Now it may be evident that I haven’t really wrote any decent blog posts recently, well with everything that has been going on, I just haven’t had the time!
But, fear not! Something I have wanted to write about and feel in a good position to do it now is the season that all us designers love - the End of Year Degree shows!
The end of year shows can make or break certain establishments, with them either reflecting the hard work, and fabulous creativity that is bred among their students; or they can reflect on just how out of touch courses/lecturers/universities are out of touch with modern design or the industry. Two shows I have recently attended have shown these points to good effect.
The first show I saw reflected that the calibre of work that the students on the course had produced just did not sit where you would expect degree level students to be from an industry perspective. Fundamental elements such as typography, and imagery were just poorly executed, and after paying for three years worth of specialist education I would have expected the students to have been more knowledgeable and creative as to not have used comic sans on final pieces of work without a sense of irony. One thing that did surprise me was that the graphic designers in the show all virtually used stock or found images which I think is not the way to learn, because most of the time as a designer, you have to source images yourselves, otherwise where is the originality? Most consultancies will have someone in-house who is either a trained, or at least a very good photographer - and although you may feel that this is of little importance to a degree student, when they are showing their final degree work off, that is centred around these ‘found’ images, it makes you question just how creative they actually are. How would they cope if they were faced with a ‘real’ graphic brief?
It makes you think, what did they learn over the three years?
In contrast the degree show I attended on Friday in Cardiff was sublime. Of course there were some exceptions to prove the rule, and i’m sorry if you are reading this, but the ‘Man-Tan’ concept was one of the boards that held my interest least, but on the whole, the creativeness and freshness of the design was leaps and bounds higher than the other degree show.
Having attended Cardiff to undertake my degree, it is safe to say that the show would have blew our one some 7 years ago away, but at that time even then, design was a different scene. However, the lecturers are the same, and their approach to teaching is the same, the fundamental difference is that they constantly keep their eyes on the creative world, and inspire their students to do the same. As a lecturer myself, I feel as if I have taken this approach into my studio, and if the final major projects of my second year students is anything to go by, I think I have been a little bit successful.
What was evident at the first University show I have referred to, is that the illustration course seemed to have a wonderful grasp on the freshness of design, and more surprisingly, a wonderful grasp of good typography. Some pieces were exquisite, and I hope that the quality of their work shined through to industry experts that attended the show.
With the current economical climate, and with tuition fees set to soar to £9000 a year, I think now more than ever it is time for creative students to really explore what they are getting for their money at universities. Are they getting a well rounded course that allows them to learn crucial commercial lessons to take into the industry? Or are they getting a course that allows them to be experimental with design, but with less emphasis on how they can translate this into the real world? Or are they getting a course that is out of date and prepares them to fail in the industry, or to at least not reach their full potential?
The end of year shows can mostly represent this in a succinct manner. Even when talking to students you can understand how passionate they are for the course, either good or bad. The guys I spoke to at the first show couldn’t really talk about their designs with any enthusiasm, but at Cardiff they were bouncing to talk. There is no doubt to if I were hiring, I would have taken at least a dozen Cardiff designers, but maybe one of the others, in fact I would have employed some of the illustrators as graphic designers instead!
All this brings me round to my students final show.
I have been so impressed with their work ethic, and creativity this year, and each project reflects this in a positive way. I know that after discussing their final major projects with another lecturer, pouring over the in-depth book work, lavishly reading their annotations I have ended up with something that I am not only proud of, but knocked the socks off the other lecturer, and that will show just how talented my students actually are.
They are at a crucial stage of their development as designers, but the commitment and creativity they deliver makes me anticipate their degree shows in three years time even more! Because they are only 18/19 and have yet to even start their degrees, but I would welcome any other students or lecturers from universities to come and actually just see the talent on offer, because in some universities they would be jealous of the rich talent on offer here, and envy the degree level work they are already creating.
So I will anticipate that I will post some photos and video from my student’s final show soon, and hopefully try to attend a few more other shows and if any catch my eye i’m sure I will let you know.
But for all prospective university students out there wanting a career in the design industry, ask yourself - what is my uni doing for me?