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Andy Leverenz

March 17, 2017

Last updated November 5, 2023

Should You Go To Art School?

Deciding to go to art school has evolved me into the designer and developer I am today. I am both grateful and a little turned off.

One of the hardest decisions to make is deciding what you want to do as a career in your lifetime. You only live once so this decision is huge and it has to count.

Having no idea what you want to do is okay

When entering art school you may have been like me where you weren't 100% sure what it was you wanted to do. This question somehow evolves into just committing to something and hoping for the best. I did this and got lucky that it turned out to be a good path to lead.

For others, this is not the case. Many go to college and find out they want to do something completely different with their lives. If this describes you, don't worry, you are not alone.

My story

I love to create in almost any medium. From music to graphics to code, I enjoy it all. This realization led me to believe I might enjoy pursuing a degree in graphic design even though I wasn't wild about going to school, to begin with. Not sure what to do, I decided to just suck it up and go to college with help from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

While in school I learned a lot. I meet some great people and made new friends. This experience is one you can't get back and for that, I am thankful for the 3 years I spent in college. It allowed me to get an internship that put my foot in the door working with a mentor I mentioned in the video. All of these things happened as a result of going to school but many things I learned along the way had zero to do with the courses at hand.

I took it upon myself to learn how to code. I did this because I saw that the program I was in was already behind. Courses, instructors, and the lessons they taught were falling short of modern requirements. While they provided ample amounts of foundation to create a good design I felt that the entire experience was a little lacking.

Learning how to code wasn't part of my degree requirements but I saw it as a way to make my time and my parent's investment in my schooling go to good use. Coding (and the study of web design) helped me become a better digital designer. Understanding how websites and applications worked opened so many new doors for me.

In the end, I graduated with a great GPA. I was already freelancing on the side while in school so on top of an internship post-graduation I did that to make some spare cash. I eventually grew my freelance business and started making some serious money. I later got a job working remotely all while continuing the freelance business. From there I quit that remote job to open Couple of Creatives with my partner Alyssa as well as run this blog among many other projects.

Was it all worth it? It's hard to say. Had I not gone to school I think fewer doors may have been open so I would have needed to work that much harder to open them. Going to school helped me extend my network and understand design from a different perspective. Having theory and best practices endowed in you are very valuable as a growing designer. You can use those to discover your own style and outlooks on depictions we see all over the globe today.

Why I think you should go to art school

Art school is worthwhile for sure. The theory alone is so valuable not to mention your professors tend to be great mentors when it comes to making good design decisions. Lighting, color, shadows, typography, rhythm and more are some things all designers need to understand. If you don't, it shows!

The perks

  • General Theory - Very important
  • Art History - Extremely valuable
  • Typography - Pretty much worth the cost alone
  • Critiques - You need to experience these to learn and grow. Getting judged will always happen. Critiques prepare you for this blunt experience.
  • Find mentors more easily
  • Discover new things
  • Extend your network
  • Make friends with similar interests
  • Have fun while learning with others

Why and when I think you should NOT go to art school

If you are turned on by the technical world (code, apps, data, communication) I think you will need to find a way to stay ahead of the pack. Every day there is some new technology to learn and utilize to build what we see today. If you think you will learn that in an art school you are very much wrong. Yes, they do have digital programs but these are so outdated that you will leave school having knowledge of things you just don't need to have knowledge of. I know from experience...

  • Programs and courses are almost always outdated
  • These courses are also not adapting to modern trends and requirements
  • A lot of what is taught in a school is available for free online. You can opt to teach yourself or get a mentor to help teach you for considerably less.
  • Online courses are quicker, cheaper, and allow you to learn only the things you want to. This gives you more control unlike at college where your degree requirements force you to take courses not relevant to what you are pursuing.
  • There are many online, local, and regional meetups where people come together to learn and network. These can open up new doors for someone who doesn't have a degree on their resume but can still kick ass at what they do.
  • Getting a job these days in the art and tech industry isn't all about what degree you got and from where but rather what work you have done so far. Showing off what you are capable of will get you hired much faster than any type of degree.

Take this all with a grain of salt

Having gone to school it's easier for me to say I probably wouldn't do it again if given the chance but for many, it's a tough decision and I get that. Most will try to persuade you to go and if you aren't sure what you want to do in the future then I agree that it's a safe bet to just go.

If you do know what you want to do I recommend seeing if there are any more cost/time-efficient ways to do this without going to school. If so then my question to you is, what are you waiting for?

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