In response to the student question, former AIGA NY President Juliette Cezzar said, “Sure, you can leave, but you’re going to take your inability to use criticism with you.”

Critique notes

That’s the crux. I was a bad designer when I finished my formal education about 15 years ago. The difference in quality between my work and what many of today’s graduates are producing? Huge.

But my school years did, at least, teach me the importance of critique when it comes to learning, and for some time after graduating I kept posting my work in online forums, kept seeking the advice of better designers.

Slowly, my work improved, and that mindset has helped with every project since.

Design isn’t a dictatorship. Clients will sometimes push back against potential ideas, and when they do you can’t just believe you know best. If you think you’re always right, you’ll never listen, never improve.

Formal design school isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a successful designer. But if it isn’t part of your path, well, a little humility goes a long way.

Juliette’s post is part of the Dear Design Student series, which is excellent. Another good one of hers — 10 ways to manage yourself in design school. Catch Juliette on Twitter, too.

Somewhat related, from the archives: On designers critiquing designers.