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Dear Design Student A collection of thoughts about design school & creative practice


By Mitch Goldstein Designed by Kirstyn Swancer


Dear Design Student, There’s some stuff I think you should know.


Dear Design Student, At some point, you are just gonna have to do the work.

Dear Design Student, See everything. Develop informed opinions. Decide what matters to you. Make work like you give a shit.

Dear Design Student, Your teacher is not your boss, art director, client, manager, parent, or supervisor. Your teacher is your partner.

Dear Design Student, Also learn photography.

Dear Design Student, At some point, you will have to answer this question: “What matters?�


Dear Design Student, Remember that we’re critiquing, evaluating, & analyzing your work. We aren’t critiquing, evaluating, & analyzing you.

Dear Design Student, Please. Master. Typography.

Dear Design Student, Never, ever, ever feel hesitant or awkward about asking to get paid.

Dear Design Student, Making makes ideas.

Dear Design Student, Please pay attention to more than just design. Especially now.


Dear Design Clever is not the same thing as good.

School is the best possible place to make horrible, awful work.

Try everything.

Design is a very, very small world. Everybody knows everybody. Try not to be an asshole.

Fuck. Shit. Up. (In a good way).

An excellent way to make great work is to not be afraid of making bad work.


Student, See more art.

It’s not about learning to do it the way I do it. It’s about learning to do it the way *you* do it.

It’s much easier to get *the* job when you have *a* job.

Sometimes you have an idea, then make. Other times you make, then have an idea.

Don’t forget to actually take a break this week.


Dear Design Student, Every project– every single project– is a chance to make something interesting and/or learn something new. Enjoy it. Dear Design Student, I have lots of advice on owning a small studio & being a professor. I have no advice on getting a job at Pentagram. Dear Design Student, Your teachers are constantly being asked if they have any students they can recommend for jobs. Act accordingly.


Dear Design Student, Do first. Apologize later. (And if what you did was fantastic, you won’t have to apologize at all.) Dear Design Student, Always go to the visiting artist & designer lectures Always. Dear Design Student, Make things, not excuses.


Dear Design Student, Comfort leads to predictability and stagnation. Learn to be uncomfortable in your work as often as possible.

Dear Design Student, Start at the start. End at the end. Pay close attention to what happens in the middle.

Dear Design Student, Good designers are design students forever.


Dear Design Student, College is the easy part.

Dear Design Student, Critique should not be performance art.

Dear Design Student, Make your own decisions about who your heroes are.


Dear Design Student, No amount of big words, clever arguments, or elaborate justifications will ever be a substitute for doing the work.

Dear Design Student, If you only do things you only know what to do, it’s hard to discover new things. Confusion is your friend.


Dear Design Student, Google that shit.

Dear Design Student, Yes, fonts are really a thing you can buy. Yes, they do make an excellent holiday gift.


Mitch Goldstein is an Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he teaches in the School of Design. Over the past decade, he has taught at Rhode Island School of Design, Virginia Commonwealth University, Maryland Institute College of Art, and other institutions. He received his MFA in Design/Visual Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, and his BFA in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design. He works in collaboration with his wife Anne Jordan on select client projects.


Kirstyn Swancer graduated from Dover Area High School in 2016 after completing the Program of study in the Graphic Arts she decided to pursue this for a career. Kirstyn is a Sophomore Graphic Design Student, attending York College of Pennsylvania in hopes of turning her high school hobby into a long lasting career.

Photography credits: Jena Bixler, Tiffany Chen, Jessica Harkcom, Jack Korver, Sydney Little, Van Nguyen, Leo Orndorff, Kristin Peaks, Hannah Potts, Alexis Seaver, Shreyesh Shrestha, Natalie Spingler, Kirstyn Swancer, Genevieve Ryder, J’von Weems.


This book was produced in ART200 Introduction to Graphic Design, Fall 2017 at York College of Pennsylvania.Â

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