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How to Succeed in your Graphic Design Degree and other Creative Programmes

Compared to the usual academic route, being a student in the creative industry is a whole other ball-game. For one, you’ll have almost close to zero paper examinations. Yup, that’s right. No burning the midnight oil while you try to cram as much information into your head before the examination. No constant worrying about careless errors on your papers, no scribbling furiously while you try to beat the clock, or even worrying about whether the topics that you focused on would not appear on the exam. All the information you need is at your fingertips. Sounds fun to you? Well, unfortunately that’s where the pros stop, before you realize that students in the creative industry face a slew of other problems unfamiliar to their peers in the other faculties.

For one, their modules are often project-based. This also means that while they get a whole lot of time to work on improving their grades, there is no such thing as a sure distinction. Things could go wrong at any point of time, many sleepless nights are spent obsessing over the project, often undoing a mistake doesn’t just mean using correction tape and writing over it. And even after all the preparation in the world, you’re totally unsure of what sort of grades you’d get after handing in your submission. There’s no clear right or wrong. Often, there are criteria to be fulfilled, but there’s still a part of it that’s subjective. Do the assessors get the idea and the design identity I was trying to put across?

So here are a couple of tips to get through that dastardly graphic design degree, visual effects courses or any other sort of creative industry education programme that you are currently in.

i) Get the Assignment/Design Brief
And by that I don’t mean to receive the brief. I meant to GET it. Understand what you are going to be doing.

ii) Make a Checklist
Make a checklist. What is important to the brief? The requirements? What is going to be your design identity? The message or purpose of your design. Put it in the list. Do it. Cross it off. Check it at the end of the design process again to ensure that the particular item didn’t get drowned out in the process.

iii) Don’t over-design
“Just a one more”. That super-dangerous line usually sends both the weight-conscious, and aspiring designers spiraling into an endless loop of self-loathing. Yeah, we’ve all been there. Newbie students from the visual effects courses will know the danger of adding that extra glow/firework/shadow/explosion, and suddenly everything looks like the 4th of July (in America). Product design students, adding in extra curvature to their design for aesthetical purposes.

Basically less is more. Does your design fit its function? Okay, so it works. Want to make it smaller/bigger/shinier/curvier? Alright. Why? “It looks nice” is not a good enough excuse. Even your aesthetic changes need a reason. For what purpose are you making that aesthetic change? What emotion/message/idea/identity are you trying to get across? If you think your aesthetic change will make the difference and give your design what you were looking for, then do it. As a general rule of thumb, try not to add in more than 3 changes to the design that don’t serve a purpose.

Of course, there are a slew of other tips we could dish out, but why not come find out for yourselves? Leave a comment below, or better yet, come down to MAGES and talk to us if you have any questions or would like to the list above. We’d be glad to hear your thoughts!

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