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So, you want to be a successful graphic.design designer with big clients and lots of design awards? Well, why waste time and money in design school when you can easily gain credibility within the field by networking at design functions and entering design shows? Use the money that you would have blown on tuition for something useful like office space, entry fees, and computers. Then, all you have to do is hire a few young people straight out of design school who—thanks to a good education—are proficient in the latest technologies and up on the latest styles. Young designers don’t cost much because they are struggling to pay back student loans and buy new computers. And after they’ve been around long enough to qualify for a raise, you can get rid of them, because there are plenty more where they came from. After all, you are doing them a favor, you are giving them a “real” education.design Not long ago, all designers were self-taught or learned their craft as apprentices on the job. But today you would have to live under a rock to be unaware of contemporary design. Unlike designers of the past, today’s self-taughts are functioning in a professionalized field that has established a loose framework of options for practice, as well as a plethora of information covering all aspects of design—the numerous books, trade magazines, organizations, and conferences. However, because self-taughts usually do not feel indebted to anyone, they think what they are doing is new and “original”—ignorance is bliss. As “outsiders,” they feel no kinship or responsibility to other designers, leaving the rest of us with nothing but the privilege to admire their chutzpah.design Ironically, self-taught designers must establish themselves as “professional” to be competitive. This is accomplished by entering numerous design competitions and joining professional organizations—all the while reminding their peers in lectures and in magazines that they are, like commercial artists of the past, unencumbered by a formal education. But in our postmodern information age, what does it really mean to proclaim that one is self-taught? Should self-taught graphic designers be referred to as naïve or folk designers? For some, it is simply a means of removing themselves from a practice while simultaneously co-opting all of its Experience Versus Education.design Jeffrey Keedy advantages. So why is the design community so complicit in celebrating the outsider’s ability to exploit the rest of us? Part of the answer may lie in the celebration of the self-taught as a particularly American phenomena. Although there are successful and celebrated self-taught designers around the world, only in America do they wear their lack of formal education like a badge of honor. There is nothing Americans like better than the selfmade man—it speaks to our pioneer heritage, blazing a trail over the meek and inferior, and staking our claim to whatever we can take. Anyone familiar with our popular culture knows that Americans think there is something inherently honest in ignorance. We celebrate heroes that are kindhearted idiots (Forrest Gump), selfexploiting sluts (Madonna), tacky performers of bad sportsmanship (Dennis Rodman), and adolescent taste (Howard Stern). Conversely, there is something cold, calculating, and devious about the educated and intellectual. When was the last time you saw an American movie or TV show in which the bad guy wasn’t characterized as “real smart”? And it was our news media that described the Unabomber as a highly educated “genius.” How fortunate for Americans that naïveté is more socially acceptable than the corrupting influence of education.design