After going through school, and learning all of the basic information, design theory, receiving critiques, working an internship, finding jobs, etc., I have to wonder if going to school makes a difference. I know many design firms will only hire someone if they have a certain level of degree, but a designer doesn’t need a degree to do freelance work. All they really need is talent and business sense. With the way that the internet is going, anyone can find out anything about design, the principles of design, the business aspect of it,, color selection, retouching, graphic effects, typography and anything else that they want to know. Is it worth it for a freelance designer to go to school and get their degree? Most people only go to school to obtain the knowledge to do something well and get a good job, but if you are a freelance designer, you own your own business, you have search the internet and read books for most of the information that you need, and you just work on real world experience to refine your skills.
Can someone without a formal education be a successful designer? Can designers become in-house designers or work in a firm without a formal education? I have never heard of any-at least not that I know of. If someone has been around for decades and has proven experience and skills, I might be able to see a real dynamo landing a job without a degree. Locally, you can’t get your foot in the door without a degree. I have friends that have been looked over even though they were talented and had a Bachelor’s Degree, to be passed up for someone with their Master’s degree. The thing is, some of those jobs weren’t advanced or important enough to warrant hiring someone with their Masters. I can understand a company’s desire to get the most bang for their buck, but hiring someone that is overqualified usually means that person will feel unfulfilled, and usually won’t last long in the position.
So here is my question: are there any famous and amazing designers out there that haven’t gone to school? Can you really climb your way up to make a true impact in the design world without a degree? Can you really self educate yourself to create highly professional design work? I have never heard of anyone truly remarkable that didn’t have an education, but with all of this information on the internet, as well as the plethora of books out there, someone can absorb years of education on the subject of design in just a few sites.
On the other hand, school is where you are nurtured and are taught the proper ways to design, kerning, typefaces, and the how and why behind things. You can’t get this type of teaching from the internet. Teachers give you real feedback, and they have real world, relevant experience. Unless you have some sort of design mentor handy, you won’t be invaluably critiqued. It would be much harder to learn the basics and intermediate design theory and principles that make truly interesting and beautiful design work on the internet. Trying things out on real world clients would only lead to disaster. Trial and error usually doesn’t lead to happy clients. Clients like to hire people that know what they are doing, and do it well, as well as quickly and for the right price.