with me every day as I move forward and continue my pursuit of life, love and happiness!

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”