My Dream Design Curriculum

If I had to do college over again, this is what I’d take

Julie Zhuo
Jul 29, 2014 · 7 min read

Last week, we hosted a panel at Facebook for design interns.

Now, without fail, one of the most common questions that comes up in panels like these is: what skills should I acquire/classes should I take if I want to be a product designer in the future?

The Basics

Fundamentals of graphic design: Appreciating, understanding, and creating things that are clearly presented, simple to understand and look good gets much easier when you know the basics, i.e. form, hierarchy, color, composition, typography, etc. The classes here should ideally include a number of creative projects with structured group critique.

Context is King

History of design: what are the movements, events, and historical contexts that have shaped our current understanding of design? How does it differ from age to age, and culture to culture? Some of this should be in a “fundamentals of graphic design” class, but the deeper your understanding of design throughout history, the better your grasp of what “good” design really means and how that evolves.

The Softer Side of Skills

Public speaking & communication: as a designer, there’s no getting around the fact that you’re going to need to talk about and present your designs. Every top-notch designer I know is also a master of crisp, clear, and compelling communication. I cannot stress how important this skill is. If you can take a class, join a club (like Toastmasters), or otherwise put yourself in situations where you can practice being ever more succinct, clear, and engaging, it will pay dividends for your design career.

  • partnering with a non-profit or some other organization to solve a problem that they have
  • designing something (a website, a product, a service) that’s aiming to be successful in the marketplace
  • redesigning an existing process to be better or more efficient

In Pursuit of Creativity

Many of my favorite college classes weren’t always related to design or technology, but were still valuable for utilizing the right brain and developing better creative processes (like critique). So take whatever strikes your fancy and has you making things, including but not limited to:

  • poetry
  • studio art
  • filmmaking
  • photography
  • calligraphy
  • interior design
  • architecture
  • that class where you make a video game
  • that introduction to mechanical engineering class where you make catapults and compete to see whose catapult launches eggs the furthest
  • …you get the idea

The Year of the Looking Glass

A collection of essays by Julie Zhuo on design, building…

The Year of the Looking Glass

A collection of essays by Julie Zhuo on design, building products, and observing life.

Julie Zhuo

Written by

Currently: Inspirit. Former Product Design VP @ FB. Author of The Making of a Manager https://amzn.to/2PRwCyW. Find me @joulee. I love people, words, and food.

The Year of the Looking Glass

A collection of essays by Julie Zhuo on design, building products, and observing life.