What They Never Tell You In Design School

Design school is great because you can learn a lot in a short time, but it also doesn't mimic the real world or always prepare you for that world. You learn theory and technique in an academic setting; it is up to you to prepare for the rest.

One of those things you'll need to prepare for when hunting for that dream design job after college is the employer's skills assessment, which will come in the form of either a design prompt or a software test (how well do you really know the difference between InDesign character settings and character styles, for example).  The software test tells them your software expertise while the design prompt tells them your creative expertise and how well you handle deadlines under pressure.  In other words, are you ready for the real world?

I recently completed a design prompt for a position at a regional luxury hotel and can walk you through the process so you won't be a surprised graduate the day you get your own design prompt.

Be Resourceful In a Short Time Span
The assigned prompt was a quarter page newspaper ad due by close of business the day it was assigned.

You can cram a lot of process in a day.  I was familiar with the Mining Exchange brand, but the brief also called for an expansion of that brand and to trailblaze new territory.  I took an hour to research art deco design elements and posters (the same era that the Mining Exchange building was constructed) and decided not only to further emphasis art deco, but to introduce something the prior brand hadn't done: illustration.

Within the hour I had a moodboard assembled.  I took about 10 minutes to sketch some compositions, selected the best, and began a more refined drawing for scanning and incorporating into the final design.

Be Creative While Under Pressure
Even when working on short deadlines, take a few minutes to play with your designs. Even with this one design, you can see below how I experimented with the color and position of all the elements, playing and refining as I go.

And below is the final design. You now have a sneak peek of what you're in for when you graduate, so, while you are still in school, take advantage of projects with tight deadlines, learn to develop your process while under pressure and expand your creative toolkit as much as possible by learning as many different styles and art techniques as you can, while you can. Do that and you will be way ahead of your peers.


  1. Hi, thank you for sharing this great info. Was just browsing through the net in my office and happened upon your blog. It is really very well written and quit comprehensive in explaining with a very simple language.
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