Graduating to Graphic Design

Posted by Alex

I just finished reading Never Sleep, the new book by Andre Adreev and Dan Covert of dress code. As a student, the back of the book (pictured) kind of freaked me out when I first saw it. My brief and occasional foray into the world of freelance has exposed me to some differences between school and the professional world of design, but I’ve always figured I’ll be in for a wake up call when I graduate regardless. I was psyched to see a book written about this exact process, and I spent last night (as the title suggested) reading the lot of it.

The book chronicles Andre and Dan’s transition from design school to the professional world. They describe, in-depth, just about every aspect of their journey; studying at CCA, working for MTV, and the eventual creation of their own studio in NYC. Along the way, they include examples of their own work from each stage of their career, as well as various essays by professors and professional designers (many of which are available on the site). The book describes just about everything that happened to Andre and Dan, even the occasional IM conversation, and this makes for a very engaging read. The third person narrative is just about as random as it is amusing, and is ultimately very accessible and insightful for the struggling design student (that’s me).

Dan is Ohio. Andre is Bulgaria. They is dress code. At the combined age of 50 their work has been recognized by shiny awards, appeared in lots of magazines, coffee table books, and 3 museums. They met while studying graphics designs at California College of the Arts. Then moved to New York and got jobs with MTV working in motion and print—before stupidly leaving their dream jobs to start a studio of their own. (Buy)

19 Comments Leave A Comment


Matt says:

May 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm

It’s true. Design students would never think to do anything as unoriginal and predictable as all caps white Helvetica on a black background.


Ryan Scott Wynn says:

May 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm

This was a nice read. I did a similar project a few years back, called ‘Leaving the Nest’. Fun.

So since I’ve left the nest, (I’m currently traveling + designing), I’ve been trying to learn the art of designing internationally at the same time. Would you guys have any advice for doing this better? Are there any design sites you’d recommend contacting re: work for clients over seas? OR, haha, would you need any help with any projects?

Keep this site going. It’s inspiring.


Rent says:

May 5, 2009 at 6:34 pm

sounds interesting…actually just turned down my acceptance to cca unfortunately due to it being extremely expensive and not being old enough to get a student loan.

besides the point, thanks for the link on this one Alex. I think this will be a good read for me right now.


Chris says:

May 5, 2009 at 6:56 pm

I am planning on reading this soon…these guys are professors at Pratt, I have them for a senior project next semester.


Mike Cottone says:

May 5, 2009 at 7:37 pm

It’s definitely different, but I think art school prepared me pretty well for being in the “Professional” world. Having every element of a design carefully scrutinized by your peers and instructor will definitely hone your instincts and thought process. If I could say one thing, it would be to just experiment and try as many different things as you can now- you don’t always get the chance in the “real world” :-)


Tardlovski says:

May 5, 2009 at 8:39 pm

that ain’t helvetica, and i must say the fact they didn’t use helvetica instead momentarily makes me cringe.

snooty designer bs aside, i never went to a real design ‘school’. i took a communications course for 4months, which had a design component, and realized right off i should be doing design professionally and that i shouldn’t be paying somebody to teach me how to do it. so i basically learned by having some level of god given ‘talent’, a creative spirit, and by working my way up through an ad agency and later studios. i got my first job designing an ad for hummer that i did all in photoshop, which looking back still looks pretty good, but is conceptually shit. i dunno, it’s hard to say…i think basically you either have it or you don’t. my advice to people that obviously have it is fuck debt. go get a job on the strength of what you naturally have. i’ll leave it at that. btw alex, i think you ‘have it’, so keep on keepin’ on.


alex says:

May 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm

The monetary cost of design school is definitely high, though I consider the opportunity cost to be even higher. It’s often hard to justify paying good money to sit in class, when you could be making that same money doing freelance work. Right this very moment I am substituting away from a freelance job to finish up my type homework. (and in a masterful display of procrastination, also commenting on my own post).

Of course, there are many benefits to being in school, and as I am currently still enrolled, I obviously consider both costs worth it. For me, someone who does not have any previous background in design, graduate school provides me with a low-stakes opportunity to build a portfolio and get my skill sets up to a point where I consider myself a design “bad ass”.


Tardlovski says:

May 6, 2009 at 5:41 am

as long as you’re getting something out of it that you deem worthy, then it’s pretty hard to bag on education. as with design projects there are many ways to skin a cat when it comes to getting into the field i suppose.


graciela. says:

May 6, 2009 at 12:12 pm

While I was in school I think I was very naive about where I’d end up and what design would ultimately mean in the real world. School is very conceptual and there isn’t a client in terms of, we need this ad to target this demographic and sell this many units at these select stores. So it’s very open and idealistic. It’s only now that I’ve been doing it as a job in corporate America that I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t gel with me. I’m not interested in designing the next greatest ad campaign or beautiful, but incredibly wasteful, package. I know, it’s something I should’ve thought about before, but priorities change.

I agree that design can be done without the debt of going to school. Some people are amazing without a degree, some are horrible with a degree. Portfolios will speak for themselves at the end of the day.


michael says:

May 7, 2009 at 6:01 am

well the scariest thing about your post was the fact that you are a student!
Very scary since i already always save some of your displayed work to post on my inspiration photo blog! :-)
Anyways, ill be keen to hear about how you transition when you finish school. Keep up the good work with the blog! Always enjoy reading your posts.


Matthew says:

May 7, 2009 at 6:09 am

@Matt: Look at the capital R’s.

Anyway, this is a great read. Funny, insightful, and somewhat inspiring. I say somewhat because the book pretty much makes one think that if you don’t have a BFA in Design, you won’t get anywhere.


michael j. says:

May 8, 2009 at 3:00 am

Looks great, another good one is “How to be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul.” Kind of the same premise but not specifically for graduating students. Still worth the read :)


no thank you says:

May 8, 2009 at 9:05 am

These guys are funny, I don’t know them personally, but I’ve taken a class with them. They have been kind enough to give the graduating ComD class at Pratt this book as a graduation present. so thats cool, though I already have it. oh well.


no thank you says:

May 8, 2009 at 9:09 am

p.s. the book is set in arial and Courier. I’ve noticed that a good amount of designers have been using Arial as the anti-helvetica sans serif, a strange step from Akzidenz-Grotesk.