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Talking about the Enterprising Graduate: Beyond the Degree Show

UAL staff were given a tour around CSM Degree Show Two 2016 as part of the Exceed programme and saw third-year work from BA Graphic Design, BA Jewellery Design and BA Product Design.

Leading the tour were staff from each of the three courses, each gave a talk about how they incorporated enterprise and employability into their own teaching practices. Attendees had the opportunity to see work that was a clear example of the enterprising nature that CSM champions in their students through these practices.

This tour aimed to highlight good practice and showcase positive results from industry collaboration alongside individual entrepreneurship and independent student study.

Tour of BA Graphic Design

Senior Lecturer Cath Caldwell talked about how the curriculum within BA Graphic Design teaches students how to be employable and be enterprising within their work. They are given a huge amount of freedom in how they organise themselves. For example, they chose to exhibit under questions such as "How do we find a voice in a commercial world?" and "What's wrong with design and society?”  In a large course (150 students) it can be hard to foster a sense of community. By organising themselves, they show the attributes that can help them build businesses and collaborate in the future.

Third-year student Odira Morewabone spoke about his third-year project, where he travelled to Kenya in order to film for his degree show project about Matato buses – public buses which are individualised by their drivers. He said that during the process he was encouraged to find money to fund the project, and now he feels more prepared for graduation and finding funding in the future.

“In terms of how much I had to dig around to find money, that’s taught me to be persistent, if you dig enough and bother enough people you can fund your creative practice”.

Third-year student Nat Preston, who helped organise the student shop which sells prints and items designed by Graphics students, values the independence and trust CSM put in their students.

“We’re taught to be grown ups and we’re not spoon fed anything and the degree show reflects that. It’s all built by us, it’s all curated by us, the student identity and the questions are all student-led. We have teachers here for support and they do an amazing job, but we're taught to go free. "

Student Liisa Roll (pictured right) says that she finds promoting herself particularly hard but the course has encouraged her to present her work through social media and through a personalised website. 

" It doesn't come naturally for me but you get used to it. I've had to do it a lot. I've attended a lot of industry nights organised by the university where I have had to talk about my work."

By understanding the importance of promoting yourself both online and in person, CSM are preparing their students for life beyond the degree show.

Tour of BA Jewellery Design

Stage 1 Leader Giles Last showed UAL staff around Jewellery Design Degree show and explained why the show itself is such an important part of the course since it teaches students to showcase their work.

He explains the focus on employability with Jewellery Design students happens very early. In the first year, students are taught how to make a simple CV, a pamphlet of their work and a delivery note (a professional note that is included when you send designers/ clients a product you designed). They also start doing "live projects" where students complete a project in partnership with an established brand. In doing this, students think about where their work sits in the marketplace; who their work appeals to and why.

One of these notable collaborations was with Swarovski. Every student in their final year submitted designs responding to the theme of water, ten designs were then chosen to make into final pieces which were shown at the Degree Show. In collaborating with Swarovski students learn how to work with a major established brand.

Third-year student Simone Maria Faurschou values the independence that the course has given her and feels it has helped her become stronger than in previous years.

"The tutors would really challenge you and tell you what to come isn't going to be easy, but I feel stronger than in previous years. It sounds strange but the third year is actually my favourite because of the freedom we had I really like we had to learn to stand on our own two feet because that’s what it’s going to be like in the real world. But we did have a lot of support with tutorials so I never felt completely alone, plus the technical support is amazing!”

This workshop support and skills can also aid students greatly in advancing their career once they graduate. The skills students learn means they have other career options that are not design or jewellery related. Giles Last talks about how the nature of the industry and the skills learnt on the course means that students have a lot of options.

“The amount of people employed in the jewellery industry is very large, and that’s in part to the jewellery industry changing, sometimes graduates work as buyers or stylists in magazines. There’s also prop making for film and advertising. So there’s a variety of skills that students learn that can aid them in careers in many different industries.”

Though for some students, they have come to this course to pursue their one true passion. One student says that this course has helped him become closer to achieving his ideal career. 

“I’m definitely going to continue when I leave. UAL gives you that opportunity to work with big companies. Cartier reviews every student’s portfolio every year. We’ve worked with so many amazing companies. I definitely feel closer to my dream than I did three years ago”

Tour of BA Product Design

Course leader Paul De’Ath talked to the tour group about how BA Product Design course is structured to ensure graduates have an enterprising nature and are employable. The first year is all about “skills”, students learn all the skills that are needed to be employable in the product design field. The second year is “drills” where students acquire the talent to keep practising and put the skills they have learnt into an easily repeatable process. By doing this, students learn where their strengths and passion lie and what it is they want to focus on in the third year.

Finally, the third year is what they call "thrills" where the emphasis is on showcasing yourself and your work. By this time, students have full confidence in their abilities and are able to communicate what type of design role they want to do so they are ready to present themselves to the industry.

In their third year, there are six different clients that work with students in live projects. They offer guidance so the student is supported throughout creating their work. The group of students assigned to the client are then given the opportunity to present their work to these clients at the end of the year. This means that students are given the support of being a student, but with the opportunities that are usually only granted to seasoned professional. So they get the best of both worlds.

A group of third-year students were given a brief from a client to create a product that enabled people to cultivate a private space within a public place. This is responding to a perennial problem in today's culture where most people are working remotely and unable to have private working space, where the world they live in provides limited opportunities to reflect.

With this brief students created a range of products. In the degree show, we saw work from one student who created a chair that can be reconfigured to create a desk space. Another student created a suit nicknamed “Sharkman" which is offers a back support when sitting on the floor, a resting place for a laptop and a privacy hood over the top (resembling a shark). Whilst shark-man may be less commercially viable than the more practical chair, Paul De’Ath explains how products like this can still be attractive to clients.

"Most companies want to make a statement about where they want to be. If this is the future, people working remotely and a company shows they are interested. Something like shark-man could be great for PR. Tell everyone in the world that they understand how the world is changing."

This means lecturers teach students to recognise the potential and marketability in their products. Because of this, students leave university knowing their potential place in the industry.

The emphasis given on showcasing your work to clients means that students are taught to act professionally at all times, no matter how stressful the situation. One client who came to CSM had an understanding of the university’s reputation and wanted to film a student completing their project for them. Whilst it was a stressful experience, the student says it taught her something very important in terms of presenting yourself.

“Act professionally. Even if you’re not ready, always be ready to present your work”.

In conclusion…

On this tour, UAL staff were given the opportunity to see a range of dynamic and creative work but also given a context into the practices that helped create that work and their responses were greatly positive.

Katy says "From my point of view it's very inspiring to hear students talk about their work and it takes me back to a time where I was creative and makes me realise why I love working here"

Claire says " You don't get this context from walking around a degree show by yourself and it's been really interesting and useful to hear about all the amazing collaborations with companies that are done". 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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