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Things design school aspirants should keep in mind

If you're an art student who doesn't know what you'll be specialising in later, don't worry. As long as you're sure of the reasons you've chosen this stream, you're already on the right track.

Many times, students choose a stream by process of elimination. If you're interested in pursuing art or design as a career, please know that it isn't an easy option, contrary to popular belief. People get admission in the best design schools only as a result of focused preparation. Maybe you're someone who knows your strengths and weaknesses, areas of interest and (maybe) a vision of how you'd like to put your creative energy to use. You might be good at drawing, photography, spatial arrangement, have a keen eye for fashion or be interested in product design. These are all interconnected but each one can also provide a niche. You could choose a graphic design course and become a website designer, or you could draw your way into an animation studio. You could venture into advertising or filmmaking, ceramics or sculpting, set design or exhibition design, footwear design or editorial design. The avenues are endless.

At an undergraduate level, most courses begin by teaching the same fundamentals. One delves into an area of expertise during post-graduation or at the workplace. Provided an opportunity, you could combine your strengths (become a fashion writer or UI/UX expert, for example). But your journey starts now, in the present.

While in school, start by keeping your eyes and ears open. Research about the best undergraduate programs available in your country as well as scholarships offered abroad. Talk to seniors who might've graduated from a good university and take notes on how to prepare for entrance exams and interviews.

  • Be organised and disciplined. Keeping a schedule and sticking to deadlines can be learnt even while you're in high school. Whether it's a visual diary or Instagram page you maintain, you must update it from time to time.

  • Have a voice that's unique to you. Be bold, have an opinion and most importantly, be yourself.

  • Have a side project. Besides academic scores, what you're passionate about really matters. For example, if you're an animal lover, you could design posters for your local vet. Or you could get creative with cake decoration/flower arrangements and learn how to photograph them in the best way possible.

  • Participate in contests. Keep a tab on upcoming events/opportunities for collaborations and put your work out there. Peer reviews can often give you a reality check.

  • Take up online courses, short summer programs offered by colleges or apprentice with a studio. This would count as hands-on experience.

  • Start an art or cine club at school, campaign or volunteer for a social cause. Leadership skills are appreciated everywhere.

  • Follow specific artists/designers/filmmakers who inspire you. Look up their back stories so you really know what their work is all about. Patreon or Behance is a great place to look them up. You could also look out for events like India Art Fair and Lightbox Expo.

  • General awareness and resourcefulness is important. If you don't know what's happening around you, your work will lack contextual referencing. Moreover, design as a discipline isn't about aesthetics alone. It is more about clear communication and providing solutions for all sorts of industries and services.

  • Check out individual college sites/Facebook pages to see the webinars that are listed. Sometimes college professors guide you about requirements specific to the college.

Applying to colleges can be daunting because of the competition as well as the vast choices available. First, choose the course you want to take up, then look for the colleges that fit your budget, giving location last priority. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The letter of purpose is very important. It reflects what you're all about, your aspiration as well as clarity of thought. Be original and edit it carefully.

  • The topmost design institutes are interested more in the process than the end result or the output. Include process videos/slideshows in your portfolio. Experiment with varying media and pay attention to detail.

  • Ask your art teacher to review your work before you submit it anywhere. Be open to advice. Quality is more important than quantity, so choose your best 10-12 works.

Be persistent and keep up the momentum. You'll keep seeing a steady improvement in your own work. PRO TIP: Do practice the traditional way, with pencil and paper. Most exams are still conducted that way.

  • Don't be disheartened if you don't get through at first attempt. Keep your objective in mind and try again next year.


A good GPA and Letter of Recommendation from your school is most important. Most foreign universities consider your SAT/IELTS scores, although they seem to have been suspended during the pandemic. Right now, your portfolio and extracurriculars, certificates/awards should be the only thing to focus on.

- Ishita Banerjee, counsellor,

"Even some professionals don't spend enough time on research and get straight into execution mode. That's a mistake. The time you spend on ideation is far more important. Students should learn to collaborate because at work, everything is teamwork. Nobody works in isolation. And last, design is iterative work. Don't get hung up on the first idea you get."

- Anand Hirvey, VP, Paytm

"I have seen art students go on to be businessmen, film makers, entrepreneurs, lawyers, writers and more. Just focus on mind expansion. Observe and absorb. Your journey is yet uncharted so keep an open mind and experiment as you go."

- Deeksha Verma, Guest Faculty (Creative Thinking) at NIFT

Industry 4.0 is changing the future of work. Reports tell us that 1 out of 5 people will be hired for design jobs across industries in the future. Expectations from a design graduate have also changed over a period of time. Therefore whatever field you choose, make sure the focus is on process of understanding the purpose and designing an appropriate solution that better meets end-user’s needs. Along with developing your design abilities, it is also important to improve your own learning agility and communication skills to deal with the fast changing world.

- Ramneek Majithia, Educationist and member, CII Design Committee


CIALFO for exploring potential colleges and attending university fairs (ask your school to register)

Skillshare, Udemy, Domestika and Schoolism for online courses

CEPT and ISDI for summer/winter courses. Some international colleges like RISD are and Parsons are also offering online pre-college programs.

Some of the best design colleges in India:

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