I don’t have a degree in design

I recently had a chance to sign up for a masters course in Human-Computer Interaction but decided against it. Before that, I never had a chance to study design and that didn’t stop me from actually becoming a designer.

I come from a small, seaside town in Slovenia. By the time I finished high school I had already been designing and building websites for a couple of years. There was no digital design course in any of the faculties in Slovenia at the time so I decided to sign up for the Computer Science course in Ljubljana—Slovenia’s capital. I didn’t know what to expect but shortly after I started the course I realized that it wasn’t for me. Looking back now, I think I just wasn’t mature enough to see the potential in learning Java and stuff. So I dropped out.

Dropping out meant that I had to move back to my hometown and sign up for a course there. With a limited range of those available locally, I decided to study Management. Not because I had a dream of becoming a manager or an economist, it was simply the most generic option out there. And you know what they say—you need a degree to even stand a chance to get a job. All this time I was still designing and building stuff. Not just websites, but user interfaces and user experiences as well. I started out being completely clueless what UX design actually is. Whenever I didn’t know something, I improvised, made mistakes and learned from them.

Because there was no course guiding me towards “what I should be learning” I basically learned a bit of everything. I was frustrated by doing everything for my clients until I learned about the T-shaped skills at some point. I then decided to become a specialised generalist and systematically develop my skills which included front-end development, writing, management, UX research so they would complement my UX/UI and visual design skills well. I was never happy doing just one step in the process and handing it over to the next person in line.

I had a privilege of not being able to study design.

Thinking about it now, I believe I had a privilege of not being able to study design. Privilege because I had to learn everything I know by myself. It’s a privilege also because I had the passion for doing design driving me onward. So I actually ended up doing what I really love, it was never just a fling. It was, and still is a journey driven by excitement of creating things and a hunger for learning. It started out as a dream, a hobby even. I never planned on becoming a designer but at some point it became a dream. A dream that was up to me to fulfil. And in the end, it was a privilege because I didn’t follow an established path towards becoming a designer. I learned what I had to, to get the job done, not something that a professor threw into a course’s curriculum. It was never something I could take for granted, it was something I had to fight for. If I wanted to be a designer, I simply had to do what designers do. That’s it, it’s as simple as that.

Matej Latin

I’m a self-taught designer proving that you don’t need a design degree to make a career in design. I went from doing boring graphic design work to working for big tech companies as a Product Designer. I thrive in the grey area between design and web development and I wrote a book about web typography for designers and web developers.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *