Posted 15 February 2018
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Written by Carin Goldberg

Be brave and trust yourself: Carin Goldberg on studying

Carin Goldberg is a graphic designer, self-confessed ‘maker of things’ and an educator at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Here she shares her advice for students, including why it’s important to be brave and to trust yourself.

I went to The Cooper Union School of Art in New York City in the early 1970s. I studied painting and photography, and had little idea of what graphic design was until after I left school and learned the craft on the job. But it was at Cooper that I learned how to think, see and solve problems.

Although I can’t promise my students that their pursuit of graphic design will always be gratifying or easy, I emphasise that school is simply one of many valuable stepping stones. That value could be found in the form of an inspirational teacher or like-minded friends pursuing the same goal. For me, the single most valuable experience at school was meeting someone who I shared a studio with for 15 years after leaving Cooper. We influenced each other’s creative lives dramatically.

“Learning what you don’t want to do is just as valuable as knowing what you do want to do.”

Don’t define yourself too soon. It takes time and patience. Finding one’s identity or “style” is a process, sometimes painful, sometimes exhilarating. Let it happen, but be consistent and work hard every day. Create a life both in work and play that is consistent with your aspirations. Show up; even if you’re disappointed or embarrassed with your work. Be brave and open to constructive criticism; don’t let every comment upset you, and don’t let anybody intimidate you.

How do you know if a course is right for you? You don’t. Do your research and hope for the best. Know that sometimes you have to stick it out; you will never lose from the experience. There is usually something redeeming about most experiences you may have – but also trust yourself enough to know when something or someone isn’t for you.

“Trust yourself enough to know when something or someone isn’t for you.”

Trusting and listening to yourself is part of growing up; it’s about making decisions that are good for you. With everything in life – a course, teacher, a friendship, a relationship, a job – if you’re finding it an unresolvable problem where nothing is satisfying you, and find your confidence diminishing, get out. Don’t ask 100 people what they think. Begin to cultivate a trust in yourself. Learning what you don’t want to do is just as valuable as knowing what you do want to do.

Education is expensive and students feel pressured to make career or educational choices based on their parents’ expectations. And there is an expectation that school alone will define one’s future.

Working alongside your studies can be beneficial, but it depends on the job and who you’re working for. If you’re working with the right people who truly understand that your position there is to be an inspiring experience and continuation of your education, then great, but if you’re simply going to be a free workhorse it will ultimately deplete and discourage you. Only work for the best when interning in conjunction with school.

This advice was given as part of an interview recorded at the 2017 AGI conference at L'École nationale supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Visit Carin’s site at

Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Written by Carin Goldberg