Why Attend a Design School?

photo from flickr, bluekdesign

Many misconceptions exist regarding design schools that often discourage applicants, especially in traditional countries such as the Philippines.  I’m writing this article with hopes of debunking some of these misconceptions, and mostly to inspire. Design schools can offer a vast amount of unique skill sets and at the same time provide a world-class education. I myself am a design student currently studying in Rhode Island School of Design and I can confidently say that I’m receiving a premium education, highly suited for the world we live in today.

For our generation, the importance of design cannot be clearer. Some say we are at the cusp of the golden age of design. If you look at the largest companies, such as Apple, Path, Pinterest, Square, and Airbnb, design is at the core of their business. Yet, why are there so few Filipino students applying to design schools? 

A misconception regarding design schools is that it is equal to a trade or fine art school. I do not want to discourage application to the latter but there is a significant difference between them. Design schools apply the principles of fine arts to the requirements of trade and manufacture. You learn the base principles of fine arts and learn how to apply them to the working world. It is true that you gain a clear expertise in specific fields but the education you receive from design schools go far beyond pure practical training. You also gain a well-rounded education that is flexible and comprehensive. 

Is there money and jobs after design school? As hard as it is to believe, this question exists. Being a Chinese-Filipino, it was a tough decision for me to apply to a design school because I was made to believe there would be no job opportunities after. This has some merit if you compare job opportunities after a diploma from ivy leagues. However, research has shown us that designers have a much higher job satisfaction than most. There is nothing better than enjoying your job, which inherently leads to success. 

Design school personally taught me a vast amount of skills that I was able to transfer to the work force, the most important of which was being able to properly create a style and a brand. I also learned how to problem solve and think conceptually, which enables me to create systems and ideas. From those invaluable lessons, I was able to open a successful restaurant, a business, a gallery, and my photographs have received international accolades. Like all those large companies I mentioned earlier, I believe that design is the core. Design and business are not two separate things but are directly correlated. 

Liberal art schools may also teach you how to be problem solvers and conceptual thinkers but design schools use that as a base and go further. Design schools teach you how to make and create, which is timelessly and universally important.  They teach you how to produce products instead of just gathering resources and distributing them accordingly. Being able to physically create things is one of the most important skills I have taken from design school. 

Another misconception about design is that everything can be self-taught. I can attest to this because my skills in photography and graphic design were gained through the internet, youtube and books. We cannot underestimate self-education but just how far can this type of education take you? I was never able to learn the basic principles of design. It is not something you can read or watch, it needs to be experienced. 

To add to the quality of the education you are receiving, design schools immerse you with students who have the same passion as you do. The discussions you participate while in college are irreplaceable. You learn from your peers as much as you learn from your teachers.

I can easily go on and on but I think I was able to get my message across. If you have the talent or you believe in design then don’t be afraid to apply to design schools. Take the leap of faith. Design schools are unique, that offer an education and skill sets that are unattainable in others.  

Nicholai Go graduated from International School Manila in 2011. He now attends Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as a member of the class of 2015.