5 Lessons You Won’t Learn in Design School

As a new designer, you might be asking yourself, “What do I need to know about the professional design world?” Young designers will quickly found out that while the classes they’ve been taking will teach a lot, they left out some crucial information.

If you’re wondering what these secrets are, have no fear because we’ve uncovered the top five things you won’t learn in design class.

1. Know Your Worth

Desktop with background image which reads: Design Matters
We love designers so much that “Design Matters” is one of our core values!

Coming up in the design game, it can be daunting at times to ask your client for money for your work. One thing many designers struggle with is shaking the feeling that asking to get paid for your work is rude. It is not.

Remember, your time and skills are worth payment, so do your research, know what’s reasonable for your design climate, and be fairly paid for your fantastic pieces. (Yes, even from your friends!) If you’re unsure of what to charge, this tool by nuSchool may be helpful to you.

2. Learn How to Talk to People

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A major aspect of design is knowing what your client wants, and giving them something they feel they need. You have to be able to communicate, not only over email, but in person; pitching ideas, brainstorming content, and debriefing on specific projects.

You also can’t be entrenched in a “know it all attitude.” Respect your client’s feedback, and be receptive and active to critiques and tweaks. Remember: Good design is useless if it doesn’t match your audience’s goals. Make them believe in your vision and make your vision align with their goals.

3. Research More (and Design in the Wild)

person working on laptop on couch with stack of books to do research on lessons designers do not learn in design classes

As designers, we’re often too quick to go straight for the perfect idea or design. Take a deep breath before creating…and research! Go to markets to find what other products or concepts similar to yours look like. Go to antique shops and take inspiration from the past. Peruse Pinterest to see what others are doing. Start a word chart to know what you want your work to feel like.

Sketch all the concepts that come to your mind, even if they are incredibly silly. Don’t go straight for the computer, conceptualize and brainstorm away from it. As designer Tad Carpenter said, “Quantity over quality, you can perfect later.”

4.  Organize or Else

an art director at desk with books on lessons design classes do not teach

It only takes one instance of a client asking to see a previous project and being unable to find it to learn the importance of proper organization.

Organize your files so they’re easily accessible, labeled, and can be transferred and understood by clients or collaborators. Also, saving a backup in Google Cloud or a good ol’ fashioned thumb drive never hurt anybody.

5. Be a Well-Rounded Designer

woman working on laptop on couch with bag nearby learning lessons design classes won't teach you

Although you may not love every program, a good designer should be able to use all platforms to their advantage. Sometimes clients will need a simple Photoshop clean up, sometimes a vectorized logo, sometimes a publication, even possibly animation at times. Knowing how to use most or all of these programs makes you that much more marketable.

The design world is full of new lessons and things to learn all the time. Remember to keep learning lessons for yourself, even outside a traditional classroom setting.

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