From student to designer

As individuals in the design industry will know, it is long shot for a student to become a designer.

It is like moving from secondary school to a polytechnic, much of what you learn in secondary comes off as irrelevant by the time you hit the tertiary level. They are not completely useless of course, but you seldom are allowed to extract knowledge wholesale. Some of the tools you learned are useful, but many are not.

As I found out, things we learned in the school have to be discarded and relearned when we step into a design industry. Let’s start with the beginning though. With luck, starting out little, a designer will establish the basics of design in a technical school. In my view, polytechnics equip well, but they equip you with practical knowledge that might not establish your work in an artistic level. It is however, here, where you learn the fundamentals of aesthetics and the use of design tools (such as industry standard softwares, craft work, and proper material choices).

With that knowledge, some (usually the eccentric ones) would be capable of entering the design industry. When I look at polytechnic works though, I always found something missing in them, and that is often a literal look into the works. They are often surface at most, or commercialised. Which I thought was a pity because some of these works had potential, yet this potential is betrayed by the need to make their works too pretty, or polished. Being polished isn’t a bad thing, but a designer should know when to do it, and when rawness in works work better.

Stepping into college for a designer is an eye opener in my opinion. You open yourself up into two spectrums; decent rice bowl works, and the creatives. This will be frustrating, because now rather than just a sensible design, you are made to be artistic, and to bring meaning to your works. Your classmates will be weird, and some will be too artistic to ever be designers, but I urge you to ignore them, because it is very important for a designer at this point to work at his own pace, even if that means missing a deadline or two. This really is the time to be rebellious (Oh David Carson, do step right up, hello Martin Luther King Jr, how have you been?).

It feels weird but it is a natural progression of experimenting design rules and justifying breaking it. It is at this stage where you forget your technical skills in the polytechnic in an exploration of craft and art, where ugly might be beautiful in the right circumstances.

You will read alot. Tadao Ando, Dieter Rams will all serve as decent case studies for conceptualising design. You will try to understanding how form follows function, but realise that what the book says don’t always make sense, because there are cases where function follows form; an example would be repurposing design. These books will revolve around design, and after awhile it will stifle your growth as a designer.

“Read it once, remember it, and not read it again”. For a designer who already understands the basics will now need a range of academic interests to push concepts further.

Da Vinci designs, not because it is his profession, but because he sees design as a holistic need. Design is everything after all, and very often it is your interests that will determine what kind of designer you are. Designers who love architecture will design with time and space in mind. Designers who love the traditional arts will design often with realistic elements, and often work with a maximalist mindset. None of this is wrong, as long as the design fits its purpose.

Finally, after all that, you will step into the industry. While practicality sets in again after the range of exploration in college, you now have the range of knowledge to work with. It is a little like building a caravan. You are trying to fit the functionality of a house into a car, and that will means that you can only bring the things that are absolutely necessary. So you will pick things in that weird vortex of yours that sets you apart in poly and college, and you will place them in a tangible level. Your design will be different from the older designers, because a part of this practicality still holds that wild, funny, nitwitted play; and that is something that young designers have that older ones will lose. Experience after all, is a double-edged sword.

I feel that we should not get lost in the crowd. It is here where a student officially becomes a designer. Where it seems less like a project, and more like living—both monetary and, passion wise.

Like a college student putting down his partying days. A grown up looks at his family, with wisdom and sees the appropriate steps to take for a future he deems bright. I think this should be something a student strives, when entering the working world, you do not have to forget your youth, for the good old days will always remind you of who you are, but you are wise enough to choose the mistakes made in your youth, to work on, and improve upon in adulthood.



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