Higher Ed for Designers: Is It Necessary or Obsolete?

Higher Ed for Designers: Is It Necessary or Obsolete
Higher Ed for Designers: Is It Necessary or Obsolete

The design profession is one of the most competitive in the labour market. This is not surprising, as the design has penetrated more deeply into everyday life.

We do not notice how we:

  • buy a product because of the packaging,
  • laugh at kitsch advertising in the subway,
  • look for an apartment with the furniture seems a certain way,
  • criticize the appearance of mobile applications and so on.

As for the web UI/UX, we will soon have our website. And all this is also the work of designers. And even if you have the content of your website written by professional essay writers online, you will still need a designer to make it fit the website page perfectly. So the work of a designer in this field is in demand.

Designers develop postcards, souvenir products, and illustrated books if we discuss more superficial things. But let’s also not forget how 3D printing is currently developing. And its scope of application.

In the late 90s, universities responded to public demand and began to open design departments. However, almost 30 years later, a central systemic contradiction has become apparent.

Higher education is based on continuity of knowledge and academic success. A designer cannot become a professional without practice and readiness for constant change. Every year, more and more narrow specializations appear in this field. They are no longer limited by marketing or photography, and trends change even faster. Can universities cope with such challenges?


Current Problems of Higher Ed for Designers



Specialized higher education is not necessary to become a successful creator. But to teach, you need to get at least a master’s degree.

Advancing up the career ladder in higher education involves scientific activity. However, if you are in demand and a constantly practicing designer, you will not have enough time for this. Therefore, theoreticians with a very indirect relationship with the profession often occupy teaching positions.

As a rule, people with a scientific degree, in our case, are aged 60+. They have nothing to do with design. But at the same time, they are in leadership positions in the institute.

They are your primary teachers and curators of diplomas because only they have the right to be those. Occasionally, effective young teachers appear in universities but rarely find support for their initiatives. Therefore, they do not stay for a long time.


Price of Education

Higher ed is expensive, so getting a diploma can become a substantial financial burden. Even so, a certificate from a fancy Art and Design program may give you more employment prospects. But it doesn’t guarantee anything. So you need to think if it is worth the price.


Isolation From The Market

Even if a student independently learns something that the university cannot provide, this does not guarantee a successful performance at school. More often, everything works the other way around. The more relevant you are in your work, the less you have to get.

Many graduates leave school unprepared for the output and expectations of real-world employers and design teams. Also, you probably won’t get in-depth courses for tech skills. And knowledge of how to use different modern programs for creators is not on the menu of a college education. You will have to learn such information elsewhere.


It Is Time-Consuming

Higher education takes too much time – you can complete online or offline courses much faster. Even though it is great to focus only on design, you might not have much time for other things, like socializing, working with real clients, and getting an actual portfolio.

Considering the above, many people decide to ditch the idea of college. They believe that their best thing will be to enroll in shorter courses. And doing so will help them master a highly-paid profession and get a job in less than a year. Also, it will be cheaper than getting a higher education.

The situations are different, but the same need must be met — to learn a new profession or skill quickly and inexpensively. Some tips on how to choose courses:

  • Various courses from schools or people who randomly decided they could teach are skyrocketing. But you should ignore intrusive advertising in the spirit of “Get rich quick.” First, study the speakers’ works and their students’ results.
  • It makes sense to follow well-known companies, studios, and designers whose styles you like. Their course may be helpful to you.
  • Read the course reviews, evaluate the level of feedback, and study the program to understand what to expect and what the result will bring.
  • Choose courses with practical tasks, the opportunity to communicate with mentors, and receive feedback from them about your decisions.


Higher Ed Benefits

If we talk purely about online courses, then there is no campus atmosphere where you can:

  • casually make new acquaintances,
  • come up with projects,
  • just relax together on the grass.
Image by artursafronovvvv on Freepik

For studying online, you will only communicate on a forum or chat room, and you are unlikely to establish a warm relationship with someone.

And networking is vital for professional development as you can find a mentor, a new job, a business partner, and a future colleague. At the university, this can happen much faster.


Provision Of Accredited Education

Colleges and universities work according to to officially approved and unified requirements for educational institutions. This is not always an advantage because programs can quickly become outdated, and it takes a lot of time to change them. However, you can be sure that if the university has a license, you can quickly transfer to another or continue your studies abroad. And your previous education will be recognized.

With the micro-diplomas from private companies, the situation is different. Often it is just a piece of paper that no educational institution recognizes. So, for now, with a diploma from a short course, you can advance only in those areas where only your skills are considered. But it will be much more difficult in fields where it is essential to confirm your skills with a diploma.


Building an Academic Career

To gain recognition in the academic field, you need to obtain higher education and a scientific degree, often a Doctoral one. However, courses alone are not enough for a future academic career.


Better Prospects

Generally, a good college diploma gives you more chances for future employment and a higher salary. However, if you want to work for big companies or giant corporations, remember that they still prefer to hire people with higher education. And a diploma is still a crucial part of getting an interview.


Last Thoughts

A good portfolio will always overpower a bunch of university degrees. But going to a good design college gives you:

  • a competitive edge,
  • credibility with the future employer,
  • friends and connections in the industry before you graduate.

So only you can decide about the necessity of higher education for yourself. Evaluate all the pros and cons and answer the question if you are ready for such a commitment. But remember the most important thing. A good designer is someone who has motivation and experience.