Ask DN: Are you a dropout?

over 7 years ago from , Lead Designer Designer at Icalia Labs

I have curiosity of know how many designers are self made or dropout here, and whats is the history behind, if you think that you have a bad impact leave the school in your career.


  • Helen . Helen . , over 7 years ago

    Completely self-taught. Didn't really finish highschool either because I wanted to be a hairstylist at that time so I worked at hair salons from 16 onwards.

    Although I did graphic design in those days for fun (good ol' forum tags), I never got into web/mobile design till I was about 18/19. Been doing it professionally ever since.

    11 points
  • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, over 7 years ago

    I left school after year 11, missing the final year of high school. I completed a one year design course after that. I didn’t attend university or college.

    It’s not the ideal path, but I was fortunate enough to be able to learn the rest on the job, or in my spare time.

    7 points
  • Maurice CherryMaurice Cherry, over 7 years ago

    Self-taught also. Not a dropout though -- I went to college and graduate school for non-design fields (Math and telecommunications management, respectively).

    4 points
  • Wes OudshoornWes Oudshoorn, over 7 years ago

    Autodidact, as they so beautifully say.

    I made money during high school and all technical education seemed to be far behind and slow. I decided to quit high school at 15, to the dismay of teachers who were afraid I was gonna end homeless or something.

    I think leaving school is fine as long as you have a goal to work towards that can be achieved easier without going to school. You do miss a lot of social stuff though, not going to college and having those moments in life.

    You win some, you lose some.

    3 points
  • Andrew McWattersAndrew McWatters, over 7 years ago

    I'm a two-time dropout. High school and college. I believe in getting ahead, so I felt compelled to drop out more than the average dropout.

    Kidding of course. Though in college I left briefly to obtain a job to pay for said college. And since college was suppose to be helping me get a job...

    3 points
  • Brennan Smith, over 7 years ago


    2 points
  • Noel Ninal, over 7 years ago

    I love reading this kind of article because it inspires me how others share their story.

    I'm not a dropout but only self-taught. In my college days, the lessons are only basic.

    2 points
  • Darrell MooreDarrell Moore, over 7 years ago

    Started designing at a really young age – like some others said, forum signatures and gaming websites. I believe I was around 12 years old then (currently 25). Anyways:

    I was pretty lazy in school, I dropped out twice. It wasn't that I couldn't do the tasks, I was just focused on other things. I ended up totally being done with school my 9th grade year. Sometime before all of that I ended up pulling a good bit of freelance work from friends-of-friends. It was never intentional to begin freelancing, I just fell into it. Afterall, I already knew what I'd wanted to do as a career. It all began as a hobby, simply fun to do. Others just wanted to pay me for it.

    Regret nothing of course, but at times I wish I'd finished High School and went to College. Not so much for the outcome of getting a degree and such (it was a bonus), there just isn't ever a time to stop learning from others.

    2 points
  • Leslie WilliamsLeslie Williams, over 7 years ago

    I dropped out.....then i went back in.

    2 points
  • No NameNo Name, over 7 years ago

    I'm in my last semester and can't wait to finish.

    1 point
  • Tyler GalpinTyler Galpin, over 7 years ago

    I dropped out of business school when I was in my 3rd year after some convincing from Andrew Wilkinson. Suffice to say it was the best decision I ever made.

    1 point
  • Bjarke DaugaardBjarke Daugaard, over 7 years ago

    Self-taught in most tools like Photoshop and Sketch, but I can really recommend getting a degree in Interaction Design/Service Design/UX if you would like to work with anything else than just visual design

    1 point
  • Henry MoranHenry Moran, over 7 years ago



    1. Graffiti artist when I was in middle school
    2. Tried to go to school for typography
    3. Ended up learning web design
    4. Currently a Product designer

    InitiallyI was a graffiti artist and with some ignorance I landed here. I tried to go to school for typography, but the classes were very technical. I later realized that what I really wanted to learn was calligraphy, or some sort of freedom of expression with letters.

    That l led to front-end dev and web design. Now I design for web and mobile. Never thought getting into trouble while I was young could lead to something positive for the rest of my life.

    1 point
    • Daiji ShikamaDaiji Shikama, over 7 years ago

      I have a similar story. Not a dropout but expelled from art school because graffiti had completely disrupted life.

      That same interest for letters made me pursue typography which led to print design which eventually led to UI design.

      1 point
  • Connor NorvellConnor Norvell, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Im not a dropout, I was homeschooled my whole life and never went to college. My parents needed a website and I was the natural candidate for the job, so really I have my parents to thank for getting me into web design (even if it was just a joomla website). I read a book on Joomla and made the site, I used my senior year of highschool to learn web development and graphic design (codecademy, skillshare youtube, that kind of stuff). And started making websites with 2 friends, that was considered my college to me, i learned and am still learning a lot.

