Why Go To School for Graphic Design

Why Go To School for Graphic Design
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Hi, my name is James Morris and I’m the Lead Instructor for the Graphic Design program here at the Minneapolis Media Institute.  I wanted to spend a little time today talking about, well… Design.  But more specifically Design Schools and why.

So, you like design.  So much so that you want to get a job in design and make that your career.  You maybe even took a class or two somewhere on Photoshop or Illustrator or maybe even InDesign.   Or, let’s say that you’re completely self-taught and you think that’s all that you need to know to get a great job in Graphic Design.  While normally, I’m all “You can do anything you put your mind to!” when it comes to truly being or becoming a Designer, I’m a firm believer in the power of education.  I know, you might look at something like this and say “Well James, of course you believe in education, you work at a school and you simply want to get as many people as you can enrolled in your school”.  And while, I am an instructor and I do like having students in my class, the reason that I’m saying this is so that the industry that I’m a part of can get people who are not just talented, but also actually good and have an understanding of what it really means to be in this field.  

I have a saying that I use around my students: “I’m not training button monkeys, I’m training Artists”.  If I wanted just someone who knew what button to press, then I could and would recommend to every last one of them to just watch a YouTube video on something and then they’d be ready.  But what I really want is someone who not only knows what button to press, but the far more important thing is the why am I using this button.  Someone who is able to rise above the simple use of the tool – be it a hammer or Illustrator – and create an ad, or an interface or a marketing campaign that actually leads and compels the viewer to some action.  Whether that action is to buy some product, visit some website or to help raise awareness about a major social issue that can only be done and done well by understanding the language of and theory behind design.  

For Instance, with these two images, knowing why one of these is good and one is bad, Is not just a function of knowing how to insert an image or text.




Just knowing how to make a circle doesn’t mean that you understand the when and why to use a circle in your design.  What does a circle convey to the viewer?  How large or dominating is the circle in the overall design and what does that size mean?  Why angle the image so that it feels like we’re looking up at it vs looking down on it?  What do these 2 different views inspire in the viewer?  Your skills as a graphic designer are always going to be judged based on the quality of your portfolio.  Your portfolio is your gateway to entering this field and being successful.  If you want to stand out, this is where it must be done.

This is why I recommend go to school for people who are interested in entering this field.  Not just so that we can teach you some software package, but so that you can truly learn the art of design.  Learn ways to apply it, improvise with it and enhance it.  These are the things that make a designer worth their weight in gold.  By understanding what Design really means and how to apply its principles, you will be on your way to a successful career.  

James Morris