Jessica Humphrey


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A Graphic Design Degree. Is it worth it?


Recently a friend asked me this. They have a friend who's a freshman and is wondering if it's worth the money, or something they may want to do because the idea of sitting at a desk all the time doesn't seem appealing. Because I'm currently working in the industry, they asked me for my input. 

My advice? It depends. In the past there years, I've worked corporate, freelance, and now in an agency setting. Although my degree was a BFA in "Graphic Design", my work is truly cross discipline, and I work in print, digital, environmental and everything in between. Yes, the bulk of my work involves working at a desk, but I could also end up on a set attending a photoshoot at some point. 

The thing that I've come across the most is that folks either don't know what a graphic designer does, OR they think it just involves print work (flyers, posters, etc.). While it involves those things, it increasingly also means more. Print isn't exactly dying, but we're living in a digital world, and a graphic designer also has to frequently do things like work with code, video, photo and information architecture. 

As I learned quickly after getting my degree, graphic design shouldn't (and can't) be the final stopping place. If anything it should be a launchpad for design foundations that you can use to move into other design areas. Don't like sitting behind a desk? Maybe environmental design is for you. Like to work on things that you KNOW will have an impact on people? Perhaps get into wayfinding and accessbility. There are many ways to put a graphic design degree to use, as long as you know that it's not a stopping point, and that it's something that you want to do. 

The key is to do your research and find out if it's the starting place for you. Knowing where you want to direct your design focus is helpful - even if it doesn't start with graphic design. Learn what other design areas you can branch into. Research, research, research. 

With the costs of education exploding, research not only helps you learn more about (and hopefully feel good about) your decision, it also helps you figure out if it's somewhere you want to put your money.