Today, a lot of people in graphic design are self-taught. A lot of my friends and fellow colleagues are. It takes a GREAT deal of determination and grit in order to learn something all on your own. I see so many talented designers who went to school for something else entirely, or never at all. I did go to school for graphic design, and I hold 2 degrees on the subject. Now that I’ve been out of school long enough, I’m starting to realize what my education really had to offer, that a lot of self-taught designers might be missing out on.
Let me backtrack a little. I really have so much respect for the dinosaurs of graphic design. I know dinosaur is usually a derogatory term – but I mean it in the best way. They were the giants in the industry and they had so many mountains to climb that designers today just aren’t even aware of. I’m SO grateful for two things: first, having started graphic design in junior high when I was only 13, giving me real life experience of graphic design and photography before computers, and second, having the opportunity to be formally trained in graphic design, and in turn, to have been (forced) to learn the history of graphic design.
The history of graphic design was one of the best things I learned in school.
From the Gutenberg Bible to today. From Paul Rand to Stefan Sagmeister. Women greats in graphic design, like Paula Scher. How Swiss design and the Bauhaus style heavily influences us today. All of those pioneers who came before us. Yeah, yeah, HISTORY – boring right?
Not only is it incredibly interesting, but it’s totally humbling and ultimately grounding. When I first became a graphic designer, I remember people would say – “What does a graphic designer do?” It was such a small industry, ran by incredibly talented people. My aunt was a graphic designer, and I started young, or else I wouldn’t have known what it was either. Nowadays, it’s so popular that no one asks anymore. Anyone can become a graphic designer. Which is a blessing and curse sometimes, right? But knowledge is power. There are TREASURES to be learned within the past.
There is a huge gap happening between graphic designers. There is value in knowledge beyond self. There is monetary value. Although I’ve been able to make a living off of graphic design, I look at my larger agency counterparts and see that I’m small fries compared to them. And hey, that’s okay. I made an intentional decision to be self-employed, work-from-home type and to stay small. But perhaps that’s not for everyone (and maybe in the future when my kids are grown, I will change my mind). If you are the type who would like to be a part of deals with multimillion dollar companies, you’ve got some learning to do. Learn about how things used to be done – because those multimillion dollar companies are ran by people that are used to doing things the old way. They do face-to-face meetings. They do real ideas written on whiteboards in board rooms. They aren’t email or skype or online proofs. They are brick and mortar, they are pen and paper, they are real. They are the anti-digital age. And that’s the way all things design used to get done. It’s important to know that.
If you are a self-taught graphic designer, I would urge you to take a course or learn about the history of graphic design and those who paved the way for us. You won’t regret it.
When I’m old and gray, I’ll be a graphic design dinosaur, and heck, you will be too someday. We’ll probably shake our heads at how “wrong” the youngin’s are doing it. We will scoff at their “lack of respect” and “lack of personal connection”. But… we will smile if someone writes something like this, if someone REMEMBERS us. If someone cares to learn ABOUT us. If someone learns FROM us.
Need help with balancing your dream and the rest of your life? Need to customize your path and be really true to yourself? ONLY on sale this week, I’m offering the Design Life Project as a self-study course, and you can take it at your own pace. We also have a Design Life Project alumni group that you can join (included in your registration) where you can connect with others who’ve taken the course. Not sure if it’s for you? Read more about WHO the course is for and HOW it can help. This self-study version of the course will only be offered this week, so head over and register and then you can take the course when you’re ready. We are excited to meet you!!