Natural Design Talent vs. Design Degree

Blogging, Graphic Design, Inspiration, Photoshop, Portfolio, Web Design


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Whenever we talk about any field of creativity, a never-ending discussion pops up that either a natural talent is good for a creative carrier or a proper qualification should be there in order to excel in the field. Similar is the case with a carrier in graphic designing, which am important branch of creative profession.

This discussion has been going on for ages and till date no one has come to a solid conclusion. Some people think that in order to be a successful designer, one has to be talented otherwise; he won’t be able to achieve his goals, no matter how highly qualified he is. This group also says that a person can learn and improve with the passage of time. You will also find a lot of people who think that getting a degree in designing is a lot more important than being naturally talented. Some designers can just design a few things like glossy brochures, while others have a diversity of talent and can successfully create websites, print layouts and logos.

You will find a lot of graphic designers who have been through proper designing courses questioning themselves if the whole degree idea was worth it or not. The reason is that they might have seen a lot of senior successful designers without having a professional degree and such scenarios always brings a thought in people’s mind i.e. what is more important – being naturally talented or earning a design degree with a lot of efforts and expenses.

You will hear a lot of designers saying that they are ‘God gifted’. You will also hear a lot of designers telling the importance of degree. So, who wins? Let’s find out if there can be a winner or if both of them can be equally successful.

Being Self Taught – Advantages & Disadvantages

Earlier, because of lack of access, people had no option but to go to universities or take up various courses in order to learn something. However, with the passage of time, due to advancement in technology and accessibility of things, a lot of people are helping themselves by learning on their own. I have seen a lot of designers who have worked hard to learn designing because they thought they had a spark in themselves and it can be improved. I personally feel, it is great to learn on your own as this shows your passion and the only people who will make an effort to learn on their own are the ones who are naturally talented because they think they just need to pick up a few things and they are perfect.

An advantage of being talented and being self taught is that you do not have to go to a school. But, when it comes to practical life, you will have to face a lot of issues. These days, employers want to see your degrees before anything else and if you do not have one, they won’t hire you. You might be perfect for the job, you might know your work exceptionally well but still someone who has just gotten a degree will get selected. Why? A simple answer to this would be, he has a degree which is something you do not have. So, learning on your own will obviously improve your natural talent but professionally, it might not take you anywhere.

Going to College – Worth it or Not Worth it?

If you have been to design college, I am sure you must have asked yourself this question at least a hundred times that if coming to design college was a right decision or not. In colleges, you will find two kinds of people. One who thinks that they have learn a lot by coming to a design school and this will help them a lot in their careers. Secondly, you will also find people who will tell you that it is not worth it and they have just wasted their time and money.

If you really want to be a successful designer, you need to understand a few things. The most important one to keep in mind is that designing is a lot more than writing codes. Joining a college will help you in polishing your natural skills. Plus, the new developments in the field of designing that you are not aware of will be taught to you. Eventually, when you will see things improving, you will realize that going to college for a degree was definitely worth it.

Balance of Natural Talent and Efforts

If you think that your natural talent alone can help you in becoming successful or if you think that your design degree alone will help you achieving goals, you are definitely not on the right track. In order to be successful, one needs to keep a balance in everything. Yes, things can be learn with the passage of time but if you are not naturally talented, things would be difficult for you. Remember is said, difficult not impossible. Same goes for naturally talented designers that your natural talent can take you to some level but at some point of time in your career you will need to a have degree.

Practice Makes a Man Perfect

It doesn’t matter if you are a designer who is naturally talented or a designer who has learner designing by going to school. The both kinds of designers will have to accept the fact that the will only improve by practicing their art as practice makes a man perfect. If you won’t practice whatever you have read in your school, then going to school was certainly not worth it. Similarly being over confident and think that “You-Know-It-All” just because you can come with some creative ideas instantly will take you to nowhere. You will have to work hard, practice a lot if you want to carve a niche for yourself in the field of designing.

Degree vs. Talent

So the question remains if one really needs to go to college in order to be a successful designer. The answer is again Yes & No. Your natural talent will definitely help you a lot when it comes to conceptualization of ideas however, in order to execute your creative ideas, you will have to go to college and earn yourself a degree. Going to college will not only make you professional but you will also learn a lot of new things. At your graduation day, you will feel that you are ahead of everyone else which is in fact true. The combination of school learning and your natural talent can take you the heights of success. Also, you will have the degree in hands so no employer would be able to reject you on that base.

So, if you are a designer who is passionate about his work, I would humbly suggest you to go to a design school and earn yourself a degree. Learn about the field you have always loved. A perfect combination of natural talent and degree will make you unstoppable.

