Take the right classes
During your college career you will be forced to take different electives that are not directly related to your major. While it is true that you have no choice but to comply; it is still up to you to make the most of the situation. It is my recommendation that you take the following classes: public speaking, creative writing, marketing, psychology, web design, photography and craftsmanship based course.
Public Speaking: As stated before there will come a time to present your ideas either to your bosses or clients and doing so in an effective way will earn you credibility.
Creative writing: sales copy often goes hand in hand with design. Although in general many companies would hire someone else for this specific duty. However, there has been a current trend for companies to try to hire one person with multiple skills. If you are this person, then you have more chances in landing the job over the person who only knows one thing. From the company’s point of view it makes sense as it saves them time and money. The same would apply to photography and web design.
Marketing/Psychology: These two have been grouped together as they go hand in hand. In the long run you will come to the sad realization (depending on how you look at it) that graphic design is more of a sales aid. However, it is the proper understanding of marketing techniques and psychology that will eventually make that sale by appealing to the psyche of the buyer/consumer. Part of that technique and psychology involves graphic design. If you decide to work for yourself or become a marketing manager in the future, you would’ve had the proper education to know how to reach your clients. At the end of the day what use is a great design that no one knows of?
There are only so many hours of classes in the semester to learn all there is to know. To a certain degree the expression “Those who can’t do, teach.” is true. Hence, your professors in class will have a limit to what they can teach you. Fortunately for you, this isn’t the end of the world. You owe it to yourself to constantly keep learning new skills set that will make you a better designer. The good news is that there are countless tutorials on YouTube and Lynda.com that will helps become a better designer skill-wise. Apart from tutorials you can also learn more about trends or people in your field by subscribing to print magazines like Communication Arts or Smashing Magazine.
The trick to educating yourself is to start a fun project that doesn’t have the restrictions of the class related ones and use that as an opportunity to apply those tutorials you are learning. When you become comfortable you can then start applying them to real projects.
Re-create yourself in the image of your idol
One of the benefits of having alliance in the high places is that one of these people can become your idol/mentor. Every now and then we need someone to talk to in order to get ourselves sorted out and to distract ourselves from the everyday rigor of school etc. This is where having a mentor comes in handy. A lot of times these mentors or idols have foresights that they can pass down to you in relation to something you are currently experiencing.
As you get deeper in the field of Graphic Design you will come across people whose works will make a really good impression on you and in the process they become your idols. You can start to model yourself after them and their styles. With that being said everyone loves originality; still in this world we live in where everyone borrows ideas originality can be hard to create. So, you can have an idol you emulate however, you should try to form a hybrid of your style based on your idol.
Know Yourself and Your Zone
One of the things I discovered about myself as a student was that I had zones and time zones where I functioned best. I am not referring to the actual time zones. What I’m alluding to is that you need to know what works best for you in order for you to achieve the best results. If you are an early riser (as we all should be) you can start your work in time.
When I was a student I loved doing work at school in the computer labs late at night because I had more space to work with. I also lived close to the campus, so that made things easier. There were less people there during that time which also meant it was peaceful, quiet and I could think much clearer. Whenever I tried to do the work at home I became distracted by Television, fell asleep or felt cramped by my tight work space.
Knowing yourself also means being able to determine the amount of work load you can comfortably carry each semester while still being effective. Some students are obsessed with finishing school as quickly as possible. Mark my words there will come a time when you will long for the school environment again. Anyway, that isn’t the point. The point is if you carry the right work load you are able to balance your social, personal and school lives more effectively while being happy at the same time. You are the only one who is in the best position to know what is best for you.
It is also generally advised to split your electives in half. Take some during your first semesters as the rules will allows you to do so and take others towards the end of your college career. Doing it this way ensures that your toughest times in college are in the middle stages and not in the beginning to discourage you or at the end to frustrate you.
If you are currently in school, what have you learned about yourself and your zone?