    1 point
  • Ed AdamsEd Adams, over 7 years ago

    Graduated from the UK equivalent of high school, saw the astronomically high prices of university in my country for graphic design and decided not to spend the next 10 to 20 years of my life in debt.

    I don't necessarily regret the decision, but I'm now re-considering my options and thinking about seeking traditional employment. I do have an uncomfortable feeling like I'd have better prospects if I had a degree. Half of me is pleased to not be in immense debt, the other half wishes I had a degree because it might make me more employable. Granted, I don't really have any facts to back up that it would make me any more employable (I think that my portfolio and skillset is strong enough for me to not also require a degree for traditional employment) but that's just my feelings.

    That all being said and done, I don't think we should encourage students to drop out or anything.

    1 point
    • Rasmus ErikssonRasmus Eriksson, over 7 years ago

      If you live in the UK and have some professional experience and a few items you can show—and you seem to—you've got absolutely nothing to worry about. Many, if not most, companies here tend to be more interested in that.

      2 points
  • Cristian MoiseiCristian Moisei, over 7 years ago


    1 point
  • barry saundersbarry saunders, over 7 years ago

    Studied geochemistry, then arts and science, the did an honours in media studies, half of a PhD, then dropped out. Never studied design. Never been a issue - I do hiring now and it's rare that I ask about design degrees. A lot of people do General Assembly courses, which are great, but mostly it's about experience, attitude, interest. We hire a lot of psychology graduates.

    0 points
  • Wentin ZWentin Z, over 7 years ago (edited over 7 years ago )

    Not a dropout, went through undergrad and grad in xxx design (although a big portion of it is not the kind of design I do now, but i guess this is how close you can get) I am happy that I had the education, but self teaching is the key. I am doing type related work now and i am completely self taught in this field. No matter what education you get, self teaching is still the most important. Even with grad school, formal education of design is only 6 years, self teaching is the education that lasts for the rest of your life.

    0 points
  • Jan LehtinenJan Lehtinen, over 7 years ago

    Self-taught / 1 year of CS. Started freelancing as webdesigner/front-end dev and now doing it full time for a year and half already.

    0 points
  • Brian FryerBrian Fryer, over 7 years ago

    Self-taught here, too—I disappointed a lot of people by not going to college.

    Since I learned how to use AutoCAD in highschool, I started my career as a designer at various engineering firms (mostly oil field-related disciplines; e.g. structural, mechanical).

    I also spent ~18 months as a graphic design at a real estate "startup" during the housing boom of the early 2000s where I cut my teeth on Adobe software.

    Later, I spent ~3 years at a civil engineering firm that specialized in large-scale land planning where I designed 100s of exhibits to showcase existing/proposed conditions for master planned communities, airports, industrial facilities, etc.

    After the real estate fallout, I learned HTML/CSS/WordPress (aka "web design circa 2010) and built some websites until landing a job as a designer at a startup in San Diego. We eventually moved to Austin (where I am to this day) and have worked as a web-based software designer at a variety of startups.

    I am very lucky to be where I am without having gone to school, but would still not recommend going for anything related to "design".

    0 points
  • Drew McDonaldDrew McDonald, over 7 years ago

    I didn't drop out, but I almost wish I had. College didn't help me out much, I made an average gpa, and taught myself most of what I learned. Experience varies, but I didn't have that great of a college experience with design, I would've saved myself the loan money.

    0 points
  • Ollie BarkerOllie Barker, over 7 years ago

    Dropped out of University. Realised my designer side job was teaching me about 99% more than my course was. So rather than accumulating more debt I dropped out into a full time job. Haven't once regretted it.

    0 points
  • Jarno FabritiusJarno Fabritius, over 7 years ago

    I used to be a graffiti guy at least on some level when I was a teenager. I was always very interested in design, lettering, music etc. Then I got my first very own computer, spent way too much time on it, downloaded all the basic software for making banners, making music and so on, it was magical what you could do! I wanted to learn everything.

    Finally an older friend asked if I could design a website for his new company, "since you know those computers and stuff" Actually I didn't know how it was really done but somehow I hacked something together by googling and so on :) Fear of failing is your biggest enemy.

    Later I went to school just to get some paper out and paving the way for future education possibilities but haven't really had the time or motivation to continue further. So I could say I'm self taught all the way.

    If you are truly curious about how something works, you can teach your self it all, read books, watch videos, make stuff, make some more stuff, fail, try again, keep your mind open, listen what older more experienced people has to say.

