I earned my BFA in what was then called advertising design at my college more than 55 years ago. Coincidentally, my grand nephew is currently a college student with a design major. So much has happened in the years between our education experiences, I can hardly consider myself a valid advisor for anyone thinking of having a career in the field. But, what the hell. I’ll give it a try.
Since my college years, one of the most significant changes is that today’s designer doesn’t have to finish up every day with ink- and paint-stained hands, face and clothing. The computer and internet explosions have changed all that, but I still recommend the high school student who is considering a degree in design to work on the basics first. And get a few well-earned stains along with them.
The designer needs to know the human body, perspective, colors, composition and many of the skills that are just as necessary today as they were in the time of Michelangelo, DaVinci and Rembrandt. As wonderful as the new contraptions are, you can’t acquire the art hand, eye and brain basics on the computer.
For those aiming for a career in various industrial applications of design: product design, automotive, architectural and other technical fields, additional basic learning is necessary in materials, function and three-dimensionals such as structure and engineering. Check out the options with your school counselor and with professionals already in the field you intend to enter.
An additional word of advice from a very old, and now retired, designer is that the student should start working on real-life design experiences as early as high school. There are many school projects requiring art skills, such as posters, displays, publications, stage design and event decor. Add your talent to those whenever possible.
If you’ve thought hard about earning a degree in design, start putting together that vital portfolio you’ll be showing to prospective employers. If you choose to follow my path, I wish you all the good luck in the world. A career in that exciting field will be well worth it to you.