I am not a college-educated, graphic designer hater. I love people who went to college. I think it’s amazing that you went to college, and I want to start this video off today by telling you how proud I am of you, and how you have an opportunity over people who are self-taught. I am not college-educated, but I have worked very hard to get where I am today, in my office here. You have an even bigger opportunity if you’re college-educated, but that doesn’t come without some disadvantages. So, today’s video is going to be about why graphic designers who are college-educated can suck. That doesn’t mean they all suck, but some of them do. So without further ado, let’s roll into it.
Hey guys, welcome back to the Adrian Graphics and Marketing channel. I’m Adrian Boysel, and today’s video topic is about how graphic designers who are college-educated can suck — and how you can actually use your opportunity of being college educated as an advantage. Because you have an advantage. So we’re going to get into it.
I want to start by telling you a story. And that story is: how my career has developed over the last 15 years. My career as a graphic designer started as being a hobby. And then I opened up my first graphic design and print shop, doing printing and sign work. I was doing all the graphic design at that time.
Well, when I actually sold that company and started my marketing agency, I knew I was going to have to take myself out of the cog and wheel of doing all the graphic design myself. I gained a ton of experience.
I’d built a huge reputation over a four year period of being an award-winning graphic designer. So I wanted to take all that experience, and teach other people and bring in other talented graphic designers and people I had seen on Instagram, people who are college-educated, people who are self-taught. I wanted to bring those people into my company and share their talents with the world, and offer amazing services.
Well, as I did that, I started to hire other graphic designers. Some of them were self-taught, but honestly, the majority of people who I went after in the beginning were college-educated students. I would put out ads on Indeed. I would put out ‘now hiring’ ads all over the place — on Craigslist — and the people who would inquire were mostly college-educated people, people from prestigious universities, the Academy of art University of design and technology schools. People who had a graphic design bachelor’s degree — and even master’s degrees.
I would get their resumes, and some looked amazing. And I wondered to myself: “Man, how is this person even looking for work, as gifted and talented as they are?” I did the interviews. Everything seemed amazing. They had great personalities. And then we got started — I threw them their first project, and in doing that, I was able to find out, within just two or three people that I hired, what a disaster I had walked into. What I couldn’t even tell going into it was that I was going to have as a huge dilemma. And that dilemma was that college-educated graphic designers (and this is number one) overthink and over-analyze everything.
As somebody who came from the retail print and design world, where I was designing a flyer in an hour and a half to two and a half hours, or designing a business card in 30 to 45 minutes at the most, or designing a logo in three or four hours— between research, colors, and all of those things, I was putting together stuff in less than a day. I was handing these projects off to graphic designers, and they were taking a week, two weeks, and sometimes even three weeks just to get a concept down — that wasn’t even a finished project. I started asking myself: “Why is this happening? What is it that’s going on with these college-educated students?”
These college-educated students were overthinking and over-analyzing the situation. They were creating moodboards, and putting together hours and hours, days and days, worth of research, just to try to come up with a concept that was original. They were so focused on being original, they were overthinking and over-analyzing the process. Many college students are taught a certain method and a certain process, and it’s very hard for them to deviate from that.
So that’s number one: overthinking and over-analyzing. That is something that can be a downfall for a college-educated graphic designer, and something that I never fell into. Because when I’m doing graphic design — coming up with a logo design for somebody, or a business card design — I get a feel for who they are as a person and come to understand who my customer is. Once I understand that, I’ll do a little bit of research — maybe 30 minutes to an hour’s worth of research — of stuff that I like, and I’ll get inspired. I’ll use that stuff that I research within 30 minutes to an hour for the graphic design project, the logo project, or the business card design project. And I’ll just go to work creating — whether it’s sketching, or doodling something out. I won’t overthink it. I don’t analyze it. And that’s just part of being a self-taught designer.
That is one of the advantages that self-taught designers have, which college-educated students could do more of. That, and be a little more free spirited. They’d have a lot more success, and be able to turn around projects a lot faster. You don’t have to overthink the process, just get inspired. Find something you like — a couple of things from each project that you like — move on, and start creating. The goal is just to start creating.
Number two is: graphic designers are taught in college to be employees, and not entrepreneurs. They’re taught to follow directions and to follow a specific process which they were taught in school, not how to build a business. And that is part of what my mission is. My purpose here on these videos is to help fellow creatives, fellow graphic designers, go from being just an employee, making $30—40,000 a year, to being entrepreneurs. To be able to do this for yourself. To offer rates that you never even thought were possible. To be able to sell your work for $150, $200, $,300 hour, based on per project work. So, being able to actually understand how to price your stuff, how to structure your deals, how to go get business, how to attract customers, how to build a brand. College doesn’t teach you any of those things.
They may graze on some of those topics, but they don’t go into depth on any of those things. So a lot of these people who are college-educated graphic designers are just designing themselves to be employees, and to be a cog in the wheel, and be somewhere in the assembly line of a marketing agency. Maybe it’s a creative piece for a website. Maybe it’s a creative piece for a video ad, or maybe it’s a creative piece or a graphic ad for a magazine. They’re just helping out as a part of another process. And they’re just a cog in the wheel. If you want to get out and actually make more money than you ever have before, you have to start thinking like an entrepreneur. And there are some repercussions to thinking like an entrepreneur, and it makes it hard sometimes to fit in as an employee, because you’re going to want to offer your own insights or your own input, and your own ways that you can see to do things better.
