Reference material, 2004. There's more where this came from.
I felt compelled to write this due to the dismissive tone a certain gigposters.com thread was taking on. A relative newcomer to the site innocently kicked the hornet's nest that is the discussion of higher learning. The motley crew that is the GP membership comes from various walks of life (I hold down the black Canuck demographic – BWAHAHAHA!) and many levels of education – total novice, book-learnin', self-taught, blahblahblah. Anytime the topic of university/college comes around, there's a vocal bunch, usual lead by Frank Kozik – someone I admire, by the way – that'll tell you not to waste your time. Then other folks will chime in, defending the school route, and what it did for them. It goes back and forth like any argument, until folks are tired of typing the same thing over and over.
Me, I needed school. I've never had a stellar history of self-starting pretty much anything. Between 1998 and 2000, the series of lame-ass jobs I was working amounted to a grief lump in my throat and a shitload of whining. Having put time in two trade/business schools made it all sting that much more. I looked at how well my homie Jeope – a Red River College graphic design grad – was doing, and decided to take a stab at this "problem solving" shit.
I got in, failed twice, cried a lot, stayed up late, and met a lot of people in the process. I wouldn't do anything differently if I had to go through it all again. Almost five years after finishing the Advanced Diploma program, I've got solid employment.
In addition to my post-secondary adventures, I can easily say that the assorted yahoos and assholes (I say that with much love) that populate gigposters.com helped mold me into what I am today, and what I aim to be in the future. The vets that have been making posters and other cool shit for a dog's age basically helped me to take criticism and not to take design so damn seriously all the time...not everything needs a fucking rationale. Sometimes, something looks cool, just because it does.
So what am I saying, really? I guess it boils down to this: do whatever works, and don't be a fucking dick. Work all the angles, man. Whether self-taught, a bottom rung print shop employee, or someone that needs the hallowed halls of learning, glean all the knowledge you can, and get yours. I figure that's advice that works anywhere. I went to school and asked people "in the real world" via gigposters.com about all sorts of things. I had it pretty damn good.
Now that I have the school thing behind me, and a bunch of folks I can ask stuff, I finally have the confidence to self-start, and maybe, someday, take it to the next level...self-employment. It's not impossible. Plus, with podcasts like Big Illustration Party Time, Escape From Illustration Island, and Freelance Radio, and forums like Illustration Mundo and others, there are many resources available for a dude like me to take it there.
Whatever works, man.