With only 4 months to go before “graduation” (i.e. getting sent a piece of paper in the mail) I thought it would be the perfect time to do a big fat reflection post talking you through what it was like studying, if I recommend it, and what parts totally sucked.

The Course

In August 2016, I signed up for a Diploma of Graphic Design through CATC Design School.

Background story: In 2015, I dropped out of an Early Childhood teaching degree and left being at a total loss as of what to do next. I spent the following year pretending I would finish my darn book, enjoying days off doing nothing, and taking a lot of trips to the farm. It was nice, but I knew I had to do SOMETHING more than work at Spotlight forever. Enter, Tess Guinery and her wonderful feed.

Through the magical land of Instagram, I had found a couple of graphic designers whose work I adored and lifestyles I envied. I didn’t know jack shit about GD before then, so it was all very new and exciting and full of prospect (Fun clients! Working for myself! Living anywhere!).

Once I’d decided that I’d give it a shot (or a least research it), I trawled the internet looking for online degrees specifically for GD, and ones that wouldn’t take years to complete. In short: there was sweet fuck all. I ended up finding CATC Design School through god knows what, and discovered they had a neat little diploma that was only 2 years part time or 1 year full time.

I had to submit a collage and a drawing as part of my application (daunting!) and pray that I wasn’t the worst they’d seen. A few weeks later and I was in!

At the time, my diploma was still fully covered through VET FEE-HELP, which is another branch of HECS debt or similar. Basically, I didn’t have to pay anything up front (completing this course would be a distant dream otherwise), and am still earning under the threshold so don’t have to worry about repayments just yet.

The total cost of this bad boy was $20,000, which seems like a lot but is WAY cheaper than other degrees. Add on the cheeky lending fee (around $300 per subject), and my debt is sitting at around $30,000. So keep that in mind.


Overall, I am really bloody glad I did this course. I’m still more fond of writing, but have learnt skills that are not only invaluable but have helped me in everyday shit.

The lectures and content writers are all industry professionals, with a world of experience that they use to help you out. In a few subjects I was lucky enough to have a student mentor, who was wise beyond her years and super helpful when I was ripping my hair out thanks to assignments.

Another great thing is that every assignment you do is relevant and will go in your portfolio. So for anyone who hasn’t had a job in the industry, they can finish up their degree and have 20 odd pieces to show to potential employers. Some of the assignments were also super fun – thinking designing magazine spreads or a poster for Splendour in the Grass – so when they came up I genuinely enjoyed myself and managed to forget that I was being graded on them.

I’ve also met a couple of people also studying the diploma (hi, Naomi!) who have uploaded their work to Instagram and have already started getting paid client work and getting recognition from brands. So there’s that too 🙂

Bonus round: the grading system is either pass or unpass (with opportunities to fix your shit and resubmit), which takes a huge amount of pressure off when it comes to design time. I nearly jumped for joy when I first saw this, because although I love the thought of striving for HD’s, I also didn’t want the disappointment of not getting them because I was just starting out.


The hardest part for me was putting up with the tutorials. I didn’t enjoy them when I studied on campus at QUT, and sadly haven’t changed my opinion despite doing them online. Some are great, and are really helpful when it comes to dissecting each assessment and answering questions, but others just drone on and on about the stuff we’d already read about, which I personally didn’t find that helpful.

I’m sure that for those who have the time, the tutorials are hugely beneficial, but for someone who works 30 hours a week and has hobbies, tutorials went to the bottom of my list.

The only other negative that I’ve found is that with some of the more technical assignments, the lecturers tend to leave out certain information from the brief. This basically forces you to watch the tutorials (again and again) to make sure you’ve done everything correctly, but also got me in some sticky situations where there was no mention of completing a certain task (so naturally I didn’t do it), only to find out that it was required – ugh.


So I think I’ll leave it there for now. I’m sure there’s more I could say, but after nearly 2 years all I’m really thinking is how exciting it’ll be not to have to study on weeknights.

Let me know if you have any questions about the course, or just whether or not you should study graphic design in general, as I’d love to help and start a conversation around it 🙂

Till next time,

Viv  xo


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May 6, 2018

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