Drexel Design & Merchandising Majors: what to expect your first year | The Triangle

Drexel Design & Merchandising Majors: what to expect your first year

Photo Courtesy Ashim D'Silva
Photo Courtesy Ashim D’Silva

Now that you’ve made it through your first week as a design and merchandising major, it’s time to look forward to what more you should expect. Of course, all the general struggles of every college student will apply – you will pull more than a couple all-nighters, you will shed a few tears and you will find it difficult to complete some assignments.

You will be asked, “What is Design and Merchandising?”

Expect to answer this question to just about everyone you meet that is not a D&M major. Chances are, even after you try to explain what it is, most people will generalize and get it completely wrong. Honestly, the only time your answer to this question will actually matter is when you’re interviewing for a co-op, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have the perfect answer yet. However, it’s important that you yourself understand what the major is about (see below).

D&M is not just about “loving fashion”

Sure, you love your magazine subscriptions, drooling over designers and expanding your wardrobe at all costs, but these should not be reasons why you are in this major. Maybe that’s what made you interested in the fashion industry, but this major goes incredibly deeper than that. It’s not just about making collages and talking about trendy clothing. And being “creative” is not enough; it will only take you so far. Like any other major, you should actually be passionate about your reason to study the subject.

Expect to spend a lot of money

Yes, textbooks are expensive and all college students spend hundreds of dollars on them each month. However, as a design major, you may only have to purchase a couple textbooks, but you will also have to purchase many art supplies, and, no, art supplies are not cheap. You’ll be spending eye-watering amounts of money on paper, pencils, paints and boards. In addition to art supplies, you’ll also have to purchase extra materials for various classes. Just like textbooks for some classes, you’ll probably never even touch some of your art materials, but don’t worry, they’ll probably come in handy for some random, unrelated weekend project.. P.S. just wait for the Adobe subscriptions (use the student discount) and printing costs. You will pour out your wallet in order to print your assignments.

You do not have to be “dressed up” everyday

With the amount of work you’ll have, no one will have the energy to insult your outfit. In other words, if you wake up after having only three hours of sleep and decide you don’t want to wear a face full of makeup with the best outfit in your closet, you’re not obligated to do so just because you’re a D&M major. No one will actually care about what you wear, and it isn’t your business to care what anyone thinks. Everyone’s style is different.

The struggle will, at times, be too real

Expect to struggle in every way possible, but don’t expect to get any work done if you allow yourself to get stuck in the struggle. You might accidentally cut yourself while you rush to finish your design project, but you have no time to stop and cry about it. Grab some bandages and keep going. Aside from the design sequence, there will be more classes that you will struggle through. For example, presentation techniques is a sophomore level class that will, single handedly, demolish your bank account and you will want to cry from week one all the way to week ten. The best thing to keep in mind is that it will be worth it in the very end.

You will change your mind about which direction you want to go in

If you think you have an idea of what direction you want to go, understand that it will change. A great thing about D&M is that it’s so broad and allows you to explore many different areas. Being open to explore these areas will be a tremendous help. You may want to be a buyer, but then realize that you actually hate it. You’ll have more than enough time to explore your options; no one pressures you to have an answer and to commit to it.

Expect to receive criticism

It starts in your first design critique, and it will never end! Don’t run and don’t cry, instead learn to take criticism from peers and professors alike. You’ll see that it really helps to receive a few tips and suggestions from your peers as well, rather than just your teachers. Professors want you to succeed, but if you don’t keep an open mind you will never see what you are capable of. Honestly, do yourself a favor, and learn to embrace criticism now so you can start growing and improving as soon as possible. Also, learn to give constructive criticism. This skill will help both you and your classmates. Just remember, it’s never personal.

Expect to be challenged in all areas of the major

Design and merchandising is not just a creative major, and it’s not just a business major. You need to do it all — or at least try your best to refine your skills. You’ll have to find the balance between “study subjects” and “project subjects.” The secret to this is honing your time management and learning to plan ahead. Do not underestimate the value of time: paint needs time to dry, papers need time to write and group projects don’t just happen on their own. Lastly, even though you may have a stronger gravitation to “the business side” or “the creative side,” you still need to strive to understand all areas of the major and improve your weaker side. Don’t just write off buying because you think you’re bad at math or ignore design because you’re tired of painting; instead, take every struggle as a learning opportunity. Keep an open mind because you never truly know what area you’ll end up in.

The major will get stressful, and you may start to go crazy. However, there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether that light is not having classes on Fridays, finishing your project early or your teacher cancelling class, you will always have something to look forward to.