Why I said no to traditional education.

I’m asked where I went to school more often than if – many people just assume I went. 

The difference between the Kesey with a bachelors degree and the Kesey without one? Four years and a lot of student debt. And having “Bachelor’s Degree – Graphic Design” on my resume, of course.

While that may still be important for some recruiters, even Google and IBM have ditched that policy.


A great video on the subject by Chris Do (CEO, Blind). He gets into the meat of it at 8:05.


I don’t know what’s being revolutionized faster, the way we learn or the design industry itself. Technology is changing so rapidly that many of the job titles we hold and projects we work on as designers today didn’t even exist five years ago. In a recent interview with Jacob Cass, he reports his university’s classes on web design consisted of online tutorials the same way “self-taught” designers all over the world are learning today. Online education platforms such as Lynda, Udemy, Treehouse, and Udacity have become wildly successful and in-turn, an entire generation of designers have been empowered with the hard-skills universities teach before they’re even old enough to vote. It’s pretty incredible.

Worried about capabilities?

I didn’t forgo education, I forwent traditional education. I took courses online, read books, watched videos and practiced like hell. I wanted to make websites, so I started making websites. I wanted hands-on experience, so I applied for an internship. I wanted to do photography, so I bought a camera. If you see a gap in my professional repertoire, I’m more than happy to fill it.

Worried about discipline?

An argument I’ve heard is that having a degree shows employers you’re disciplined and passionate, because school takes years of dedication.

I think about it this way. I didn’t learn the fundamentals of layout design principles just because it was a required course. I didn’t study typography because I had to fill my schedule with an extra class. I do it because I love typography. My discipline comes from the deep-rooted passion I have for the work that I do.  There was never an unspoken social contract with my family, or the fear student loans pushing me to finish a degree. I love to design, so I’m a designer.

The Summary

Instead of homework, I did personal projects and freelance work. If I wanted to learn from a specific mentor, I would reach out to them. I’ve taken online courses by amazing teachers from all walks of life and all professional backgrounds. I learned all of the same things I would have learned at university and then some, and for a whole lot cheaper. All on my own terms, from teachers that made it enjoyable, and on a schedule that was comfortable for me. This won’t always be the minority – this is the future of design education.

Before graduating high school, I’d already started an internship with a local design studio, using skills that I’d acquired online. I didn’t drive yet, so I rode my happy little ass across town – with a smile on my face – five days a week. 

What do you think? Is the classroom still king? Is the future of education online? Did I miss any key points or leave out something important? Let’s talk about it.


Thanks for Reading!
© 2015-2017, Kesey Badgett.