Advice for Graphic Design Students - Characteristics of Top Design Students

Graphic Design Students - What Makes a Good Graphic Design Student
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Characteristics of a Great and Mediocre Graphic Design Students : How to Be the Best Student Graphic Designer and Hang Out with the Successful and Talented Designers

Article Written by Kearan Emrith of Twentyfive Eight Design Solutions

Graphic design is one of the most under-estimated, under paid, yet most important career paths in the world. Design influences and effects everything in and around us. It aggravates our intelligence, beautifies our emotions and gratifies our senses. Yet the average person thinks if you slap together some primary colors and a photo of their favorite singer in Photoshop, save it as a .jpeg AND a .psd file, that they are now graphic designers. It’s not as easy as “common knowledge” may lead you to believe. Yes graphic designers use Adobe Creative Suite which does include Photoshop and other tools, but to become a successful graphic artist is much like becoming an athlete. Having all the right equipment isn’t even half the battle. It takes a lot of conditioning and training to get to that level that you need to get to. You will have to train your brain to speak the language of form, function, line, shape, positive and negative space and so forth. Your thought process will be so engrossed within graphic design that you will be able to visualize mind maps, brain storming, and futurist visualization within your head. You will only need to be put these ideas on paper to convey your ideas to the less fortunate. Mathematicians do calculus in their heads, designers should do creative brainstorming in theirs. The truth of the matter is that not all designers will be successful. Some will fail, most will remain mediocre, and the select few who are gifted all around will get exactly what they deserve … Everything.

Believe it or not amongst all the bull we have been fed throughout our lives there is some underlying truth. One of these truths is that education is the key. In graphic design the learning never stops. The industry is ever-changing and expanding to accommodate everyone in all different fields. The one thing they do not stress enough in the graphic design curriculum is to continue to READ. I know it sounds asinine and childish but the only way to stay informed and aware of the design world around you and your peers from across the globe is to follow the industry closely. Starting this as a student will not only get you in the habit for the rest of your career but it will also make you a better designer while in school. Designers feed off each others work and experiences more so than Hollywood musicals feed off of Broadway shows. We facilitate each other.

This might not be evident the first year of your graphic design program but it will become more and more obvious as the program goes on.  When my first year began, all of us seemed more concerned with making friends than making art. As the year progressed we all had our comfortable niche of students we worked with. Even if it was an individual assignment we would sit together in the library and feed off each others creative energy. Fuel each other to be the best we possibly could. In the first semester of the program I was in we were divided in half. Graphic design A (GRA-A) and graphic design B (GRA-B). We had the exact same classes, lectures and assignments but we were separated from the other group. I was in GRA-B and by the time first semester had ended I could tell who was going to be successful and who was going to fail after graduation. In second semester they inter-grated group A and B. In a way this was good but it started the weeding out the weak process all over again. This time was easier because I knew what characteristics to look for in students to classify them as mediocre.

Characteristics of Mediocre Graphic Design Students

Students who are consistent. By consistent I don’t mean in quality I mean in ideas. The students that do the same thing for every assignment just slight variations aren’t creative. They will never strengthen themselves as a designer if all they do is remain in their strong areas.

Students Who Don’t Strive for Excellence. Steer clear of the students who get below 80% and are happy with their mark. The student that tries his hardest and gets 72% will be more successful than the student who never tries and gets a 80%. The 72% student has drive, ambition and work ethic. All of which are important to any career especially one design related. This student is also a great person to work with and work around because even though they may not be the most creative they are still inspiring you to put more of an effort.

Students Who Can’t Handle Presentations. The students that are really shy and cannot handle class presentations. Graphic design is an industry where public speaking is very important. If you can’t convey your ideas and thought process behind your work to the client they won’t buy into it. Even though it is an art based industry, your art is your product and if you can’t sell that product accordingly you won’t make it far. Although not being able to present your designs doesn’t mean that you are a lousy graphic designer, however, a shy graphic design student probably won’t be able to help YOU grow as a graphic design student since they won’t be vocal about what they know.

