It occurred to me this morning that it has now been about ten years since I graduated with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication from UCA Farnham, and that got me thinking: what would I tell myself then that I know now?
So, I’ve come up with a short list of the things I wish someone had told me when I was a student.
University is the one time in your career where you are not restricted by other people’s tastes and opinions, so go for it. You can really push boundaries. If I could go back and do things again I would take the chance to take each brief and really have fun with it.
I felt quite restricted by what was supposedly “the best design process” when I was at university. I was in awe of my tutors, they’d been in the industry and as far as I was concerned they knew it all. I wish someone had said to me that design is a conversation, a sharing of ideas and finding your own way of doing things is almost as important as the final result.
Some of my best work I’ve produced over the years have started life as a really dodgy sketch.
A key part of my process in every project is brain storming. At university I have a strong memory of being told that even a sketch should look good. Since university I found that particular piece of advice is completely false.
Simply getting the rough idea down on paper leads to refinement of that idea and eventually a concept that I can present to a client.
Stopping me from using that particular bit of instinct really did mean my design at university was not as good as it could have been. These days I have at least three or four sketch books on the go.
Tutors are great for support, however their advice doesn’t have to be absolute. Some of the advice my tutors gave me did not work for me. The sketching advice is just one example of where this happened.
University really is a place to find your own way. Learn the basics from your tutors and then take the opportunity to build on it and find your own way.
The best thing I did at university was to organise myself work experience.
At first glance it wasn’t the best work experience and it didn’t get me the best grade at university. However, it opened the door for me.
It was at work experience that I met someone who arranged for me to do further work experience one summer at the architecture practice that would offer me my first job as a graphic designer. In fact I was the first of my year to find their first job.
In my experience there are a lot of graduates who expect to graduate and jump straight into a job where they have creative control of projects. Thankfully I was never one of these, I fully expected to start at the bottom of the pile.
University is a great place to experiment with your work, make the most of it, you will be far more restricted once you’re having to work within a company and with real clients.
When I was at university the world seemed to revolve around getting good grades and getting work done on time. If I were to remind myself of anything at that age it would be that this is just the beginning.
My career has taken me down a path there was no way I could foresee whilst a student. I had no idea that at the age of thirty-two I’d be working for myself directly with my clients and looking to build the foundations of a business.
From 2007 until now I’ve made many a big decision in my career and my personal life. I love where I am now. It gives me the best of both worlds. I get to keep on designing and be a wife and mother. I love all my roles in life and wouldn’t change a thing.
I grew in confidence at university and I learnt a lot about design. I would say that I learnt far more once I left and was doing the job I’d set out to do. I never expect to stop learning about design and discovering new skills, it’s another reason why I love what I do.