Tips to Become a Better Design Student

Earning a degree in design can be a challenge. Whether you’re an architect, interior designer, graphic designer, or website designer, every area of emphasis requires a lot of hard work and dedication. We want to help make your design education as good as it possibly can be. In this blog, we’ll share a few of our mistakes (please learn from them!) and some advice on how to get the most out of your education.


    First and foremost, take responsibility for your own learning. It’s important to ask and find answers to questions and make sure you’re understanding the subject matter. Acquire good study skills and participate in mentoring opportunities. Taking responsibility for your own learning will prepare you for the future and help you become a successful learner.


    Invest your time in becoming a well-rounded student. Choose classes that help allow you to meet your goals and not just classes that give you easy credits. Push yourself further and learn skills outside of what you’re gaining in your class curriculum. For example, Rachelle was working towards a major in interior design, but took graphic design courses (which weren’t required) too to help her understand the Adobe products and give her the upper hand against others in her field after graduation. She also took initiative to learn the program Lumion to complete renderings and add another skill to her resume that many of her classmates didn’t have.


    Get involved in organizations and clubs, participate in mentoring opportunities, go on firm tours, and participate in travel studies. For any form of design, travel is so valuable. Doing a study abroad may or may not be in the cards for you, but take advantage of any travel you can. While attending SDSU, Taylor went on a trip to New York organized by the Graphic Design department where she toured many different design firms and museums. She said it was the turning point in her education where she learned she was on the right path. Also, whenever you do go on trips, really take full advantage. Talk to anyone you can and really observe the world around you.


    Another way to get the most out of your education is by learning about communication and business. Take business/entrepreneur classes, to understand spreadsheets, calculators, job descriptions and applications. Jamie says “I feel like going through design school, studio was such a huge focus that a lot of times it overshadowed other classes. Even though I still think it was super boring, I wish I would have paid more attention in my Professional Practice class, or even gotten out of the College of Architecture and taken a business class or two.” Even if you don't plan on starting your own firm after graduation, some business background and knowledge is super valuable.


    Make it a point to constantly read and research current thinking and recent projects/awards in your discipline and allied professions.


    This is another important one, take care of yourself. Take care of your physical and emotional health by eating well, exercising (even if it’s just a daily walk around campus), drink water (challenge yourself to drink ½ your weight in ounces of water daily!), and of course get adequate sleep. With a hectic college schedule, it’s easy for self-care to drop by the wayside, however it’s important to add these habits into your daily routine. Taking care of your mind and body will give you the energy you need to be successful.


    Become an effective time manager by time blocking and doing your best to avoid distractions. It’s also important to learn how long things take you to accomplish and plan ahead for those tasks so you’re not strapped for time before a deadline. We also recommend you set your own intermediate deadlines to help you stay on track, plus those small milestones you set on a project are so fun to celebrate! Most importantly, don’t procrastinate! We get it, some people naturally work well under pressure, but in most cases, you’re left turning in mediocre work that doesn’t represent your best skills (nobody wants that!).


    Be intentional about how you use your desk critiques and have questions and/or conversation ideas prepared. Critiques may be daunting, however they are a huge an essential part of the design process. Want to learn more advice to help you prepare for your next desk critique? Read this blog.

While you are earning that design degree, keep these tips in mind and it will make your studies easier to complete. You will have more time to accomplish your goals, showcase a high quality of work, and stand out among your peers!

Pro Tip: Remember that you are working towards the concept of MASTERY. This isn’t about just your grade, this is about becoming a lifelong scholar of your chosen discipline, so devote the time and attention needed to truly learn and grow.