The Conclusion

Well, there cannot be a single winner for this discussion. We all know that being naturally talented in the field of creativity in general, and graphic designing, in particular, is a blessing in itself. However, this in no way means that a design degree won’t help you. Your natural talent will definitely help you a lot in your creative thinking process however, in order to use various applications and tools, you will have to go to a proper designing school and learn things.

Yes, being talented naturally will make things easier for you. To be true, designing is not a rocket science and anyone can do it. For instance, writing is considered to be not everyone’s cup of tea but if a person practices professional writing himself, he can definitely become a good writer. Similarly if you have a passion for designing, you can learn it with the passage of time if you are not blessed naturally, and if you are blessed naturally then a degree and give a direction and synergize your skills well.

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  2. Cre8ive Commando, 1 December 2010

    I think that as a designer it’s important to be formally trained as well as having some natural creative talent. The design industry is very competitive these days so you really need both to stand a fighting chance. :-)

  3. Daniel R, 1 December 2010

    I think that both a natural talent, and a learned talent could use a degree in the field. A degree offers something that pure talent doesn’t. It covers all the missing fields from the natural’s talent so that they can better perfect their ability. Also, a natural would be missing very crucial bits and pieces if they just go at it themselves without ever learning. Also lessons provide experience in a wide range of fields, even those that a student despises. A natural would skip out on doing what he doesn’t like, therefore lacking in experience.

  4. Natural Design Talent vs. Design Degree, 2 December 2010

    [...] talented otherwise; he won’t be able to achieve his goals, no matter how highly qualified he is.Source LinkRelated Posts:No related posts found Share! Click here to cancel reply.Add [...]

  5. Mars, 2 December 2010

    I went to school and finish IT but never I had a chance to perform as an IT, I started as programmer then designer

  6. sheena, 2 December 2010

    I both agree and disagree with some of the points you’ve made there.

    I do think it’s possible to become a great, successful designer without necessarily having a degree in design or other field. It’s passion, practice and hard work that will help get you on the right track. But I do believe you need to have something innate there too to stand out from everyone else! I have a degree myself in a different subject. So I suppose I could be classed as a self-taught designer.

    But I do think it’s important to have natural born talent in order to become a “great designer” as opposed to just a “designer”. But again that’s hard to judge seeing as great design is subjective.

    I’ll leave you with a question: almost everyone can study music, learn the technical skills to play an instrument and practice for years, but could that same person write an amazing song or piece of music?

    (i personally think you have to have that something special within you – but that’s just my opinion :)

  7. Natural Design Talent vs. Design Degree | WebDevKungfu, 2 December 2010

    [...] Natural Design Talent vs. Design Degree [...]

  8. Neil, 3 December 2010

    I don’t care what anyone says but you need both, there were terrible designers on uni, the ones with the drive and talent stuck out allot more, the degree channeled it and put an official stamp it.

  9. Jason Gross, 3 December 2010

    I find some contradictions in this article. I have a hard time saying someone is naturally talented at something.

    I do believe that some people are inclined to be more creative or more analytical and obviously we all have difference capacities of what our minds and bodies can do. However, the key component (which was touched on in this article) is practice. No one comes out of the womb pre-dispositioned to be a fantastic web designer with skills in hand.

    How good of a designer you are is directly related with how much time you put into it. There is no such thing as living on natural talent. So the real question with this article is did you practice in school or did you practice on your own? No one path through life is set to determine a better result than the other for everyone.

  10. ContentZero, 3 December 2010

    As a college drop-out, I’ve never once had a problem getting a job without a degree. So far, no one seems to care as long as my work is good (and I can demonstrate solid communication skills).

    The thought of going back to school for something I’ve been doing for 14 years just seems stupid. But even if I did, what value would there be? To learn “design theory?” That doesn’t mean jack when you’re trying to meet changing client and market demands. Even the “best practices” in vogue today are forever evolving alongside emerging and developing technology platforms. Just think about web design 5 years ago vs. today. I’m not convinced colleges have a real grasp on what’s expected of designers these days in general.

    In my experience, employers are desperate for talent. There’s a pile of resumes on my Creative Director’s desk right now. All of them have degrees. None of them have the raw creative ability (or experience) he’s looking for. And he’s been looking for MONTHS.

    Just sayin’.

  11. Mark, 3 December 2010

    Nice article.

    I personally went to a private college to study art. I had taken a web design class my senior year. I had a mediocre portfolio that showcased basic design skills but no web experience. (I had no idea what semantic markup was. Tables and the PS slice tool.)

    I was hired as a Web Designer by a new media group who saw my talent and gave me the opportunity to learn XHTML and CSS. It was my natural ability and desire to learn that got me hired.

    I think higher education should place more emphasis on the ability to adapt to change. I’m not the best designer out there but I am very enthusiastic about this industry and the direction it’s going. I would have loved to have gotten a design degree but I never stop to think about it!

