CareerFeature

11 things they didn't teach you at design school

Top creatives reveal what they wish they knew at college - and how you can get a headstart in your creative career!

However hard we studied, we've all got gaps in our design education. Damn You Art School is a website devoted to filling them - http://www.damnyouartschool.com/

Design school is great. It gives you the opportunity to develop as a designer, illustrator or artist – giving you preparation for your career in the real world. But it can't teach you everything. With that in mind, we've talked to some successful creative professionals and gleaned what they wished they knew when they were at college – giving you a headstart on your course mates.

Is there anything you wished you knew at college that you know now? Let us know in the comments below. But for now, read on...

Courses at institutions like The California College of the Arts - http://www.cca.edu/ - can teach you a lot. But they can't teach you everything...

01. Your diploma won't get you a job

"Despite what your teachers or parents tell you, your diploma won’t necessarily get you a job," says Toronto-based web designer Janna Hagan. "Proving what kind of work you are capable of producing through your portfolio or demonstrating passion and potential to an employer will more likely catch their eye; compared to a student who has more formal education. Having a killer portfolio and personality will land you a job anywhere."

02. How to use Photoshop

Jeffrey Bowman wishes he'd been taught Photoshop at art school

Jeffrey Bowman is a freelance illustrator and graphic designer based in the mountains of Hemsedal, Norway. Formerly of Studio Output and a lecturer at Shillington College, Bowman has worked for numerous clients around the globe with his edgy, youth-culture-driven style. And what does he know now that he wished he knew at art school?

"Software skills," he says. "This is probably the most important thing to really focus on when your at college or university," he continues. "It's something you have to learn for yourself because at uni there was no real help and in some cases you don't have access to a computer all the time, so getting your own is also vital.

"Being software-savvy is only going to help when you get out into industry, because the way the industry is, these kind of skills will set you apart from the next person applying for an internship or junior job."

03. Real-world processes

Work experience trumps theoretical knowledge, says Jo Gulliver of Computer Arts magazine

Computer Arts magazine's art editor Jo Gulliver has now been responsible for the look and feel of the title for around six years - working with the world's top illustration talent, photographers and designers along the way. When she was at college she knew she wanted to be involved in magazines, but before joining Future Publishing didn't know the exact process of putting together a magazine to be printed and exported across the globe.

"I guess it would be good to research the industry you want to go into in-depth - go do work experience but also consider visiting printers, agencies, photo shoots and so on," is her top advice. "Make the most of your work experience placement and ask to see all processes of the business. It will make you much more employable when you come to get a job."

  • Check out Computer Arts' recent redesign for iPad and print here

04. Commercial knowledge

Daker would have liked some direction in how to make money from her skills

"The main thing I know now, that I never realised at college, is that there is a market for good quality drawing," says Abigail Daker - a freelance illustrator known for her stunning perspective cityscape pencil drawings.

"There was a lot of theorising about drawing on my course and plenty of discussion about the merits of drawing and its place within the contemporary fine art world, but nothing about it as a commercial product and no advice about how to tailor your artwork to be better suited to commercial projects." Daker's advice is to scope out the latter - no matter what your intended profession.

05. How to stay creative

Ian Wharton thinks youngsters should be prepared for the possibility of losing their creative mojo in later life

Ian Wharton, creative director at Zolmo and the mastermind behind the design of some of Jamie Oliver's best-selling recipe apps is an advocate of young talent - and is regularly involved in judging, seminars and publications promoting young creativity. So what does he know know that he wishes he knew at art school?

"How difficult, yet entirely necessary it is to hang onto the innate useful creative spirit of youth," he says. "[It's] something I took for granted." And his advice? "Explore endlessly. Every facet of creativity that excites you - dive in and don't worry about right answers. You have the time, agility and resources to do so.

"When you leave, never stop learning and waste zero time making things you don't want to be known for."

06. How to find your niche

The biggest gap in Jonathan Woodward's art college education was the business and marketing side

A finalist in BBC Wildlife's Artist of the Year 2011/2012, Jonathan Woodward's beautiful, textured animal illustrations have led him to commissions from the likes of Penguin, Transworld Publishing and Random House. What did he wish he knew?

"I'm probably the same as most other illustrators in that the biggest gap in my art college education was the business and marketing side of things. I've had to learn all of this as I've gone along.

"One of the most important lessons I've learned is to find a niche rather than trying to be all things to all people. It was only when I really focussed on combining my two main passions for nature and illustration, specialising in being a wildlife illustrator, that things started to move forwards and the right type of commissions started come in."

Next page: five more essential things they didn't teach you at design school

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