Yesterday, Andy Rutledge posted a long diatribe on Twitter about design education. Rather, about the importance of self-education in regards to design. It left me feeling both validated and challenged.
His perspective (which I share) is that the only design education that is of any importance is the education you give yourself — the education that you demand and steal wherever you can, whenever you can, as much as you can, as long as you can. Whether you glean that education in a classroom at a university (possible, though not always profitable) or on your own through experience, hard work, research, and constant vigilance — education is important.
Teachers cannot be held responsible for your education. They can certainly influence it, but ultimately the responsibility is yours if you want to learn.
I (only) have a 2-year associate of applied science degree in graphic design technology. I earned this degree and my subsequent 1-year certificate in web & multimedia authoring from a small community college in my hometown. I can safely say, though, that most of what I’ve learned about design and development I did not learn in school. I’ve collected books, articles, design examples, personal projects, professional projects. I’ve closely followed people online, learning from them as they’ve learned, soaking up everything I can. To this day, I research and read to see what’s going on currently in my fields, then always seek to apply what I’m learning to whatever I’m working on — be it for my company, my clients, or myself.
Unfortunately, this self-education is not always valued as deeply as formal education.
Every internship and design job I’ve held to date has been negatively impacted by the fact that I don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Every owner or manager has had no qualms in letting me know this, sometimes even while admitting that the caliber of my work and knowledge make up for the lack of degree. Andy says that such employers don’t value people and I shouldn’t work for them. To an extent, I agree. But when I have bills to pay and groceries to buy, I really don’t have a choice.
The moral of the story? Educate yourself. Push yourself to learn more, be better, grow beyond your current status. But realize that not everyone values real education — some people value pieces of paper with letters on them.