Display sander smeeks
Dec 14 2015
by Megan Smith

What I Learned in Design School is...

By Megan Smith - Dec 14 2015
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Now that I've spent half a semester in the University's College of Design, I think I've finally sorted out the words I wanted to say. 

I've seen and read enough posts about art school that I could paint well over 1000 pictures. The exciting parties where halfway through, someone films the event for some commentary on communism; the outrageously colored hair styles that walk through the halls each day; even the fearful day when you walk into class only to find you have to draw a nude old man for three hours. And for some reason, whenever I mention I'm in CDes, I seem to get that same stereotype pushed onto me from whoever I'm talking to. And while I did have that same expectation going into my first semester, I found it was quite a bit different from what I thought it would be. So, to clear up an air of confusion that may still be lingering, I thought I would highlight seven things I learned this semester in design school. 

7. Everyone dresses nicely

I think this can apply to art school in some respects, but for some reason, I've found I'm always struggling with what to wear on days I find myself commuting to McNeal for my Design classes. I was excepting some of it with the apparel design majors in the same building, but you'd be surprised at the amount of students wearing suits and button ups or skirts and dresses to class. You can always sense a hint of symmetry or pattern in any clothing choices you see greet you, and its not as often you see those bright maroon and gold colors enter the building. Just look at our class of 2019 shirts - they're freakin' black and blue! Talk about trying to make a statement! 

6. Personal injuries are more common than you'd think

After one of my lengthier color class projects, I realized working with an Xacto knife on a regular would always keep me on my toes. I've knicked my fingers too many times to count while trying to cut out magazine clippings and final projects. I've even heard from some apparel majors how iron burns aren't all that uncommon when it gets a little late in the sewing rooms. 

5. Color class is hard. And don't *even* joke about it being easy. 

You know how every major has a "weed out class"? Like the beginners biology class that actually causes most pre-med majors to switch to English? Well, color class is literally our weed out class. All majors who make their way to McNeal (curse you architecture and landscape architecture majors) have to take it, and if you manage to make it through, props to you! There's a time or two you'll feel pathetic for having a mental breakdown over painting and cutting out swatches of paint to create a scale with, but after having it critiqued for the third time in a week, you'll realize how justified you were in crying into your paint shirt while working on it the night before. 

4. It's not uncommon to be asked your thoughts on the coffee cup and see students drawing in the hallways

Some of the foundations courses have kept their primary projects for years, such as Intro to Design Thinking's coffee cup redesign project, or the final building drawing for the Foundations Drawing course. We even have to draw a nude man in our class too, so take that, art school! Seeing these projects repeated over and over gives you some comfort in that these classes are time-tested, and your professors know what ways to teach you the material.

3. We're all perfectionists. 

We hate to admit it, but....no wait, no we don't. We're getting paid to make sure your logo is at a 90 degree angle instead of an 89 degree angle and that the font is just the *right* shade of cyan. And even though we're told that we care too much (which is true), we're only caring out of love. 

2. Don't even joke about using Papyrus or Comic Sans. 

Seriously. I've heard serious complaints from professors against students who have even used Arial in their body text, so if you aren't serious about fonts, are you really a design student? 

1. We don't know what we're doing with our futures, and thats ok.

If you're a graphic design student like me, you know how much of a struggle it can be to narrow down a career. I spent weeks debating with a friend in Bioproduct Engineering that I should have a better idea of what career I could go into, but after talking to other majors and even professionals in the industry, I've found its almost impossible to know. We're taught how to be web designers, user experience designers, logo designers, brand developers, advertisers, illustrators, and even more, so to limit us to one career path seems traumatic, especially with the breadth of material the CDes classes cover. And keep in mind, this is just a small fraction of what you can do with a graphic design major! I can't imagine what other opportunities retail merchandising and interior design majors have upon graduation. In a way, we're all kind of thankful since this gives us more monopoly in the job market...so who says having an art related major isn't helpful?


Lead image credit: Sander Smeekes 

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Megan Smith - University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Megan Smith is the current managing editor of the Fresh U chapter at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she plans to major in graphic design and minor in communications. In years past, Megan worked as a managing editor of her high school paper, and the art director and editor-in-chief of her high school literary magazine. When she isn't working on editing articles or reading up on the latest news, she's either working on an art project, hiding out with her current read, or trying to teach herself to play the ukulele.

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