Could do better

Posted by Chris Venables on 13.03.15

Are we preparing our design students for the reality of work in the design industry?

This question has been asked over and over, and as a practitioner and educator myself, one that constantly crops up in conversation. I feel there is a fine line in education between preparing students to be ready for industry, and them having an opportunity to really explore their individuality without full industry constraints while at University/​College.

The UK has a tremendous reputation for creativity, and within its design education system, a real depth of new talent. I do find however that, during the first year of the degree programme, the students have to be taught how to think both creatively and independently again, having been through a secondary education system that focuses on collective results for league table standings rather than the individuality of the creative industries. Is the culture of exploration is being lost in our schools/​colleges for the sake of league tables?

Once de-institutionalised, there is of course a danger that letting the creative student simply become self indulgent, will only result in folios resembling those of fine art students.

Some university/​college courses are preparing students in a way that satisfies the industry as it is today. My thoughts are, we are teaching for jobs that probably don’t exist yet, so the individual has to be able to adapt by thinking creatively, and through collaboration with other industries, look to the future, create the future.

We need to remember we are in the business of problem solving, graphic design is applied creativity. Of course we need to show our next generation of creatives how to combine art and commerce, to make them fit for purpose, and this should be done by giving real life problems to be solved in sensible timescales. Having said that, there must not be too much emphasis on tight deadlines and commercially ready design, most graphic design degrees are not vocational after all, and that would also make the job of design agencies (industry) too easy. With industry getting increasingly involved in curriculum writing, we may be in danger all junior designers will be the just add water’ kind. I guess they simply don’t want to spend too much time actually showing them the industry from the, four teas, all with milk, two with sugar, one coffee, decaf of course, oh and pop out and get some jammie dodgers (other good dunking biscuits are available) and six jam doughnuts, it’s going to be a long meeting, right up to, the client presentation and ego stroking end of the business.

So the challenge is to prepare students for the realities of the studio, large or small, whilst leaving their imagination free to wander, and the design industry to stop asking for people who can hit the ground running” and to take a chance on this new creative blood. Someone took a chance on you.

Chris Venables