Because a lot of businesses, although they may be successful, don’t have the graphic design position or the processes down correctly. Even myself — there are areas of my business that I don’t know a hundred percent. I need people who are experts to come in and give me that advice. So when you’re thinking like an employee, you’re not thinking like an entrepreneur, and giving good advice that can be used to help move that business forward. And that’s really where you can go from being an hourly employee to being a person who actually offers real lifetime value.
Number three is a sense of urgency — being somebody who loves to just knock things out quickly and move on to the next thing. Having that campaigner personality, that sense of urgency, is incredibly important. When I had these former employees who were college-educated people and they would go in and they’d be like: “Okay, well, I’m just going to spend half my day doing research on a logo design. I’m going to go spend half my day looking at business card designs that I like.”
They’re spending way too much time researching. Again, overthinking. Doing all these other processes and color theories and emotions. If you know who the customer is — you know their personality, and you know their brand — you shouldn’t be spending a day, two days, or three days doing research alone, or spending a couple days on color theory. I understand that you’ve been taught a process and there’s a way to do graphic design the right way. I’m not asking you to go against that. I’m asking you to be open-minded. To be a little bit fluid, and to have a sense of urgency when you’re doing these things. Spending an hour or two hours, or even a couple of days researching something, is overthinking it. And there’s no urgency in that.
You need to understand that time is of the essence, and the faster you can knock these projects out, the more money you can make, and the sooner you can move on to the next project. Now, obviously, if you’re making more money, you can still spend a little bit more time per project, but there still needs to be a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline set, like: “Hey, I have to have my research done by today at noon. And it’s 10 o’clock. I’m giving myself two hours,” that means you can go and look at some things on YouTube. You can go look at some things on Instagram. It gives you a couple hours of window, and maybe you can start sketching things out or doodling things while you’re watching the research. It’s about being productive — it’s about being efficient with your time.
So that sense of urgency is very, very important. And I see a lot of college-educated people not having a sense of urgency, because they’re being paid hourly. So it’s just like, “Hey, I’m going to run up the clock. And I’m going to try to make this look as good as it possibly can.” That’s just not the right mentality. You want to get the job done. You want to do it quickly, so you can make the company look good. The faster you can turn that project around, the better the reputation of the company you’re going to work for, the more clients you are going to attract, the better work you’re going to get, the faster you’ll be promoted. If that’s your dream, and you want to be promoted at the company you’re working for, because you love the company you’re working for, (hopefully that’s it: you’re being paid well there, but you want to move up in that company to a better position), then the way to do it is to show a sense of urgency. To be a problem solver. To not overthink and over-analyze things.
Number four is that many college-educated graphic designers really struggle to adapt to different learning methods, and to different methods and processes in a business. And they really struggle. If you take out one of the letters in the alphabet, A through Z, you can’t get onto the next step. If you take something away like: “Hey, you only have 30 minutes to be able to do this research,” then they struggle to be able to do that. And their work just suffers in the long term. So you have to be able to be willing to be quick on your toes.
Be able to be able to adapt to different methods and different processes. Overall, just be open-minded to learning other ways. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. And even though I’m self-taught, not college-educated, I’ve developed processes for myself which I think the college professors should be teaching in universities, which can help to move the ball forward faster, without ever compromising the quality of the design. You have to remember that if you can’t adapt to situations, you end up like Toys R Us: out of business. You have to be able to adapt against the people who are in foreign countries, who are willing to work for 10% of what you’re willing to work for, and willing to work twice as many hours. If you’re a Monday through Friday employee, again, it goes back to that employee mindset and you’re working an 8-hour day.
You have competitors who are working 16-hour days. You have me, who is self-taught — I know that I have to work twice as hard to be able to compete against somebody who is a college-educated graphic designer, because they have more experience and more knowledge that they’re taught during their four years — all the education that they put into themselves. I have to work twice as hard to be able to compete with those people. So being a self-taught graphic designer has helped me be very fluid, and helped me learn on the fly. And I’ve been able to create award-winning designs. Can you say that you’ve won award winning designs? If you can’t, you need to understand that I just get to the next project. That I do my absolute, very best.
I put my heart and soul into every project I do. That’s what’s most important: that you really care about what you’re doing more than over-analyzing and over thinking. That you care about the project. If this was your mom’s logo, if this was your best friend’s logo, if this was your best friend’s business card, how would you want it to look? So don’t overthink it, don’t over analyze it, and just be willing to adapt. Because everybody is going to have to learn to adapt in these changing times. And we are in changing times, with the online world being where it’s at today.
