Heart & Head Advice for College Students of Art & Design

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I've been running my interior design business for almost two years now and went from zero clients to a steady stream that keeps me motivated and deeper in love with the work I do. 

The funny thing is, this was never my plan. While studying for my masters of Interior Design at Drexel, I thought I only wanted to work for other people. My thought was "let the boss worry about the business; I'll take care of the design." Prior to Drexel, as an undergrad at IUP, I was an art major and I wanted nothing more than to become a professional artist living a bohemian lifestyle. 

Life has a way of taking you where you need to go. I'm now a married woman with a son and home in suburban Philadelphia. I never saw this coming, and I love it. 

Looking back, I can see how my choices and experiences have added up to my becoming an unexpected and happily solo entrepreneur. 

I believe in being open to where life takes you, but if I could give advice to college students of art and design, it would be these five things.


Advice for college students


TAKE THE BUSINESS COURSES. Maybe, even minor in business. Did I just say that?

As much as you don’t want to admit it, your family and friends are right. Living in an art school bubble is a beautiful thing but once you graduate and the bubble bursts, art will still be your friend, but knowing how to sell your art will be invaluable.

Learning business basics from accounting to marketing will serve you well all your working life. As dry as it may seem, you won’t regret getting a clue about business. You will need practical knowledge to get ahead in this art and design game.

GO AFTER THE INTERNSHIP AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STUDYING ABROAD OR JUST TRAVEL and go further into Europe than London for Pete sake.

These opportunities will never, ever, ever, come around again. Well, maybe they will but you'll likely be retired. Now is the time to do everything in your power to land the internship and buy the plane tickets.

Everyone I know who interned or explored more of the world has gained skills, connections, inspirations and super awesome stories that cannot touch working part-time in an unrelated field. I know you have to pay the rent but don’t be afraid, find a way and you’ll be so much better off for it.


LEARN FROM YOUR PEERS not just the teachers.

Computers make it way too easy to work alone. Resist the urge to run home after class to the comfortable couch and snuggly cat to do your work. As an introvert, I know working in the studio all the time is unreasonable, but at least make it a point to work there 50% of the time.

The people who do take away so much good stuff, they are pushed further and grow more, make less silly mistakes and form friendships that last beyond graduation. You’ll be happier, your work will be even better, and you’ll be creating a killer portfolio. 


MORE WORK ON THE FRONT END =
LESS WORK ON THE BACK END Measure twice; cut once.

If you have a natural tendency to get really siked about a new project and rush into the fun, doing part, before you’re ready. Take your time and don’t rush into or through projects.

Slow down. The result will be better, and you won’t make mistakes that can be avoided if you plan, ask the right questions, and think it through.

Like your future son might say “Think it through Cookie Monster.”


DON’T WORRY SO MUCH &
LOVE YOURSELF embrace the cheese

Stop wasting time with worry. There is no point living in the future that may never happen. Be here, now.

Life is so much better when you learn how to love and appreciate yourself. When you get there, everyone in your life will benefit, plus you can do and be anything you want.



If faced with myself from the future, I’d listen, but I’m not so sure I’d take my advice. I seem to have this need to learn things the hard way.

Maybe you're like that too, and that's ok. Know things will turn out better than you can ever imagine and they'll just keep getting better, but if you can help it, at the very least, travel!

What advice would you give college students? 

Susan Rains

Susan Rains Design, 408 Spring Road, Havertown, PA, 19083