Pursuing a Design Course? Here’s How to Pick a Specialisation
Are you keen on studying design but at a loss over which area you should specialise? Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision.
Updated 10 May 2022
Are you a creative soul who likes things to be visually appealing? Do you often look at designs on various platform and find yourself thinking of ways it can be improved? Do you enjoy toying around with photo and video editing tools and sharing your work with family and friends? Are you a perfectionist who leaves no detail untouched?
If you find yourself agreeing with most of the points above, perhaps the design field could be the one for you!
Design involves forming a concept or an idea to create things that add value to people's life. As a designer, you can specialise in different mediums, whether it’s print, the web or physical products, such as fashion or housing interiors.
With so many design specialisations — from multimedia design, graphic design and animation design to industrial design, interior design and fashion design — how can you decide which field to pursue? Here are 5 tips to help you.
#1. Know where your interest lies
Design is a broad field, which makes it impossible to master all of its specialities! Narrow your area of interest by doing some research to understand the distinctions between each field and how it suits your personality and career goals.
For example, if you enjoy toggling with codes to change the format and layout of your blog, or shooting and editing videos, perhaps a multimedia design course might be up your alley. As you go through your course, you’ll be able to decide which field you prefer (such as web design or motion graphics) to specialise for a career.
It’s important to note that some areas have similarities. For example, graphic designers may be involved in the creation of logos and other visuals such as infographics, which may also be done by multimedia designers.
While it may be tempting to dabble in different specialisations, it’s worth considering that a designer with a niche skill set may thrive better (just look at these famous graphic designers). As it has been said, “A jack of all trades is a master of none”.
#2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses
After identifying your interests, it’s important to do some self-exploration and think about your strengths and weaknesses as this will affect your performance in the programme.
Honesty is the best policy, so ask yourself: do you know what your design course entails? Will you need to learn to use different tools and software, and do you like working with them? Do you have a rough idea of what your career pathway will be like, and what are the skills needed to succeed?
This exercise can prompt you to think of areas where you may need to improve yourself. For example, a graphic designer who works in an advertising agency will need to handle constructive criticism, in addition to working long hours and under immense pressure in an industry that is constantly evolving.
So, do you have the trait of someone who has an interest and willingness to learn? Do you buckle under pressure or thrive on it? Can you accept constructive criticism?
Once you’ve recognised and accepted your weaknesses, think of what you can do to improve in these areas.
Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU)
BA (Hons) in Visual Effects
✓Dual-award degree – one from De Montfort University (UK) and one from APU
#3. Don’t be afraid to try new things
Tackling different design-related projects can be an effective way of finding out which specialisation suits you.
For example, you can volunteer to design your school’s Sports Day posters to see if graphic design is your cup of tea. Or, you can consider taking a jewellery-making or sewing class if you enjoy working with your hands. There are also plenty of online courses for you test out and learn at your own pace!
Alternatively, if you’ve completed your pre-university programme and have not decided on a Design Degree, consider taking up a design internship in your area of interest to see if it suits you.
#4. Put yourself out there
In most instances, the only thing stopping you from getting ahead and fulfilling your dreams is yourself.
Creative fields such as design are highly subjective, and the thought of showcasing your work to friends, family or even the public might make you shiver. However, whether it’s jewellery you’ve painstakingly made, clothes you’ve sewn or a video animation you’ve created, it’s important to put yourself out there.
Consider keeping all of your artwork — this could be idle doodles on the margins of notebooks, sketches of a fantasy world or an artwork you submitted for a competition — and gather feedback from others, including those who are already in the field.
You can also find out if there are any design communities, whether on Facebook or in real life, and seek advice and constructive criticism to help you identify areas to improve on. This exercise can also boost your confidence when your talent is recognised by others in the field.
It’s worth remembering that many of us tend to be too hard on ourselves, which leads to negative thoughts and self-judgement. While this doesn’t bode well for your confidence, perseverance is key. After all, learning is a lifelong journey!
#5. Research, research, research!
Finally, before choosing a specialisation in the design field, you should also assess what’s going on around you. Do some research to find out: what kind of designers does the market need? Are there new skills you should equip yourself to keep up with the ever-changing field?
You should also keep abreast of the current developments within the field — not only in the country but worldwide as well. Good designers are always in the loop with trends and know what works for the audience and what doesn’t. You can take inspiration from viral videos and memes that crop up on social media and incorporate them into your work (think of Nando’s Malaysia’s cheeky ads). The possibilities to draw inspiration from are endless!
Imagine the world without designers — walls would be bare, websites and apps wouldn’t exist and there wouldn’t be any form of brand identity.
Regardless of what kind of designer you are, you'll likely be learning something new every day in this evolving field. No doubt, it can be a challenging and technical area, but it’s one that offers you the chance to flex your creative muscles and enhance your creativity — that is the reward in itself!
So, be sure to do some thorough research before choosing your specialisation as there is no right or wrong answer to choosing the “right” profession!