Scholé - A Perspective Shift


Think about what you want to be in 5 years. A design intern? A graphic designer? A creative director? A freelancer? A barista trying to pay off student loans?

What about a scholar? Yes… a scholar of graphic design?

Often this word seems unattainable or a perilous quest that does not involve any social interaction except with hundreds of books. The modern view of a scholar involves becoming a specialist in a particular subject achieved through many years of schooling in higher education. While the stakes have been raised in modern society, the idea of being a scholar was actually perceived entirely differently in early Greek culture.

Our understanding of scholar or school is originally derived from the Greek term – σχολή, scholé. Scholé literally means leisure or a place where there is leisure. It is also understood as freedom from labor. This is almost the complete opposite perception of what it means to become a scholar in today’s society. How can one leisurely write a thousand-page dissertation?

While we may find it comical thinking about being giddy over a dissertation, the Greeks understood that academics and contemplating life’s greatest questions was a pleasurable act of recreation! It was a state of leisure that was considered a luxury. Now, what would it mean for you to treat your life the way that the Greeks viewed scholé? Furthermore, what would it look like to become a true scholar of graphic design?

This task may sound like an overwhelming burden to take on. While we may need to attend graduate school in order to become a distinguished professional, there are many ways to become a scholar irrespective of academic status.

It is crucial to understand that, similar to the Greek comprehension of scholé, we become scholars when we stop viewing our education as an obligation, but rather as an opportunity. Even if you have not achieved high academic performance, be a scholar in the way that you view your craft! What would it look like to display gratitude in the way that you approach your classes? If you are ever discouraged, remember that you get to create for a living – that alone should spark a posture of gratitude.

While his may be may be a matter of altering your perspective, there are also many tangible ways to practice scholé. A first recommendation would be to start building your own resource list. Become a scholar of typography, design studios, designers, print and editorial, books, blogs, type foundries, design internships, job boards, mood board sites, tutorials, podcasts, app tools, web tools, logos, design history… the list goes on. As we notice patterns and make connections, our perspectives broaden. The nature of graphic design is constantly changing and evolving and there will always be new things to learn. As you begin to discover, you will be struck by curiosity. As you nurture your curiosity, it will drive you to new things and you will be inspired – guaranteed. Discover something new today! (For starters, Spire has a monthly resource posting that you can gather from… legitimate design knowledge FOR FREE)

Beyond building your resource list and discovering good design, it is crucial to know why it is good design. Anyone can point out something aesthetically pleasing, but what makes you the graphic designer is the ability to understand why it is aesthetically pleasing. Practice not only discovering, but studying design principles and foundations. Contrast, balance, hierarchy, color, texture, type, image, motion… all standard design principles communicating to be comprehended and understood.

As you begin to fill graphic design roles throughout your life, consider first what it means to be a scholar of design. There is much we can learn from the Greek’s perspective on academics by pursuing design as an opportunity. To know that becoming a scholar requires full attention and hard work, but with a posture of gratitude and delight. To take leisure and simply enjoy being able to create for a living.

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