(Trying to be a little less teachery and more personal today.) How did I know I wanted to be a graphic designer? It was certainly not smooth sailing, that’s for sure. It still isn't. I'm still figuring out exactly what I want. I think most of my internal battle has to do with my history of listening to everyone else but myself for far, far too long...
I’ve always been interested in art. My grandmother loved to draw and dabble in crafts and interior decorating. My aunt is a wonderful painter. My dad is a designer and a great businessman. Both of my parents love traveling, art and history. It clearly rubbed off on me... So I guess I can blame (thank) them. Along with my art history major track in college, I took as many studio classes as possible and sketched or painted habitually (I still have an easel in my house and paint from time to time!) I took a very basic “digital art” class (aka Photoshop 101) as a senior in 2007. After graduation when I was working in an art gallery, I pinched my pennies to buy a new desktop Mac and Adobe Creative Suite and got to work teaching myself how to use everything. (I still learn new tricks from other designers at work every day. You can never learn it all...)
As for what graphic design is like to study, I can honestly say that it is not for the faint of heart. You have to really, really love it, almost to the point of obsession. The feedback can be brutal, the professors and other students subjective or clouded in ego... Oy. Some nights were endless and the class materials bankrupting (Printers! Printing fees! Paper! Software! Tablets! Xacto blades! Laser cutting! Mounting! Spray adhesive! Goof Off to unstick your hands from each other! The list goes on and on...) In the end, I found that studying graphic design was not at all meant for me. In fact, it nearly broke me. There’s some brutal honesty for you.
From that experience, I was literally driven into the arms of what I really needed to be doing. I found it in SCAD's Design Management degree program, which approaches business from a designer’s perspective and vise-versa. And even though many of those classes were brutal and the all-nighters equally plentiful, it was thrilling and exhausting and mind-bending and frustrating and wonderful all at the same time — sort of like what I imagine marriage must be like... Ha!
Anyway, that program mixed with blogging on the side helped me bridge the gap between my love for hands-on approach to problem-solving (design) and the strategic thinking DMGT taught me. My current job is just an extension of this happy occupational marriage, and I’m really loving it. Never in a million years would I have expected my life or my career to turn out this way. Suffice it to say: You’ll know your field when you find it. I wish I had a better answer than that.
I will say this: Something about being a young adult makes people want to tell you that it’s not possible to be an artist or to take a route where your job depends entirely on “making things.” I graduated and took a desk job that I hated, found myself turning to “making things” in my free time, and in the end it’s what I do for a living anyway. So take that, naysayers! Thanks for the legwork, universe. My advice here is simple: if it feels right, it's right. We’re on the path to awesome.
Any design students (former or current) out there want to share their wisdom?