Alright, number five is being open-minded, and not being closed-minded. This is a big area that I see in college-educated graphic designers a lot. As a self-taught person, I’m very hungry, and I’m very open-minded. To what? To learning, and becoming a student, and always staying a student. I’m always reading information. I’m always watching YouTube videos. I’m always taking tutorials. I’m always doing new training. I want to continue to improve my craft, and I work on a daily basis toward getting better, and better and better. Even as a graphic designer (even though I don’t do a whole lot of graphic design), I am still always trying to improve my graphic design skills. And I’m looking at people who inspire me on Instagram and other places.
So it’s important to stay open-minded, and always be a student. If you have gone to a four year college, university of art, or whatever, and you think you know it all — you know nothing. Your competition is practicing every single day, getting better and better.
All the great people of our world are always students. So I want to encourage you not to think you know it all, just because you graduated from the greatest school in the country for graphic design. You need to remember that there are other people out there who have been doing this longer than you — for 20, 30 years. And there are also people who just have natural gifts, natural creativity, natural things about them that you can’t replicate just by going to school or by learning something out of a book. So you need to be open-minded. You need to be a student. You need to always continue to learn.
And number six — this is a common one that I see college-educated people, because they’re so highly educated and they’ve spent so much time learning and investing into their career. And man, kudos to you. If you spent money on a college degree, or maybe you got a scholarship, or maybe your parents paid for it, it doesn’t really matter. But the fact that you had the discipline to go through graphic design school means you wanted to become the best, you didn’t want to become the worst. You didn’t want to become halfway. You don’t want to just do it just to make money. You want to make a mark in the world. You want to be great at what you do. In order to do that, you contend to be a perfectionist.
That is something that even I struggle with as a self-taught graphic designer: being a perfectionist. But it’s not about perfection. It’s about progress. You’re not always going to get it a hundred percent right. You’re going to look at the stuff that you spend, way too much time overthinking a year from now and go: “Man, what was I thinking? I should have done this differently and that differently.”
It’s the objectivity. Once you step away from it, once you get too close, it’s hard to actually get objectivity. So you need to focus on making progress and continuing to get better with each project. Not every single project has to be perfect. You’re going to have some projects that are amazing, that are award-winning — and you’re going to have some projects that are just okay. That’s why it’s important to focus on quantity over quality. Because over that sequence, and over that time period, with each project you do, you’re going to learn something. And that’s what you really want to do. That’s what’s most important: making progress and learning something new with every design project.
I look at every new branding project, every new design project, every new design — whether it’s a flyer design, a business card, design or an ad — I look at every one as a new opportunity to try something new and to do something different. I’m not trying to perfect something. I’m not trying to over-analyze it. I can tend to do that, but I have to remember, and tell myself: it’s progress over perfection.
Number seven is very, very important, and I saved the best for last. I want you to love your craft more than you love your job. I’m not saying I don’t want you to love your job, but I want you to fall in love with being a graphic designer, with being a graphic artist, with being a production artist — whatever it is that you’re doing in the graphic design world.
I want you to fall in love with being that person. Most people are just doing it until they can get to the next role, the next promotion, or the next page. It’s all about the job for them. And they get to the next increase in pay or 401k, or whatever it is, so they can get to their one year-mark. Focus on just becoming the best in your industry, and loving your industry, and investing into your industry, and being an industry advocate. That’s a new word I’m going to start using: be an industry advocate in whatever you’re doing, whatever your profession is. I want you to fall in love with that.
I want you to love your job, too. It’s very important to love the people you work with and to surround yourself with the right people and love the role that you’re in. But you also need to love the industry that you’re in, and support the industry you’re in. Contribute to articles, to forums, offer your advice to people who are younger than you.
A lot of what I do is mentoring. I do this because I want to help people, no matter where they’re at in their career. If they’re college-educated or if they’re self-taught, or maybe they’re on the streets. Maybe they’re just trying to get up in the world and they’re trying to get their own, make their own mark. And they’re an amazing artist, but they’ve never had anybody give them a shot. I want you to be able to help people like that. That’s what I want to encourage you to do. And that’s the thing I want to leave with this earth with: really encouraging you to fall in love with this industry and to help other people follow that same passion.
Alright, so there are the seven reasons why college-educated graphic designers can suck. I’m not saying that all college-educated graphic designers suck, but I’m saying there are things that can limit your career and can limit your success. And I want to help you break through — smash through ceilings, and reach the biggest success that you’ve ever had in your life.
If you’re a self-taught graphic designer, then you need to be aware that I’ve just armed these college-educated grads with some great knowledge. You need to understand that you’re going to have to work harder, that they do have an advantage. They were taught all the color theories, and all the things that you may not know about, that you may not have researched yet, or even taught yourself. You may be highly skilled — and that’s awesome — but you’re going to have to work harder. You’re going to have to learn just as much as they are on a daily basis. So continue to work hard, continue to pour into this industry, continue to pour into yourself, and you’ll be great.
Thank you guys so much for watching with me today. Please pass this along to a fellow college grad or to a self-taught designer. A lot of people need to see this. I want to spread the word, and I need your love. I need your comments and I need your feedback. I’m going to make more of these videos. Thank you guys for being with me every single week. Hope you guys have a great day, and as always, keep looking up.