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Your Brain on Design: A Graphic Design Blog

Should I go to an online design school?

February 2, 2010

Is an online design school right for me?

From my mailbag:

My friend’s daughter has some questions about going to school for Web Design. She wanted to know the best way to proceed because she has a baby on the way and wants to make the right decision. She was thinking about taking an online degree program to obtain an AA in web design but wasn’t sure how big companies would perceive an online degree. What would you recommend her to do? Any advice or help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

My answer:

In my opinion, the degree won’t matter as much to a hiring company as a good, strong portfolio and working skills will. The question is whether an online university can get you to a place where your portfolio is strong enough.

I’d suggest looking at whatever student work is available from the school she’s looking at and compare it to the work from excellent design schools like RISD, SVA (in New York), Pratt, Montserrat, and even Mass Art and UMass Dartmouth.

My feeling is that picking the right school is only 50% of it. I didn’t even go to art/design school, but have my degree in English from Colby College. I worked my butt off, though, reading books and magazines about design, finding a good mentor, and taking classes (including an online class on Typography from The New School in New York — that may be a school to look at) to get me up to speed.

I hope that helps!

And a reply from the student in question:

Thanks so much for the info.  Now that I think about it, several of the job ads do mention portfolios.  I contacted the on-line schools for student work and they claim they are unable to share due to it being  considered Academic Dishonesty.  However, when I contacted the Art Institute, Ringling College of Art & Design and Savannah College of Art & Design, they sent a ton of examples.  I wish I could go to a brick and mortar school, but I think taking a class or two such as the Typography in addition to the online would be very helpful.  Thanks so much for your suggestions as they really got me to think a bit differently.

A lovely and gracious reply, don’t you think?

I actually get this question, or a variation on it, a lot which is why I’m posting it here. Have a question you’d like to ask? Fire away.

Filed under: Know How,Mailbag

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