Image Credit: Jame Thoms 2011 (www.jamiethome.co.uk)
Last week I was invited to talk to both Masters and Undergraduate students at Duncan of Jordanstone, College of Art & Design. My brief was to talk about my journey from textile design through to my PhD and beyond. It was a great opportunity to talk with and meet new design students beginning their own journey's and also provided me with time to pause and reflect on my own experiences.
Throughout my design education I have undertaken a range of different projects, worked to various design briefs, modules and deadlines. I think the safe and supported environment of University enables you to follow your passion's and take time to shape and define yourself to grow into the type of designer you want to become.
For me, this has been a slow process. My journey wasn't mapped out from the outset and I have really latched onto what I loved and was passionate about first and identified the opportunity space second. Within the current educational and economic climate, it's a tough time for design students who face a period of uncertainty but creativity challenges crisis and I do believe design can play a positive and pivotal role.
I tried to reflect upon my own challenges and stumbling blocks and also look at the positive outcomes I have achieved to offer some advice. Both presentations can be viewed here and here. I've listed advice below.
1. be positive and believe in your ideas, thoughts and most importantly yourself
2. connect, collaborate and converse - your peers, lecturers and staff at university are full of knowledge and good advice and this is one of the most valuable resource which you won't always have access to. You don't need to be great at everything - but identify your strengths and weaknesses and then you can collaborate to share skills and resources.
3. record everything and keep it visual - I've build up an archive of resources, tools and techniques over the years and it's difficult to manages and some important data can become lost or forgotten. Digital media tools can be used to manage data and also creative techniques such as sketch notes can capture key points ( the image above is from a talented Mdes Dundee student Jamie who uses this method brilliantly - visit his blog!)
4. communication is imporant - anyone can have good ideas but it's how you demonstrate them that will set you apart from the crowd. It can be scary but you need to master the craft of standing up and talking about your work. Think about your elevator pitch - if you had only 2 minutes to explain what you do - what would you say? You can be creative and use props to support conversation - I use power point and design visual slides to narrate my story. But, using photos, mood boards, sketchbooks, prototypes etc as visual props can be used to enhance conversation - making ideas tangible is a great asset.
5. stay connected - don't work in isolation and be open about your process and progress... social media is a free medium which can be used to profile your practice and connect to others with similar interests.
6. context is key - whatever your interests and focus they need to have purpose and function - who are you designing for? Go out and find your people - those working in a way which inspires you and with experience in your field. Conferences, symposiums, exhibitions etc can be a good opportunity space to talk to people.
7. believe in yourself - have confidence in your ideas and share your energy and enthusiasm. This is infectious and will inspire others :-)
That's quiet general advice - but your time at art school flies by before you know it. Johanna Basford wrote a great post recently about 50 things she wishes she has known in art school. Within fashion and textiles, I think forming or joining a collective is also a great way to work and Im friends with Bricolage, Puff and Flock and POSTextiles.