Degree classification...does it REALLY matter?

missgiggles's picture

Does it matter what degree classification you have? I mean a 1st or 2:1 or do you think too many people think too much about it, as they never get asked what classification they get in employment. Do they? At the 4 designers conference in London, they mentioned the fact that no one asks about it. Is this a good attitude to give out to students or erm...bad? WOuld just liek your views on it. Thanks.
PS isn't it the attitude, the personality, the way one thinks and the passion for design that REALLY matters or all of the above and more so? Please enlighten me.

PPS Would you rather be daring when it comes to design and fail or would you be safe and get a good grade?

Freeza's picture

No it doesn't. What it does matter is that you passed through the university experience.

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www.nunocoelho.com

missgiggles's picture

Interesting because it seems like there is competition at university for who gets the best marks and yes...it helps to determine who is good and the best but what about daring-ness? What about attitude to take risks? What about passion for the subject? What about other characteristics needed to be a great designer that aren't throughly applauded upon at university. Students are not able to take risks due to the fear of failing. What would you say to degree students?

blank's picture

What about attitude to take risks?

For most people just going to design school—as opposed to, say, business school—is pretty risky and takes a lot of courage to begin with. And your professors are probably pushing you to risk more than you realize.

What about other characteristics needed to be a great designer that aren’t throughly applauded upon at university.

Life goes on after university. In a field like design university is just the beginning of one’s education.

Students are not able to take risks due to the fear of failing.

And that experience prepares them for the real world, where taking the wrong risks can bankrupt a designer and possibly a client.

What would you say to degree students?

Don’t worry so much. You’ll be done soon enough.

Freeza's picture

In my opinion, everyone should get to university and if it's a good one, better. Now... there's good and bad university's , some School's as James said can pass you a wrong idea of whats the industry or how it works leading many people to abandon design later on. And there's the good ones that will make you grow both professionally and as a person. On top of all that...there's the school as an Business so of course it's of they're best interest to appear on the charts.

Basically for me where you studied or your grades are important at a first/superficial look/evaluation only to know something about you and your path. But what really matters for me is the works you did, your personality, your will and how you work.

So if you wanna do something risky and different, do it at school, and learn from it, explore yourself. See the other's reaction and take advantage that there's no client or money involved :) Just evolve as a person and learn something more then just designing, that's what's University is for.

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www.nunocoelho.com

ebensorkin's picture

It is easy to say look at this one, he/she made a difference or was important etc; and he/she didn't get a degree and so on. There is no shortage of examples of amazing self starting folk. But they are exceptional.

If you are going to decide that university or other training doesn't matter you had better be ready to throw 110%+ at getting where you want to go on your own. That is a rare sort of person and you had better be honest with yourself about if that's the kind you are.

The converse is also true. Good grades at school don't always translate into success afterwards - but they don't hurt one bit. Not because the work itself is necessarily a key to or identical to what real jobs are like, but because learning how to hit the task hard and keep pushing until you get the result you want is not something everybody knows how to do. Getting good grades shows know how. That you have the will to get things done and are probably not going to be a prima dona about it.

PS isn’t it the attitude, the personality, the way one thinks and the passion for design that REALLY matters or all of the above and more so?

No. They matter but they are far far far from being enough. If that were so then everybody who was a laugh at a party would be hugely successful. They are not. It takes hard work.

aluminum's picture

Your personality and portfolio are what gets you work. University is a means to and end for that.

pattyfab's picture

But they are exceptional.

Completely disagree. Not to reopen this debate or anything but most of the successful designers I know didn't go to school for it.

Nick Shinn's picture

Patty, that's anecdotal.
Faz, if you want stats on this kind of issue in the UK, check out Icograda and its surveys. Otherwise, don't take your nose off the grindstone--compromising your principals in order to get good marks is unlikely to have lasting effects on your design mojo.

Would you rather be daring when it comes to design and fail or would you be safe and get a good grade?

That sounds like a design brief, where one is required to resolve conflicting criteria. So, why not design a way to be daring and get a good grade?

ebensorkin's picture

Patty couldn't it be said that the most successful designers are also self starters? And that they are rare?

Not to reopen this debate

No not at all ;-)

compromising your principals in order to get good marks is unlikely to have lasting effects on your design mojo.