  12. robrert, 3 December 2010

    This day and age, you should be safe and get the degree either way; talented or not. If you love it and are not talented it may take longer for you to fine-tune yourself to get into rhythm, but you won’t care because you love what you’re doing enough to go through it. If you’re a talented designer, get the degree so that you can expand yourself. If you go to school as a talented person and make the suggestion that you didn’t learn anything, it’s truly your loss…information and inspiration will be found there…you just missed it. As a talented designer with a degree, your career will expand at an exponential rate…if you’re really talented. And I will have to say in response to a post left earlier by another person…”great design is subjective.” No, it is not. Art is subjective. Philosophy is subjective. Design either works or it doesn’t.

  13. Chris, 3 December 2010

    “To be true, designing is not a rocket science and anyone can do it.”

    This is the type of mentality that can lower the value of the work a professional designer can offer. I’m glad that you explained that passion and training together can help you become a true professional in whatever field you choose. After all the long hours of study and practice do hold a lot of value and really show in a project when it matters most.

  14. Coleen, 5 December 2010

    I must agree with Jason Gross and ContentZero. As one who has been self-taught for the last approx. 13 years, I took an online course last year in web technologies from an accredited institution. It was, in general, a colossal waste of my time and money, as I was far beyond the level of the first year course in many ways. I also found it true that an institution really can’t keep up with what’s current and coming in this industry. There was much being taught that was so far behind current standards, I had to shake my head.

    I have to say I’ve learned far more useful information since finishing the course by reading great books by leading experts than I learned in the course – both in the coding and the design areas.

    I will include two caveats to these remarks:
    1) I’m not looking for a “job”, I’m looking to further my skills as a freelancer/business owner. I’ve not much experience on the “job” side of things. Perhaps there are those companies out there who still think that “degree” means something. However, I might beg to differ with those folks and agree more with ContentZero on that. Communication skills and a great portfolio seems to be the way many are finding great people these days. (May I point out, gently, that there were more than several grammar and spelling mistakes in this article? If that were handed to me as an employer looking for a content writer, it would be a red flag. Just saying.)

    2) I will admit that my courses took me places I hadn’t gone before in the areas of skills. I did indeed learn much more about Photoshop and a bit more about Dreamweaver and a handful of great CSS techniques.

    However, does a 3-month course on Flash make me some kind of “expert”? No. Would a follow-up 3-month course make me an expert? I don’t believe so. In fact, I paid really good money to learn I hated Flash. ;) I could have found it out just as easily by going through the Adobe Flash book I bought (which, by the way, was far better laid out and presented than the course I paid hundreds of dollars for…)

    I do appreciate the article and the argument of “should I, shouldn’t I”. I think it partly depends on where you’re going. If you’re headed to be “employable”, then I think a degree might help. If you’re headed in the direction of self-employment, I’m not sure it’s worth it – IF you’re a self-motivated learner and have a passion for the business. All in all, I think Jason said it best: “No one path through life is set to determine a better result than the other for everyone.”

  15. Soumya, 6 December 2010

    I think what will make you stand out of the crowd and be successful is your own unique style and creativity, with or without a degree, always. Right from history to modern day. So, practice at school or practice by yourself or practice both ways, but do practice. That’s what works eventually.

  16. Robot Friday - An online web comic about graphic design, pop culture and creative people, 9 December 2010

    [...] read the entire article head over to Dzine Press and make the decision for yourself whether you want to keep spending a bundle on an education or [...]

  17. Brett Widmann, 5 March 2011

    This article was a good look into those two types of designers. I think school can help you develop more skills and broaden you design style.

  18. John, 13 March 2011

    Well, to comment directly then I must choose natural talent over any kind of degree.

    I had jobs in print, 3d modeling and web design. Every time I went to an interview I was asked what I know and what schools I finished. My honest answer every time was this: “I can design prints, websites, logos, business cards…you name it. I have no degree in anything and all I know I learned by myself. What I can tell you is give me a client and you’ll see he will be happy with my work :)”. I passed any test thrown my way and I never disappointed. I wonder if I had a degree in web design, what would be different…

    In 12 years of work in this field, the worst web designers I’ve seen, all had a degree in something. But that was all they had. Don’t take it wrong here, go to school, get tons of degrees but people > try to work while in school. Two hours/day is enough or do it in the weekend or when free from school. Try to learn what is like to actually WORK in this field. Go to a small web design firm and tell them you are a student and will work for free or for a small payment. Yes it will be hard but think about the interviews after you finish school. You will have something MORE than other people with degrees in their pockets.

    And like ContentZero said, where I work now we have the exact same problem. We need two web designers. We are looking and looking over resumes and we see the exact same thing. Degree this, degree that but when we call for an interview, they look at us and have no idea what to answer to a simple question like “how would you turn a PSD layout into a HTML+CSS file?”. They don’t even say “I have no idea but I’M WILLING TO LEARN!”.

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