Thursday, May 7, 2009

Getting a college degree is important for a graphic and web designer.

Two years before I graduated high school I started a very small business that required artwork to be screen printed onto various things. The artwork that was printed onto such things had to come from somewhere and being that I was only about 16, I did not have a lot of money to pay a graphic designer to do the work for me. I had always been artistic and would draw and also do oil paintings so there was some artistic abilities that I had, but I just did not know how to use a computer to make art. Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop soon became things that I had to become an expert at in order to succeed. That was how I got into graphic design and web design.

I graduated highschool and then started taking Illustrator and Photoshop classes at a local community college. I had already learned a lot about how to use these computer programs the past couple of years but these classes opened up a lot of knowledge that I could have only obtained from there. My Illustrator class professor told me that you do not really need school on your resume to land good jobs and that a great portfolio is a lot more important than anything else. Such advice caused more harm than it did any good.

Experience is very important and a good portfolio shows off your experience and abilities. With graphic and web design, your portfolio carries you a lot more than your resume does. My professor was right about that but he was not so correct about leading all of us to believe that taking a few design classes will set us up with some great jobs and make us successful.

Some people take a few classes and then try to snag some creative gigs or maybe even a job in this field. That develops experience but some of that experience is nearly worthless if you are doing things wrong... why show off such work. Other people go to school to obtain a degree in this subject and really do not gain any real experience until they obtain their degree. Both methods are flawed. It is important to combine the two.

A lot of people want that degree to slap onto their resume and they put it up near the top on that sheet of paper. They want to show that they have the professional training, though their portfolio might be littered with almost all their work being school projects.

I spent years thinking I was this great designer and quit school for a couple of years after I took a few classes at that community college. I got into real estate and just thought that I could do design on the side. I found out that I hated real estate so I decided to go back to school and get a degree in design.

A few years later I obtained my degree and looked back at my work I had done before schooling and realized that it was not near as great as the things that I was now creating and found many things that I would have done differently now. I had experience and a decent portfolio before going back to school and while in school I was gaining a lot of experience working full time in the field as well as doing a lot of freelance work.

Sure, those three extra years of experience I obtained while back in college would have still been three years of experience outside of college, but the point is that college taught me the right way of going about creating things and expanded my knowledge greatly in these various areas of expertise that I have. I would have been worse off if I did not go to school and get my degree and I would have been worse off if I would have just started all of my experience the day I finished school.

It is very important to work extra hard to gain experience while you are being trained in anything. If I went to school for learning how to type really fast on the computer, it would be beneficial to start utilizing these skills while I am in that class than if I would only put these new skills to practice against the projects and training materials that were within that class.

I put my information on my professional training now closer to the bottom of my resume. When potential employers see your schooling as one of the top things on your resume, they assume that it is very important and that you only have experience starting from that date you graduated up until today. Such a thing bit me when I got one of my past jobs. I had just graduated then and they were only crediting me for my experience I had from the date I graduated and pretty much threw out the window the extra close to seven years of experience that I actually had.

Such a thing can be a very large road block that can get in your way of getting a higher paying job. Someone being treated as entry level with seven years of experience... something is wrong with that. Put the important things higher on your resume than the less important things. Your experience you obtained while in school is much more important that where you graduated from and when you graduated. Having that diploma is very important but it will not keep you from getting a job if you have a solid portfolio. What will keep you from getting that job is if you have cruddy work because you did not expand your knowledge and skills in college. You can obtain this knowledge and expanded skills outside of a professional institution of learning but it will be a lot harder to get there and take a lot more time and maybe not do as much for you.


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June 8, 2009 12:29 AM  
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