So You Want To Go To Art School

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Chris Coyier on

I recently received an email from Ben Sima who had a few questions for me:

I’m a high school junior preparing to go to an art school and study graphic design, and I would like to know about your experiences in the art world in an effort to better prepare myself. I would also like to get some testimonials to convince my parents that opportunities for work do exist in the art world, and that not every artist is starving.

I asked Ben if it would be alright if I shared my answers with everyone and he agreed. My answers are below.

toothpaste for dinner

What was the main reason you decided to pursue a career in art?

I was in college for programming and it was just too damn hard for me. Art looked easier and a heck of a lot more fun. There is more to it of course… I have a desire to create things, and art helps me satisfy that need.

If you attended art school, was your overall experience worth the money and time?

It wasn’t “art school” per say, it was just a state university, but I did get my Bachelor of Arts in Ceramic Art and Graphic/Multimedia Design. Yes, it was worth my money. College, to me, was 25% about academic learning, 25% about learning how to learn, and 50% about just experiencing life, having fun, and growing as a person.

Do you think art school helped you more than a regular university would have? (Or vice versa if you attended a regular university.)

I have no idea, but I bet “art school” would have been pretty damn fun too.

After attending art school/university, what was the major decision you made that helped you launch your career?

My first several jobs after college were based around the printing industry. They were pretty good fits but I knew I wanted to work on the web. The best decision I made was just not giving up on that goal and taking every opportunity I could get to work with it.

What advice do you have for a student artist, both during their studies and after they graduate into the art world?

Learn fundamentals and don’t get too caught up in specific technologies. Learning how to create things that are beautiful and work well supersede specific technologies. You can learn a technology on the fly to help you accomplish an idea. Making that idea great comes from you.