Design School Wisdom + Poster Challenge

“You could sail the Queen Mary through those letters.” “Never make excuses when presenting your work.” “Have more fun.” “Don’t worry if your first ideas are obvious or unoriginal—sometimes you have to dig through the landfill to get to the gold.”

These are just a few examples of the design wisdom that echo in my head on any given day and that I can attribute to my teachers at design school. Yes, it’s been seventeen years since I spent all-nighters in the school studio, garnered my first x-acto knife scar, and began to plant my roots firmly in this thing called Design, but the words of my design teachers (sometimes gentle and encouraging, other times . . . not) stay with me to this day.
Design School Wisdom

The idea for Design School Wisdom began as a blog post, but fellow Chronicle designer, Brooke Johnson, and I quickly realized that it had the potential to be something more. We took the idea to Art editor Bridget Watson Payne, and with the group’s blessing, the idea became a book. Or, more accurately, the promise of a book. Now Brooke and I just had to figure out how to make that promise a reality.
Design School Wisdom

Design School WIsdom

At first we wanted the book to be a small, gifty package filled only with inspirational quotes from design educators. But the more the team discussed this idea, the more we realized that we had an opportunity to extend the content further. We wanted the book to reflect the experience of being in design school—the casual conversations with peers, overheards in the hallways, the quotable critiques in the classrooms, and the inspiring lectures delivered by staff and visiting designers. We wanted the content to speak to design students but also to practicing designers. Even, we dared hope, to non-designers in need of some creative inspiration.

Design School Wisdom

Design School Wisdom

We composed a list of design educators selected from schools across the United States, Canada, and beyond, from undergraduate and graduate programs, low-residency and full-residency, art schools and university design departments. We invited these design teachers to submit their pearls of wisdom—as free-standing quotes and as essays on pivotal experiences or lessons learned regarding life and design. We asked students to interview teachers who had made an impact on them in their design education.

Design School Wisdom

(Illustrations by Arthur Mount)

The responses blew us away—not only in the content of what we received, but the graciousness and goodwill with which the material was submitted. Each contribution was considered, inspirational, and insightful (and often times quite funny), like the best parts of design school rolled into one package. And it all made me feel incredibly lucky to be part of the design community.

Design School Wisdom

That original blog post idea is now a real-live book and in the spirit of keeping the design wisdom flowing and sharing, we’ve created a Design School Wisdom board on the Chronicle Books Pinterest page. And we want to hear from you!

Design School Wisdom

(Posters, clockwise from upper left, by Ryan Hayes, Emily Dubin, Vanessa Dina, and Allison Weiner)

What is the most memorable piece of advice or lesson you learned in design school or as a professional designer? What pearls of wisdom would you share with other designers? Create a poster that communicates your design school wisdom, send it to , and we’ll post it to the Design School Wisdom Pinterest board.

When sending us your poster, please include the following information:

– Name
– Website
– Twitter handle (if available)
– Pinterest account (if available)

In the words of Charles Nix, teacher at Parsons The New School for Design:

Design School Wisdom

Featured image at top as quoted by Petrula Vrontikis of Art Center College of Design.

Jennifer Tolo Pierce
Design Director

Jennifer Tolo Pierce

Jennifer Tolo Pierce is a Design Director at Chronicle Books with a love of all things words and images, particularly as they intersect in the realm of lifestyle and children’s publishing.
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Contact us



Leave a Comment