Well put.

ebensorkin's picture

In other words Patty, I don't see that what you are saying and I what am saying are obviously in conflict. They could very well be true at the same time.

rs_donsata's picture

To me school grades can tell on a job interview if you have some discipline are organized and like to follow the rules. I had bad grades on the university and have bad discipline, bad organization and feel discouraged by rules, all of this brings me trouble but these things don't really make me a bad designer, just a bad employee jajajaja.

Seriously as stated above, the important thing about university is learning and having the experience of going to it is the most important thing. I'm doing well after all and university did help.

Héctor

Don McCahill's picture

A degree can help you get an interview. A portfolio will always get you the job.

As for higher degrees, they are mainly useful if you want to teach in the field.

William Berkson's picture

When I was a student in England, long, long ago, whether a person got an upper second or a lower second was the usual dividing line on whether they were able to get into post-graduate education. This was not in the design field, but I suspect that how high the degree is might affect further education possibilities more than employment. That's a question to ask, anyway.

Freeza's picture

I'm with Héctor, dotn like the rules that much

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www.nunocoelho.com

KenBessie's picture

compromising your principals in order to get good marks is unlikely to have lasting effects on your design mojo.

Nick, is the typo deliberate? 'Cause I'm laughing so hard I can't get off the floor.

Nick Shinn's picture

No, but it's all good, as they say :-)

KenBessie's picture

It is truly sage advice :-)

ebensorkin's picture

Also, I think "design mojo" is a great turn of phrase.

Rez Oo's picture

The state of the educational system in the UK today, its a case of who you know, rather than what you know. Its a joke. *sits back and stares out of the second floor studio window... ; )

__
Rez

VIEW's picture

Your personality and portfolio will always be the most important factors when getting work. University enables you to experiment and find your own style of working which is hugely important. Finding your own way of working and being successful leads to job satisfaction and in turn increases the productivity and quality of future work.

University is important for self development, but, the final grade is overshadowed by the individuals personality, passion for the subject and portfolio.

VIEW.

VIEW's picture

Who did you get to know Rez?… ; )

VIEW.

missgiggles's picture

Haha! Heard that one before about 'who you know, not what you know'. I have also had people telling me that some universities may mark higher than others on a certain piece of work. Don't you think that gives a wrong indication to students because they find out when they arrive in the industry environment and isn't it too late then? Or is it not the end of the world?

.00's picture

When I taught at design schools, as my students became overly concerned with grades, I would tell them that, "no one is going to ask you what grade you got in Typography 3 all they care about is your ability to demonstrate to them that you can do the work." I also told my students that I had never gone to design school, and was pretty much self taught, with the occasional night school class at SVA.

I know there are firms in NYC that only consider graduates from certain programs (or at least heavily favor them). But I wonder if the era of the self-taught designer is still with us, or is it over?

I stopped teaching at design schools, because I came to realize that I could no longer be apart of a factory system that takes in students, charges them extraordinary tuition, and essentially gives them vocational training, rather than an education. A small fraction of these students will go on and get work, the rest will do something else, but they will be ill prepared to do that something else since they have received a sub-standard education. Some of those ill-prepared students, who couldn't land a design job will go on to graduate school, rather than give up on their dream of a design career.

At approximately $40,000 a year for a top design school, how can you justify $160,000 to $250,000 in loans for a career that will start you out in the high $20K low $30K and will take years to advance to a modest 6 figure income?

I don't have any real answers to my complaint. I have said before that design is the new acting, and every year students invest heavily to enter schools for both fields. The acting students go in with their eyes open, being told from the very beginning how difficult it is to make a living as an actor. New design students have not been given the same good advice.

James

pattyfab's picture

Grades don't matter a whit once you graduate.

James - the same is now true of the fine arts - it has become necessary to have an MFA and now the curators are going straight to arts grad programs to mine for artists. Be interesting to see where some of these students are in 5 or 10 years. Myself, I'm trying the "labor in obscurity until my vision has matured and then spring full-blown onto the scene in later life" approach.

Anyway I'm glad not to have had to play off the grad student loans.

blank's picture

James, if you ever have an opening let me know and I’ll move to New York!

KenBessie's picture

Faz, it's important to keep in mind that your career starts *after* school. Getting a job is much more important than the politics that are going on at school. That another university marks differently doesn't matter. That individual instructors mark differently doesn't matter. That a fellow student gets a higher mark than you on a project doesn't matter. What matters is what *you* are learning, and whether you are developing your design mojo. You will get a job–or you will fail to get that job–based upon your design mojo.

