Talking to students

Last week I paid a visit back to my old university, the now rather grandly named University of the Creative Arts at Maidstone, Kent. I’d been invited to give a talk/workshop type thing to the 3rd year Graphic Design students, pretty nerve wracking affair. Luckily I wasn’t alone, my old class mate Chloe Wooldridge, who worked at Baseline whilst I was swanning around the South-east and has now set up a freelance studio with her partner Michael Vanderson called Number 32 Studio.

On the recommendation of Robin, the course leader, I tried to keep the talk informal mostly about my various work placements, but I also threw in some photos of my trips to Nepal and some of my recent design work. There’s nothing worse than being patronized so I tried to limit things to my own experiences. However we got a bit carried away during the talk and it turned into a bit of a warning lecture about how tough it is in the design industry. Maybe not the most inspirational of speeches, but it’s the truth and I really hoped they listened. Chloe gave a great, passionate talk on the level of commitment you need to succeed, whilst I tried to emphasize the importance of making friends, because the old adage of ‘it’s not what you know’, is a very good one.

Turnout wasn’t bad considering the dead-line for the D&AD Student Awards was the next day. I remember from my student days the stereotypical attitude of not going to lectures, so it was good to see quite a few present even though it was the morning after St. Patrick’s day. I was disappointed by the reaction or lack thereof from the students. We talked for about an hour between us and no-one asked us any questions, even when we prompted them. Maybe we covered everything or I simply wasn’t engaging enough, but I can’t help feeling they missed an opportunity.

After lunch we ran some portfolio crits for any students who wanted to get another opinion, producing a portfolio being part of their final uni project. Again only two people turned up, but luckily, or perhaps predictably, they are both talented designers with really cracking pieces of work. Everyone loves looking at other people’s work, especially when you can talk to the designer about their process and ideas, and I think they appreciated the advice we were able to give them about presentation. One of them is also quite a talented graffiti artist, check out his flikr here.

Over lunch we also had a couple of interesting conversations with the college’s new head of communication courses about potentially using some sort of online forum to provide quick feedback to students about their work and also about using gallery space at the college to put on an exhibition. Intriguing possibilities for the future indeed yes.

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