Even though the students that fall into these categories may not be good designers that doesn’t mean they aren’t good people. My advice is to talk to everyone and get some type of contact information. If you happen to become friends with them so be it. Just don’t look to them to draw new habits and inspiration. The most used cliché in the world holds true in this scenario. Don’t mix business with pleasure. This is a business and it may not be morally correct but it isn’t your job to help them succeed. The talented should remain talented and the less talented should work on themselves to get there. That being said, there are students who you should surround yourself with.

Characteristics of Talented Graphic Design Students : Surround Yourself with Them

Loud, Vocal, Humorous Students. Usually the loudest, arrogant, humorous students are the ones to be around. They are either really creative, smoke a lot of ganja or both. So if you can’t draw from their creative energy you can at-least get something else from them.

Students Living in the Library. The students who live in the library are the most submerged in design. These are the students that are always on design blogs, taking out design books and when they aren’t reading about others designs that they are designing themselves.

Design Students Who Talk A Lot About Graphic Design. Graphic designers talk about graphic design. It’s that simple of a concept. You can never have a conversation on what font was used in a movie or on a brand of clothing with anyone else. You can never talk about live traced adverts, vector images on coke cans and in most modern product packaging unless its with a graphic design peer. These students who are completely design savvy are the best for this. They understand what you know and make you understand what you don’t know. I said it before and will say it again, design is a language and like any other language it has to be learned and understood before it can be spoken.

Design Students Who Have Already Starting Freelance Designing. Another student to look for are the ones who have already started freelance designing. This is a very important step especially in first year. It shows that these students are already thinking about building their portfolio and making money. This is a very good step especially for a first year student to take. At the same time don’t lose focus of your priorities. School is first, freelance comes after. It’s also a great way to get the feel of working within a clients guidelines. Not to mention you are starting your client database before you even work a day in the field.

Kearan Emrith
Twentyfive Eight Design Solutions
© Copyright 2008

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[tags]graphic design, graphic designers, designers, design school, design schoools, design education, graphic design education, design students, graphic design students, become successful designer[/tags]

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8 Comments

  1. tim r
    Posted July 1, 2009 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Call me a horrible graphic designer but I refuse to just shun anyone I don’t find to be potentially successful. And the loud arrogant guy who thinks he is the funniest person in the world is not the type of friend I want either. I just refuse to pick and choose my friends based on what I can get from them. I don’t want to be that type of person.

  2. j-me
    Posted July 29, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Its not an article about choosing friends. It clearly says that this is a business so the author isn’t talking about becoming buddys with somebody he is talking about your career.

    “Even though the students that fall into these categories may not be good designers that doesn’t mean they aren’t good people. My advice is to talk to everyone and get some type of contact information. If you happen to become friends with them so be it. Just don’t look to them to draw new habits and inspiration. The most used cliché in the world holds true in this scenario. Don’t mix business with pleasure. This is a business and it may not be morally correct but it isn’t your job to help them succeed.”

  3. Posted August 18, 2009 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Wow. I can’t even begin to tell you how wrong you are on some of these points. Speak for yourself, this is NOT how all aspiring designers “should” be.

  4. Laura Wiltsie
    Posted August 25, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    I found this to be a hindrance to my studies in design. You never should burn your bridges because that mediocre student might end up being your boss one day.

  5. Juan
    Posted September 19, 2009 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    ok, I give you some points, but is not true that great designer are those who spend their time in the library please no designers get ideas from libraries we get it from the every day life situations. For the record there are some people that have talent to do something without books.

  6. Posted October 28, 2009 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    Great read. I agree with you on all points. I dont know if I am one of these successful designers (though I would like to be cause here I am blogging=D) Burning bridges is never a good idea. What Kearan is trying to say is that even though people arent good designers doesnt mean they are not good people. I have plenty of friends who suck at design but know how to have a good time. What Kearan is trying to get everyone to do is to get into the habit of associating with the student who is design savvy. It will only help you in the long run.

  7. Marga_V
    Posted November 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Wow!! What a “beautiful” advice for students, specially for the “They are either really creative, SMOKE A LOT OF GANJA or both” part… I can’t believe someone has the audacity to give such a horrible tip. I’ve met lots of talented designers that don’t need that type of inspiration to succeed.

  8. Posted October 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Nice! Keep it up!

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