Christian Robertson's picture

Get good grades. It will help keep your options open. If you ever want to do grad school or even do something else good grades will open doors.

rs_donsata's picture

Still having good grades helps, too low grades may get you in trouble on some job interviews.

Héctor

.00's picture

Still having good grades helps, too low grades may get you in trouble on some job interviews.

I couldn't disagree more.

blank's picture

Still having good grades helps, too low grades may get you in trouble on some job interviews.

For what it’s worth, nobody has ever asked me about my grades on job interviews.

mili's picture

I've only been asked about my education in the school level, grades have not been mentioned and nobody wants to see the papers. In a way the fact that one was admitted to a certain school seems to be enough, but even that is not important after a few years' work experience.
In design job interviews my portfolio has been the most important thing alongside my personality and the wave length with the interviewer.

Miss Tiffany's picture

If you are in school shouldn't good work EQUAL good grades?

In general:
People who see your portfolio full of great work should be able to pre-suppose that you received good grades.
People who see your good grades should be able to pre-suppose a portfolio full of good work.

Good grades equals a hard worker. Employers want hard workers.
Good work equals a hard worker. Employers want hard workers.

I don't see why there is anything to discuss.

If someone wants to go to school then great. If not, great. Everyone has a different path. But, the truth of the matter is that most schools teach fantasy-land work so if there is a problem at all it is schools not putting the students under real-world production problem solving.

dezcom's picture

To be a good designer, you have to be analytical enough to find the heart of the problem you have to solve, people-savvy enough to convey your logic well to your clients and coworkers, and talented enough to do the job. You have to ask yourself if your grades suffered because of your own deficiency or that of your teachers. This is a tough one to judge without bias :-)

ChrisL

rs_donsata's picture

If you apply on a big corporation or a position on the public service you are likely to have your last degree of education's averagre grade scrutinized. I had to answer for my grades on my actual job interview at the government.

Héctor

.00's picture

People who see your portfolio full of great work should be able to pre-suppose that you received good grades.
People who see your good grades should be able to pre-suppose a portfolio full of good work.

I think the former may be true, but not the latter. I have seen plenty of really mediocre portfolios from "A" students. When I taught it was very difficult to get an "A" in my class. I had the reputation of being a very tough grader. But I didn't see it that way. I threw "B"s and "C"s around, and if you just showed up you'd pass the course (with a C- or D) but you'd pass.

I think all design schools should be Pass/Fail, with the portfolio review the sole arbiter of class rank, if class rank is important to anyone. Better yet, you could withhold grades for the seniors altogether until you saw who got hired and by whom. Then you could dole them out and point to the fact that all your grade A students landed really impressive jobs. Great for recruitment if no one looked to close! Hah!

Miss Tiffany's picture

Yes. That is true, James. I was on a set course and didn't think that one through.

I also like the idea of all creative classes being pass/fail.

guifa's picture

I don't think it's necessary to have them pass fail. Well, maybe at a school that doesn't nothing but design, but with an art department there's no reason to keep up the standard system:

F: You didn't do the assignment
D: You tossed it together the night before
C: You did the assignment as instructed
B: You really did the assignment, good job.
A: You went above and beyond all expectations and produced something above the expected level.

At my university, you could still eek out a good grade in a failed* project (I'm thinking about my senior new media project...) if you documented the creative process and then turned that documentation into a project in and of itself since part of the idea is to learn through your projects. If you showed you had learned and how you might have done things differently to have gotten a successful project, you might not get top marks but still good ones.

Also, if you're planning on working in the public sector (not the best place for design jobs, though they exist, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who isn't a designer by day on here), the degree is absolutely necessary. And while grades might not matter hugely, though I have been asked for transcripts (again, not a design job), if you plan on working in another country and need to convalidate your degree which you must do for all public and some private jobs, course selection can be more important than grades.

«El futuro es una línea tan fina que apenas nos damos cuenta de pintarla nosotros mismos». (La Luz Oscura, por Javier Guerrero)

*failed here meaning one realized it was impossible to complete the objects one had set out for oneself at the beginning, as opposite to turning in crap work or non-existent work. In my case, I couldn't secure the equipment I needed, though it didn't matter since I got tripped up on my networking code)

dezcom's picture

I think grades and tough crits are a good idea for design school. If you want to survive in this business, you better learn to accept criticism and have tough skin.

ChrisL

missgiggles's picture

I agree that a career starts from the first design job and beyond. If the foundation is good, then it'll give you a good start.

