Advice #56: Does a Business Background Make a Designer More Valuable?

Nubby Twiglet | Does a Business Background Make a Designer More Valuable?

“I’m in college and enrolled in a business-focused graphic design program but I’m finding that it’s not what I expected. The design taught there is based around business but I’m finding that the student work is bland and built around people with no graphic design knowledge. Every time I talk to an advisor about transferring, they tell me that I’m making a bad decision because their program is so wonderful and business-oriented. They also advise me to get a minor in marketing. Does a graphic designer have to be heavily educated in business to be more employable?”

If your gut is telling you that this is not the program for you, I would advise you to transfer as soon as possible. Most of us only get one shot at college and if you feel like there’s little value in what you’re being taught, it’s okay to look elsewhere.

It’s in the advisor’s best interests to keep you where you’re at because you’re bringing in income. In a way, it reminds me of jobs I’ve had in the past that I was on the fence about but every time I tried to quit, the owner would convince me to stay. Nothing good rarely comes of staying put in a situation like this — it just creates uneasiness and resentment.

Onto your question: does a graphic designer have to be heavily educated in business to be more employable? Not necessarily.

I’m in a unique position in that I went to school for business before I earned my design degree and yes, what I learned made me much more aware and well-rounded as a designer. For instance, I always approached projects from a really practical standpoint and considered budgets when it came to the concepts I was presenting. I also gave a lot more thought to the strategy behind my creative ideas and presented them in a way that framed up how they directly benefitted the client.

Because I had an interest in business, my agency jobs tended to hand me pieces of projects that appealed to this sensibility: I’d often build out the front end of presentations that focused on our competitive analysis and research. If you’re seeking more than straight design at your jobs, you’ll get it.

Having a business base before I went into design definitely helped me but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to take this route. What you don’t learn in school or on the job can be picked up from books and blogs — after all, learning is lifelong.

Remember, you are paying this school to teach you. If you’re not getting what you want out of it, you have the right to move on and look for a better fit. Good luck!

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