7 Tips for Getting Into Graphic Design School

Articles December 9, 2008

Going to be applying to a graphic design school soon? Well you should start preparing as soon as possible, because this can be a very stressful process and nothing is worse than rushing something so important! The sooner and better prepared you are, the higher your chances will be of getting into a graphic design school you will be happy attending. Below are some tips to get you started on your journey of applying to design schools.

Graphic Design School Tips

1. Have a Versatile, but Focused Portfolio

As a graphic designer it is important to have a versatile Graphic Design portfolio, at least early one. The point of design school is to figure out what area of design you like best, such as web design, magazine design, print design and so on, but when applying it can be better to show a general portfolio. You should always show what you do best, just don’t have all website designs or all magazine spreads. Mix it up and show you are multi-talented and not a one trick design pony!

2. Show Basic Art Skills

When applying to art school its important to have some fine art in your portfolio, even if you are a designer, because it shows you have a solid foundation in art. Drawings are the most common item featured in graphic design portfolios, followed by paintings. Just make sure they are actually good drawings and paintings and don’t add too many. Remember design is what you are there for, but its good to show you have solid basic art skills.

3. Practice Your Interviewing

Practicing your interviewing skills can go a long way. You don’t have to go crazy, but get comfortable responding to interview type questions and communicating about your work with other people. You don’t want to appear nervous or unconfident about yourself, what you want and your work. Be relaxed and sure of yourself!

4. Dress Appropriately

You may be a free spirit, but you should dress properly for your interview. Its not like you have to wear a suite and tie, but you should look neat and well dressed. A dress shirt and nice jeans or pants or a blazer and nice jeans would probably do the trick. Just make sure you shower, shave and brush your teeth too!

5. Know Your Projects

Nothing is worse than not being able to talk about your projects. Is there a concept behind your work? Who was it done for? Why did you pick those colors? What style were you going for? Make a list of a bunch of questions such as these and make sure you can answer them easily for all the projects in your portfolio.

6. Have Goals

This may seem silly, but surprisingly a lot of people have no long or short term goals in life. What are you thinking about specializing in? What skills would you like to improve? Do you have any other hobbies such as photography you would like to take classes on? What do you think you would like to do after college? At least have some sort of idea of what you plan on doing with your life!

7. Learn About the School and Program

Applying to a school you know nothing about is an easy way to push yourself into a trap. Many interviewers will ask you some basic questions about the school such as: Why do you want to apply here? What classes were you thinking of taking and so on. Research the schools programs as much as possible and try and learn some general background information about the school. Is it know as a fine arts school? What will be your major? What classes are you looking forward to? Do you know any teachers or people who go to the school?

Hope you enjoyed these tips and I wish you all the best of luck!

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Cadence is You The Designer's senior blogger, and the most jack-of-all-trades of the staff. She's always trying out something different every day, some of which fuels her posts here on the blog. Let her know if you want us to post more about your favorite topic - she might know more than a thing or two about it!

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  • http://css-tricks.com Chris Coyier

    God that building is awesome. I want to go back to school and go there!

  • http://www.dleagueproductions.blogspot.com/ Alex

    Thanks for the list. No one I know has been trying to go to a design school, so I’ve been feeling my way around in the dark. Glad to know I’m on the right track!

  • http://benjacob.in Ben

    Thanks for this tips sir,
    I am waiting for the call from the college I applied for the admissions. I was totally confused about the stuffs that I must follow.. This blog post have cleared some of my doubts.

  • http://www.firebubbledesign.com Logo Design UK

    When I went to my university interview in the UK I took a portfolio of graphic design work and purposefully did not add everything I had created in the portfolio. I just added about 15 examples of projects I had done which seemed to be a good amount and my interviewers seemed pleased that I had done this.

    I put in the back of the portfolio in the envelope sleeve part a couple of examples of books I had done so that they could see the results of a finished project without having to look at every page from the books in my main portfolio.

    This all seemed to go pretty well but I had not brought any development work with me! They didn’t want to see this development work in my main portfolio but they did want to see a little more of how I arrived at my final design so it is a good idea to bring development work as well for at least 1 or 2 projects to show how you work towards design solutions.

    I was accepted at the university but I was a little concerned that I might not get in having forgotten the development work and it was certainly something they showed a concern about.

  • fum

    hmm familiar architecture…hey! that’s my school! lol

  • http://www.logoportfolio.co.uk Logo Designers

    One thing that you should have ready for an interview to a design school is a list in mind of at least 5 designers that you like the work of and the titles of the work they created. This will please them and should hopefully help secure a place if your design portfolio is of a good standard.

  • http://idesignmyworld.net lodestar

    yupz! that’s my school too! NTU ADM!

  • http://www.computernetic.com Marty

    Very interesting article, and great for those that want to attend a conventional style of university or college. But what about those of us that can’t spare 6mths or a year to sit in a class room and absorb regurgitated typography theory or listen to parroted symbolism/structure of logo design. I know there is a lot of scepticism surrounding online colleges or e-learning, however if you do your homework and do it well the this style of education can be just as rewarding and beneficial. As for myself I’ve recently been looking into brushing up on some new skills (teaching an old dog some new tricks), and have found an online school which looks the real deal (www.thegraphicdesignschool.com) and whats really great about them is that they have a local presence near where I live. I would love to hear if anyone has come across them and had positive experiences with them?

  • stuart

    Thanks for that article…That building is AWESOME!
    I need a career change and I have decided to do this short online course to get myself a GD portfolio together. The course is at http://thegraphicdesignshool.com its a short self paced course so I hope that I can do it in between my work/family schedule. I’ve heard of one of the tutors, so I’m going to give it a go. I will let you all know how I go.
    I hadn’t read Marty’s post until I had written the most part of my post. I agree with you, Im in the same boat as you I think. Might see you on their student forum mate!
    Happy designing. Stu

  • GINNY

    Hi all, loved the article too. To Marty (above) I totally agree with you. Im not such much an ol dog as a young pup, but I went and checked out that site for the graphic design school. seemed really good. I am pretty busy most of next year but I think I might give it a try on summer break. (i cant stand my job, but Im too restless and broke, to sit in a classroom all day). can you do a posting once you’ve done this course so the rest of us can benefit from your investment!! Please. Im in the uk, the site was http://www.thegraphicdesignschool.co.uk , looks like the same course for all though. Thanks, Ginny

  • http://www.brainpickings.org brainpicker

    Ha, funny how #4 just assumes that anyone who works in design is male. Or, alternatively, an androgynously dressing female.

    In all seriousness though, great tips.

  • http://logodesignguru.com LOGO DESIGN GURU

    These are great tips. I was trying to think of something to add, but you didn’t seem to be missing anything. All I could think of was for guys to make sure they are clean shaven or at least trimmed. So many art students or potential ones tend to have some quite exotic styles and even though that may be who they are, they may wanna drop all that in a interviewing situation.

  • http://www.cdiabu.com/ Boston Digital Imaging

    I think the number one thing is to have a great portfolio. You want the portfolio to meet the needs of the school you are applying to, but make sure it has a broad spectrum of work that highlights your skills. Go into the “interview” with confidence and try to stay calm (which is easier said than done).

    Good luck.

    -Timothy

  • Eva

    WOW! I feel more relaxed already. I already have my plans set, i know the history of the design college i’m applying for, what i need to work on is shuffling my art work. I want them to be completely random. Thanks alot, these helped~

  • patricia

    Do you have a list of ranked top graphic design/photography schools in America