To degree or not to degree? That is the question

    Do you need a degree to be a designer?

    There are many available options to take in the “design” field. Graphic Art is the term I use to describe my work. There’s often a fine line to distinguish the difference between graphic art and graphic design. Graphic art is more centered on visual development and graphic design focuses more on typography and layout. One of the fastest growing fields for graphic artists is Motion Design (aka – motion graphics). The exhilaration that comes from seeing your art come to life is indescribable. I have taken it upon myself to focus on learning After Effects, Maya & C4D specifically for this purpose. Ringling describes Motion Design as the following: “You see it everyday, but you probably didn’t know it had a name. You see it when you go to the movies, or watch TV, or surf the web, or even go shopping. It is the mysterious title sequence that sets the mood for the latest sci-fi movie. It’s the beautiful animated graphics that introduce the events for the Olympic Games. It’s the cool interface on that website that you use to make your own snowboard designs. It’s the fun, colorful interpretation of music and dance to interest you in the new iPod at the Apple store. Anywhere there is a screen, you’re probably seeing creative work called Motion Design.” Fundamentally, you should have an understanding of all aspects of design whether it’s web, print or motion. Ultimately, you’ll find your niche but you’ll need an underlying base in design principles first.

    School is a great option, but it is not always necessary. It’s an amalgamation of motivation, knowledge and ability. All three are essential and rely on each other. There is no one without the other. One of my favorite quotes comes from Henry Hazlitt who said, “A strong passion for any object will ensure success, for the desire of the end will point out the means.” -Henry Hazlitt School will provide the knowledge to improve your ability. The advantage of school is that you can learn cardinal design principles and be critiqued by professionals in an acknowledged environment, but you will always augment when you are surrounded and challenged by others who are in the same field. This is where inspiration comes from. There are also numerous advantages to learning on the web for anything especially when it involves specific software. The people that you meet while in school will go on to be in your industry and can prove to be an invaluable resource when seeking recommendation for employment or verified integrity to establish with clientele. School can also help you form discipline, but if you are not disciplined enough to be motivated without someone else then you should revise and make certain that this is what you intend to do or else you will fall short of your goal and abdicate. Another one of my favorite quotes is from Walt Disney who said, “The difference in winning and losing is most often... not quitting.” -- Walt Disney, Animator, Film Producer If you have a strong desire to achieve an ideal then you must focus and maintain.

    You could have all the knowledge available to you, but that may not necessarily mean that you are a great designer. Motivation is the key to gaining knowledge. Not school. If anyone has seen Ratatouille then you can attest that not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. “You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true - anyone can cook... but only the fearless can be great.” Chef Gusteau You can also improve your ability by participating in online art communities and blogs. You do not have to go to school to be in the “design” industry, but it will be much more difficult. No one said it was easy. It is my personal conviction that you have to put in work in order to get anywhere in this world. This is the advantage that we have with competition in an open free market. I know people are successful without having gone to college, but it was not an overnight process. There are designers that have generated a substantial income for themselves without an art degree. Albeit not attending college is probably not the norm or what may be suggested, going to school does not necessarily guarantee success either. Like any major, people often graduate and do not find jobs specifically related to the field in which they graduated. I know people who have BA and a steady work history who are complacent with earning an average wage simply because they can not find work in their field.

    I was enrolled in classes in school first at a private unaccredited college and then at a public uni. I learned everything from values to Illustrator. My experience, however, was that I learned principles in class; but not really the software. Learning software on your own or with the aid of tutorials will be essential even after you have graduated. The classroom was more about giving me projects and critiquing them. If you intend on being a designer then I would recommend you find your niche and then focus on what it is that you love to do. To have a future in web, which is always evolving, you will need to constantly gentrify the current knowledge that you have. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt Software is constantly expanding so even if you find your classroom setting practical it will not assist you in the long term without constantly learning. You’ll need to learn how to keep up with software on your own. There is no rest when technology is involved.

    Overall, there are accredited colleges like Ringling and Art Institute which I would say would be well worth the time and experience for anyone who has the time and value. However, due to finite resources this option may not available to everyone so it is best to learn on your own. A strong portfolio will speak louder than a résumé or degree.

    “Believe you're worth more; push on and stay strong. If you're hungry and motivated you won't starve for long.” Y Society

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