    If you don't know yet what's your true calling, school can give you some direction and help you find it. School is also great for networking with like minded people and staying active but even in school you have to take a huge responsibility and dig deeper on the subjects on your own time. Courses are often short and very general and it's hard for the teachers to keep up with how fast things are moving in this field of work. I remember when one of my teachers told me that "if you want to make sure you have work till the rest of your days and make some big moeny, learn Symbian now!" And then iOS/Android came and here we are...

    0 points
  • David James, over 7 years ago

    University, taught the fundamentals of design and it's history along with a bit of semantics and postmodernism. In terms of critical thinking I'm glad I spent the years doing a degree, but self taught myself web design once I'd left

    I recommend anyone who is self taught and didn't do a design course read up about the basics of design (composition, grids, typography, golden layout, semantics) otherwise you won't know what you don't know

    0 points
  • Lex Vargas, over 7 years ago

    Self-taught. Had no background at all. Hell, I dont even know how to draw.

    I was supposed to be the QA guy of our team until I have been given the task of designing a page in our app. Felt good while I was at it so I decided to pursue it.

    Relied on books, articles, design talks, anything I can get a hold off. When I was not reading, I was on Illustrator or Photoshop or Sketch figuring things out. Everyday has been a learning process.

    To see where I was two years ago to where I have gone today just goes to show that hardwork and dedication does pay off. Its a nice feeling.

    0 points
  • Sheikh NaveedSheikh Naveed, over 7 years ago

    Self Taught, M.Com as education, top rated freelancer on upwork.

    0 points
  • Johnson VinoJohnson Vino, over 7 years ago

    I am not a dropout. I made me to dropout here.

    0 points
  • Zach JohnstonZach Johnston, over 7 years ago

    Yes, but I never recommend dropping out unless it's for a truly great opportunity. My story looked something like this:

    1. Penn State for 2 years
    2. Moved to San Francisco to pursue a startup (failed)
    3. Tried again (failed)
    4. Joined OpenGov
    5. Moved on to Dropbox
    0 points
  • Ryan WoodRyan Wood, over 7 years ago

    Self-taught here too. Became interested in design at a young age from creating websites focused around showcasing my (cheesy) Flash animations. Fast forward and I went to art school –dropped out after the first semester. Proceeded to get a general Associate Degree to satisfy my parents' request to pursue higher education. Shortly thereafter, I began working on my design portfolio. Came out to San Francisco and landed a job.

    The lack of 'higher' education has thrown some recruiters and interviewers off, but for the most part I'm able to spin it as a net positive. If you are genuine in your resolve/dedication for your craft, it'll show.

    0 points
  • Arun KP, over 7 years ago

    Self Taught here.

    0 points
  • Taylor Van OrdenTaylor Van Orden, over 7 years ago

    Went to NYU Tisch for Film/TV, dropped out after 2.5 years, got a shitty job doing promo videos, taught myself how to build websites and design at that job, took a couple design courses for $100 at the local community college, left job to freelance front end dev, and here I am.

    0 points
  • Rolando MurilloRolando Murillo, over 7 years ago

    I'm self-taught as well and officially started my career when I was 14 but I decided to go to school regardless out of FOMO. I can only do it because the company I work for is supportive of it. Otherwise I would drop out.

    0 points
  • Toby ShorinToby Shorin, over 7 years ago

    I'm not surprised to find so many of us started with forum sigs and avatars. I wonder what the modern-day equivalent of that is?

    0 points
  • jj moijj moi, over 7 years ago

    learned everything i need to know in the first 2 years then dropped out. bad impact? huge loans and have to think about wanting to finish it every time i make the payments. other than that, no one really ask or curious why i dropped out.

    0 points
  • ポール ウェッブポール ウェッブ, over 7 years ago


    I actually went to college for software engineering. I had to leave because I couldn't afford it (long story). I then worked shitty part-time jobs before not working at all due to the recession of '08. At that time, I decided to teach myself Photoshop and after a period of time, wanted to have a website to showcase my stuff. I was quoted what I thought was a ridiculous price and I angrily (lol) taught myself how to code.

    Bing-bang-boom, I'm becoming more successful now and life is good.

    The only bad thing I have to deal with is loans. Welp.

    0 points
  • Jordan BrewerJordan Brewer, over 7 years ago
    1. Designed as a hobby through high school
    2. Went to college for a completely different career
    3. Paid for college through freelance design work
    4. Job offered for full time designer
    5. Dropped out of college

    I'm a huge evangelist for jumping in and learning through experience. There are plenty of great degree programs out there that I might go back and experience, but I have zero regrets.

    0 points