Design Students, Stop Talking To Designers

My last article explored current design curricula and what parts of them are lacking from my point of view. I even shared personal experience with the design program I completed at a small liberal arts college. After receiving feedback in the form of tweets, emails, and conversations, I realized that the biggest issue is not how to learn new skills, but how to apply those newfound skills with others who can fill in the gaps.

Whether or not design professors successfully share necessary skills with students is irrelevant these days. In this current age of technology, a design student can Google “how to become a designer” and receive thousands of articles, tutorials, and resources to use. Try it right now. This is the first article you’ll find.

After wading through all of these resources, what is an eager design student like yourself supposed to do? I’ll give you a step in the right direction. DON’T talk to next design student or professor you come across. Instead, the next conversation you need to have is with yourself. This conversation should start something like this:

“What do I want to do with these skills and resources? Do I want to add value to lives of others? Can I create that value on my own terms?”

If you ask me, the answer is yes. You can create that value on your own terms. However, you can’t do it alone. One of the most valuable things you can do now, this very minute, is to find other students who are not in your major and work with them. Whether it’s a class project, a side project or even a passion project, you will need help.

What sort of help will you need in order to execute ideas? Do you know how to build a digital or physical product? If not, reach out to a Computer Science or Engineer major. Need to know how to position an idea to your potential audience? Find a Marketing major. Can you design a functioning company around your idea? Talk to a Business Administration major. You get the idea.

These are connections that can help create the kind of education that you can actually apply, both now and in the “real world.” If this sort of interdisciplinary teamwork isn’t standard in your program, make it standard. Not only will it help you apply your design principles now, it will make your transition after college (or portfolio school) infinitely more seamless. You may also make a few friends, co-founders or partners along the way.

Not sure how to spark this conversation with other students outside of your major? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Ask people in your general education classes if they know anyone who can code/make a business plan/create financial projects/etc.
  • Choose a past or present design project and take it a step further by asking others to help
  • Setup a time to talk with your advisor about opportunities to work with others around campus
  • Checkout other meetings and clubs (computer science club, business fraternities, etc.)
  • Feeling exceptionally ambitious? Start a Meetup where students from any major can come, pitch ideas and find people they need

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. In the process of executing an idea, building the team is just the first step. I’ll be exploring other steps in the next few articles.

Have any questions or suggestions for working with others? Feel free to reach out on Twitter using @williamfrazr, checkout my new website for more resources and subscribe to my brand new personal newsletter called The Imperfectionist!

I’m a designer and writer who enjoys making people smile.

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