10 Things No One Tells You About Design Majors


This week, we have a guest blog from North Penn High School graduate Rebecca Murray. Rebecca, who lives in Hatfield, attends Kutztown University and is one of 37 students from the school’s Communication Design program whose work will be exhibited in our September gallery show, opening on the 23rd. 



Hello! My name is Rebecca Murray and I am 20 years old. I am currently a Communication Design major at Kutztown University. I grew up being a creative child who always enjoyed drawing and creating art. I never took art classes in high school, but I knew when it was time to apply to college that I wanted to pursue a career in art. I chose Kutztown University as my school because it was close to home, in a setting I enjoy, and, most importantly, because of its reputable Communication Design program. I am concentrating in Illustration and Graphic Design within my major.

Now that I’m halfway through my career as a design student, I’ve learned so much, but there are a few tips and tricks I wish someone had shared with me when I started out. If you’re considering or pursuing a degree in Communication Design, here are the top 10 insights I would have found helpful then and consider invaluable now.

1. Make connections with your professor – Making connections with professors is super important for your college career, as well as after. Finding a professor that you can connect with on a personal level will boost you work ethic. Doing so has helped me grow as a student and these professors support my artistic choices. Always take advantage of the office hours they provide to you to get their feedback.

2. Stay organized – Being an organized student in any major is important but especially so when you are a design student. I recommend getting a planner or notebook that you dedicate to keeping track of all your big due dates and assignments. If you keep yourself organized, it will make your already-stressful life less stressful. Also, keeping your files organized will be important when your professors are helping you with your work.

3. Sleep when you can – Sleep is something that becomes very sparse when you are a design student. On average, I get four to five hours of sleep a night during the week. Sleeping on the weekends is important to catch up on all those lost hours. I recommend that if you have an hour or two between classes, take advantage of that time to nap.

4. Always do more rather than less – There will be times during your college career where you walk away from class not knowing exactly what your professor has asked for. I suggest that you always do more than less if you are unsure of what was asked of you. If you do more, the worst that can happen is that you will be over-prepared — which can ultimately help you get ahead.

Rebecca created this drawing entirely with pencil.

Rebecca created this drawing entirely with pencil.

5.  Create an environment you can work in – This tip is extremely important for design students! I suggest turning your bedroom or workspace into a calming environment where you can concentrate. In my room at school, I have my walls covered in my artwork, an art table for working and a comfortable chair. To calm down after a long day in class, I light nice candles, turn down the harsh lights and turn on my music to get my assignments done!


A calendar page in watercolor and pen

6. Make friends – In design school, you will share classes with a lot of the same people, some of whom could be your future boss, a co-worker or your competition. It is super important to make friends! If you have a good group of friends with the same goals, you can all encourage each other artistically.

7.  Command S – Save! Save! Save! The key command “Command + S” is for saving. It is crucial to have this key command down. You need to save often in order to avoid hours of lost work. I can tell you many stories of work that’s disappeared because of computers crashing before I hit those two keys. So save your work!

8. Have supplies on hand – Design school is not like grade school — your professors will not provide you with supplies; it is your responsibility. I always make sure to go to every one of my classes with pencils, erasers, micron markers, marker paper, ect. When you are prepared, your professors will notice the extra effort you put into being ready for class, and you will be more productive.

This illustrated self-portrait was created using only shapes.

This illustrated self-portrait was created using only shapes.

9. Keep creating – I find that if you take too long of a break from creating you can lose your drive. On breaks from school, I suggest you keep designing, whether it’s art like what you would do at school or trying something in a whole new medium. Personally, while on summer break this year, I decided to dabble in photography. Photography was a good outlet for me to try because it will help me as a designer and it got me prepared for a photo class I am currently taking.

10. Enjoy it  Some people say high school will be the best years of your life…they are wrong. College will be the best four years of your life. I can tell you whatever happens before college doesn’t define you. College is a chance to start fresh and define the new meaning of who you are. I am on my third out of four years of design school and I have already come away with so much information, skills and memories! Enjoy every minute and don’t take them for granted.


The Kutztown University Communication Design Illustration Showcase opens on Sept. 23 and runs through Oct. 19 at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, 305 Horsham Road, Horsham, Pa. 19044. The opening night reception will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on the 23rd. The show will feature a mix of digital illustration and traditional drawing with digital painting or editing from both undergraduate and graduate students. 

To see more of Rebecca’s work, check out her online portfolio.