Tony D'Amico


Thoughts on School

I just finished my last semester of college and I had a freak out moment. All of the sudden I questioned, “Did I just waste 4 years of my life that I could have been just refining my craft on a personal level?” It was a pretty scary thought… then someone close to me reminded me quickly, in all reality, it was one of the best things I could have ever done for many reasons.

Here are a few thoughts on school that I have taken away over the last four years.

School Isn’t For Everyone

Really, it isn’t and there are people in school who shouldn’t be there either. Either way, you should really take your design (or any field) education seriously, even at a small level, through a Community College, Skillshare, design conferences, a mentor or a select group of friends who are willing to help you really look at your work. I have heard people say (most of which only did a few semesters of school), “I learned more in at my job than I did in school.” Which could be totally true, but I believe that’s was based on that fact they weren’t trying or they just simply had a bad professor. Also, that thought makes sense when you only go to school for one or two semesters, but in the long run, and when you get into the latter stages of school, it’s a completely different ball game. You get out what you put in and without a reason to actually being there, it will be a huge waste of time. I can honestly say, I have learned more being in school and working at the same time than I ever thought I would.

School Will Refine You

Have you ever been in a critique and there are just those who don’t like feedback or have no process and constantly show you work that is “finalized”? Again, I am generalizing a bit here, but most people I see having a hard time receiving and giving feedback or critique are those who have no education. School puts you through a RIDICOULOUS amount of critique, some of which could be an entire class time. Some classes it’s just hard and I want to beat my head against the wall, but there are those classes that it is was really really good and the projects come out really refined. It was one of those things that helped me learn to separate myself from your work and to not take things personal.

School Gives You The Basics

This is the area I see a great deal of designers lack, it’s like in Karate Kid, wax on wax off. You do things that you don’t know why you are are and then you realize it was just building a foundation on which you can actually speak to what you are creating and critiquing… “I don’t like the color.” or “I just don’t like it”. Well, give me a reason, does it actually not fit within the context or is it just a personal opinion. Design is subjective at times, but there is a good deal of objectiveness to it. “The color brown doesn’t really emphasis an excitement within your retail store, maybe try something that gives a bit more excitement or energy.” Side note: I have no idea how Shopko has stayed in business as long as they have with brown as their identity color. They finally wised up and changed it to green. But seriously, not understanding basics of form (elements) and principle (if you don’t know what they are look them up), just makes it hard to really get into the nitty gritty of design.

School Teaches You History

On a personal level, I really loved these classes because they help play into the entire context in which I am talking about. Not saying I am now so crazy knowledgeable art history person, but learning the who, what, where and why’s of art/design movements that happened throughout history, helped me in crituques as well as helping me understand even my own design decisions.

I just listened to a lecture from Debbie Millman, not sure if this is a direct quote from her, or she got it from someone else, but she said, “You know what you know, you know what you don’t know, and you don’t know what you don’t know”. School really helped me exploring ideas and concepts that I didn’t know and it helped shape me as a creative.

A portfolio based solely on atheistic (things that look cool) might get you a job, but in the long a portfolio based in process, understanding and atheistic, will build you a career.

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