That’s the question posed in this Quora thread with some rather smart answers to go along with it. As an untraditionally trained designer who didn’t go to a design school, I certainly found myself agreeing with much of the advice on this thread. I did go to a junior college right out of high school where I took a lot of random art courses. These classes helped train my eyes and my brain to understand the basics of balance, color, and form. All in all I might have paid $500 for the groundwork that started my design career.
I also liked this bit from Eric Nord, one of the commenters on the the thread, who brings up a good point that we often not don’t talk about when we talk about creative work.
Regardless of whether you go to school, being a good designer takes a bit of talent. That doesn’t mean someone with modest talents can’t work hard and make a living as a designer. But one’s ability to thrive at it and constantly elevate and progress… is at least partly a function of talent. This isn’t just advice for the design field… it’s advice for any competitive field, but especially for “creative” fields.