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4 Minutes

Do grades matter?

Design school was one of the busiest periods of my entire life.

We had so many subjects and so much homework that we had no time to do anything else. I deeply hated studying in the summer, so I put enough effort into all the subjects to avoid that. Some people in my class were obsessed with grades and getting the best results — as if these results were of any importance.

I only cared about the subjects where I was learning something, which were concept and project development, branding, and typography. I got asked many times why I was getting such poor grades on some subjects, and such high grades on some others.

I simply considered the first group of subjects to be useless and mere drains on my time and energy.

Most design students believe that good grades could get you an internship at a well-known agency. And although that can be the case, it’s not the only way.

While I was studying, I got a job at a small studio and I did my freelance projects here and there. Enough to understand that the real world is far from what you learn in school.

So after I graduated from design school, I avoided internships at all costs — the idea of working for free when I was more than ready to do real work made me sick. First, because it’s horrible to ask people to work for free, and second because I could not afford it anyway. Instead, I looked for a ‘real’ job in another country.

I think I was the only student of my year who didn’t do an internship after studying Art Direction — I just refused to do it. With a diploma that wasn’t even validated yet, I went out there with a portfolio that was half schoolwork and half real work I had done in the past.

After nearly two decades doing design and having worked for many big brands, still, no one asked to show them my grades.

I have never had to show my diploma or my grades to anyone in the professional field. The truth is that clients and colleagues only care about your work and your explanation of it: the way you talk about your work is what defines your professionalism, not your grades.

I am also not against internships, I am against unpaid internships. If you can afford to do an internship at a company like Pentagram or Apple, then I would say go take the opportunity. Although my best guess is that those companies will offer paid internships, this is truly a great opportunity to land a place at great companies that will give you a pump in your portfolio.

Any other company that is not as big as the ones I mentioned, and that only offers unpaid internships, it’s not worth your free labor.