Daily Archives: October 27, 2010

Advice #33: Should I Focus on Graphic Design or Business?

ask nubby advice

ask nubby advice

Desk Image, Source. Model, Unknown.

I am currently a student attending community college and I’m almost done with the Graphic Design program. I will be going to university and almost all of the courses I took won’t be accepted. If I continue to pursue a 4 year degree in Design, I will have to take everything over except for some math and science. For this reason, I am thinking about studying Business. This way, I have something to back me up in case finding job as a Graphic Designer is tough. What is your opinion?

Ah, I see that you’re contemplating taking the opposite path that I did! Back in 2005, I graduated with a 4 year degree in Business (minor in Marketing) and after a year off, I went back to community college for a 2 year degree in Graphic Design. Originally, I went to school for Business for the very same reason you’re contemplating doing so — I felt the need to have “something to back me up just in case.” While I don’t have anything against the degree I earned (it made me way more rounded than I would have been), it did absolutely nothing to quench my true passion, which I realized was design.

When I graduated from high school in 2000, I toured my dream school, a local art college. But, it was prohibitively expensive and like you, I realized that there were no guarantees of finding employment afterwards. And, to be honest, I was firmly middle class. I didn’t have a backup plan (or a college fund, for that matter). University was much cheaper than art school. And, in my mind, it was much more practical on my resumé (I didn’t know a single graphic designer at the time — looking back, I wish that I had!)

What I learned in the process though is that you can’t feel fulfilled if your true passions are being buried. I clearly remember doing my senior thesis on an early incarnation of Nubbytwiglet.com. That was where my passion was. I still have the project somewhere — a red folder with custom designed print-outs that clearly lay out my business plan and marketing strategy (maybe I’ll share it sometime).

As someone who’s now been on the inside of ad agencies for upwards of three years, let me tell you this: while the business degree did look nice on my resumé, it was not a defining factor in any design job that I got. The interviewers were much more interested in the quality of my portfolio and my blog. Period.

To be clear, I’m not trying to deter you from earning your business degree. On the other side of the coin, one of my best friends went to school for Business & Marketing but has a huge passion for design. In the process, he became an instructor at a handful of top art schools. He also manages to work full time at an agency in their Sales & Marketing department. Once, he too was also at a fork in the road, trying to decide between Graphic Design and Business degrees. He took the business route, aligning himself with top agencies and designers along the way and has been hugely successful in this path.

The moral of this story is that you have to follow your true passion, no matter what. During the way, you may curse yourself for the hardships that you have to endure, but once you get to the other side, you’ll thank yourself. I spent most of my 20s in college. I barely went to parties, worked in drab offices and a shoe store or two, interning for a year before I got hired at my first design job. But now? I can honestly say that every second of that path was worth it. Hard work builds character and if anything, sometimes those jobs you hate are good for something — when you do get that first design job, hopefully you won’t take it for granted!

But, back to your schooling. You mention that you are considering a 4 year degree in Design. What’s wrong with your 2 year degree? Have you checked into art schools that may be a bit more lax and accept more of your credits? If you do decide to go to university, at the very least, having your math and science out of the way is a good start. Even if it takes you a year longer to earn back those extra credits, a year in the overall scheme of life is fairly minimal.

Whatever you decide, you have to make the right decision for YOU. One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that you can’t worry about all the “what if’s” in life. Even if you perfectly plan everything out and take the route that you’ve deemed the most practical, you’ll still encounter challenges. It’s never too late to follow your dreams. I didn’t go back to school for graphic design until I was 25. The choice is yours (and yours only). Good luck!