Should I go to College for a Design Degree?
I hear two very different answers to this question. Why go to school when you can learn it yourself at home, with the internet? Or; there is nothing like the experience of going to a college or university, plus you can't get a good paying job without a degree. After having been out of college for a year or so, and having stopped after my Associates degree, I have my own opinion.
It really depends.
I know, that is a bad answer - but it's true. Here are the factors:
Can you focus on your own?
Do you like holding yourself accountable?
Are you a quick learner?
Most importantly, are you a good communicator?
In my experience, classes wont teach you how to be a good "designer". They will teach you how to sell your designs and make money (which is important if you want to eat). If you are already really good at expressing your ideas, can make and build your own connections and network like a boss - then I would personally recommend learning the design basics at home. Everything is readily available on the internet if you are dedicated. Save yourself the expensive tuition and use that money and time for a good computer and tickets to meet-ups/talks/networking conventions, because THAT is what will get you in the door.
Now, if you don't have great communication skills, have absolutely no idea where to start, or know you can't trust yourself with waking up early and spending countless hours in front of the screen studying and practicing - school is great. You will meet amazing and creative people who will inspire you, professors who will be passionate and helpful (hopefully) and you will really get that push you need to keep going. It's true that a degree could get you a job interview, but if your work is "pretty good" at best, you will not get the job you want. Some employers will only look at applications with degrees, some look at your portfolio before even checking for a degree. An employer worth working for will look past the degree and listen to the people who recommended you. The people that know you and your work ethic, the ones who saw you working and staying late at school, or the ones that saw your work and heard you talk about it. The people who have businesses and connections are the ones you need to have conversations with - think about every conversation as a little interview - you are always selling your work.
In my case - I knew I would never make it if it was all in my hands. I needed to learn how to manage my time better and I loved meeting new people. I still surround myself with passionate people, because I need to see that energy to stay energized. The connections I made with my professors and students were incredibly important, and the only reason I am at the job I have. I did learn design principles and a lot about other things that i never knew - but the most valuable thing I got from going to school is the connections and motivation. I grew as a designer and was able to really find my strongest points through the assignments. BUT - I don't plan to go back and get a Bachelors degree. This is specific to my own career goals, but I don't think it is necessary to go on. I have built connections and I know what kind of work I want to do, and also learned how to organize my time. At one point I may feel it is necessary to return to school, but as of now I don't have a reason to.
These are my own personal opinions, and I definitely don't know all that much, so please leave a comment with what you think and let me know!