.00's picture

Chris,

I agree that the ability to survive requires a tough skin, and the sooner one develops that tough skin the better. But crits in school are much different than the crits one receives as a professional. In school the crit is always framed as a learning experience. Constructive criticism is what I think they call it. Most client critiques lack this compassionate edge.

dezcom's picture

"Most client critiques lack this compassionate edge."

Unquestionably true! :-)

ChrisL

missgiggles's picture

I see being a tough cookie helps. Sometimes, a tough cookie could turn so hard, so nasty...it might start hurting others. SIlly cookie.

pattyfab's picture

In school the crit is always framed as a learning experience. Constructive criticism is what I think they call it. Most client critiques lack this compassionate edge.

Oh I had plenty of non-compassionate art teachers. Students reduced to tears in crits. However, that is good preparation for the working world.

the truth of the matter is that most schools teach fantasy-land work so if there is a problem at all it is schools not putting the students under real-world production problem solving.

This statement is the source of my bias against design school. Plus I found design school grads often had a sense of entitlement - walk right in and expect to be handed plum design work rather than do whatever you're handed, keep your eyes open, have a good attitude and earn the right to do the good projects.

dezcom's picture

"a tough cookie could turn so hard, so nasty...it might start hurting others."

But tough nasty cookies don't get return work. The trick is, the client gets to be nasty but the designer has to remain calm and positive. This is the thick skin part and why good people skills are important for success. Designers provide a service to a client. Clients can choose to use you for that service or hire someone else. Very few very sought after designers have the luxury of choosing clients. Those lucky few did not find themselves in that position by being nasty to clients. Designers have to learn how to be skillful communicators and collaborators. Would you hire someone who was nasty to you? There is a big difference between a designer who has done their homework and speaks effectively and can get their point across without negative behavior and an egocentric bully who is so demanding that nobody will work with them.

ChrisL

pattyfab's picture

And yet... people keep hiring Louise Fili.

Miss Tiffany's picture

I was a student that had to be reduced to tears before I really grasped what it was I was attempting to do. Yeah, I think the teacher was a little over the top, but his kind of teaching put me on the right track. When I became a teacher I consciously avoided doing what he did, but never forgot the lesson he taught me. In school the teacher was the client, so I always worked to please the teacher. I was lucky. I had teachers that I could trust in that I knew if they approved of my work it meant it was good. In life I work to please the client. Underlying all of this "pleasing of others" is me making sure I think I'm still doing good work.

It isn't about becoming tough. It is about understanding. Understanding the clients needs in terms of how you can solve them with what you have to offer.

pattyfab's picture

It isn’t about becoming tough. It is about understanding. Understanding the clients needs in terms of how you can solve them with what you have to offer.

And about recognizing that if your client is not ultimately satisfied with the work, then your design was not successful, regardless of whether or not you agree with him. It can be extremely frustrating when a client asks you to do something you don't want to (I'm dealing with this right now on a book cover) but you need to pick your battles and if you alienate the client you lose the client. Some are worth losing, but in this economy... that's not a luxury I want to take. It can also be hard to avoid "design fatigue" which is that point in the design process where you are willing to do almost whatever they ask in order to get the job DONE and your invoice paid. It happens, and the more experience you have (and the more extensive portfolio) the easier it is to accept that some jobs are just not going to end up in your portfolio.

Miss Tiffany's picture

And about recognizing that if your client is not ultimately satisfied with the work, then your design was not successful, regardless of whether or not you agree with him.

Very true.

blank's picture

…if your client is not ultimately satisfied with the work, then your design was not successful, regardless of whether or not you agree with him.

Rubbish. A design can be quite successful and never satisfy the client, because clients may simply be stupid and desire random changes that undermine the requirements they set forth in the first place. Sometimes the designer has failed to communicate why the design works in a way the client can understand, but sometimes the client is just plain stupid.

I once worked for a client who requested an advertisement on a very short timeline, designed to fit into an existing campaign. Several successful ads were produced, the client chose one…and requested a minor aesthetic change. The change was made, and then the client requested another, and another and so on. Fourteen color shifts, shadow angles, weight changes, etc. later the window of opportunity was past and the ad died. Every version was a successful design, but the client could not be satisfied because the client was stupid and refused to be satisfied.

KenBessie's picture

Every version was a successful design, but the client could not be satisfied because the client was stupid and refused to be satisfied.

If the client went to a different designer for his next project, or didn't pay for all the time spent on revisions, the design was not successful. This is a business. We provide a service for money. Ideally, we also like what we do.

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