Our Top Tips For Design Students
Now September is officially here, many students will be off to university to continue their creative studies and get started with their design courses! As a recent Graphic Design graduate, I thought this would be the perfect time to impart some words of wisdom about the things I wish I had known before starting my degree.
1. Finding your ‘style’
Tutors will often talk about finding and developing your ‘own’ visual identity. Some people will already arrive at university with a very distinctive style of work, which can then make you feel pressured to have your own particular ‘identity’. But don’t stress – it takes time and practice to discover your individual style.
2. Working in creative chaos
Creative people are traditionally known to be very messy people – however that doesn’t mean to say you can’t work in organised chaos! Keeping on top of project deadlines is an important skill that you will need even after uni and having a diary/calendar to help you record all your different course deadlines will make all the difference.
3. Finding inspiration
It may sound cheesy but it’s true that inspiration can find us designers at any given time – whether that be whilst eating breakfast, scouting the supermarket aisles during the weekly food shop, or even at 4am on a night out. Recording these ideas before you forget will be invaluable – trust me your phone notes will become your new best friend.
4. Sharing is caring
Another great way to generate ideas is by bouncing ideas off other people. Even some of the most off the wall and crazy ideas can lead to some of the best outcomes and gathering lots of opinions/perspectives from different people can be very useful.
5. Dealing with creative block
When studying a creative course, you can feel pressured to ‘be creative’ 24/7, however I soon discovered that creative block is very much a real thing and will become your own worst enemy. The important thing to know is that this happens to everyone. The most productive thing you can do when this happens is to step away from your work before you want to throw it on the floor and take a break!
6. Dealing with subjectivity
One of the hardest things I found whilst undertaking various design projects was learning how to deal with the different ideas from my tutors. Although the core principles of what makes a piece of design ‘good’ is widely recognised, design can often be very subjective as everybody has their own individual taste. My tutors would often give me contradictory advice, with some tutors loving aspects of my project that other tutors disliked. When you receive conflicting feedback the best thing to do is go with your gut!
7. Dealing with constructive criticism
For a lot of students, university will be the first time they will have to regularly share and talk about their work in front of different groups of people. This can often be daunting, but the important thing to remember is that criticism is never personal but is all part of the learning process as it provides valuable opportunities to improve your work which will ultimately help you become a better designer!
8. The power of the portfolio
Once at uni you will find that tutors will mention the word ‘Portfolio’ at least once a day. A portfolio is a selection of your best design work and ultimately shows potential employers your style, skills and creative potential as designer. Don’t underestimate the importance of your portfolio as this is often the key to securing a job after university.
9. Gaining Experience
Trying to gain some design experience at uni – however small it is – will be a valuable addition to your CV! Some courses offer a placement year which can be a great way to get a full year’s experience under your belt. If they don’t currently offer this, just speak to your careers advisors and see if they can help will sourcing summer internships or reach out to local agencies or even your student’s union to find out if there are any design opportunities available.
10. Last of all experiment, experiment, experiment!!!
University is the perfect time to test out new techniques, mediums, and software, with most courses giving you the chance to create work about different topics and causes you care about. It is a safe space to try out your wildest and wackiest ideas so go crazy and experiment!
Tips from the Team
Collaborate often. You’ll never know where a new source of inspiration comes from or a software hack that saves you hours on your next project.
Make use of all the uni facilities. In ‘real life’ you’re unlikely to have such easy access to things like screen printing or a letterpress, so have as much fun with it as you can.