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Telford College

Getting Real: Students get taste of agency life

By The Drum, Administrator

June 22, 2009 | 5 min read

With this in mind, it introduced a mentoring programme as part of the HND Visual Communication - Graphic Design course (which culminated in a degree show and Industry Night last month) and invited leading members of the design industry, many of whom have worked with Telford College on an occasional basis, to take on the role of mentors to final year students.

There has been a growing recognition of the value to students, and indeed to the design profession, in establishing and developing a working relationship between education and industry. In the past the college has employed visiting lecturers, visited agencies and students have been given practical work experience. However for many agencies their first contact with students was at end of year exhibitions, or when the graduated students knocked on their doors, folio in hand, seeking employment.

Telford College looked at ways this could be changed and how it could bridge the gap by introducing a more structured commitment from students and from those leading members of the design industry through a mentoring programme.

The college offered agencies the opportunity to guide and influence students in a way which, it hoped, would prepare them for employment within the design industry as effective and creative people.

The mentoring programme – which, in its first year, included mentors Ian Kirkby from Lewis Creative Consultants; Mick Dean of Various; Graeme Cook at Elmwood; Scott Millar of Lewis; Cameron Wilson; and Ian Farmer – aims to provide students with the opportunity to work with practising creatives on an ongoing basis and gain a deeper insight into the design industry, prior to their transition from education to employment.

We asked a handful of the students at Telford what they gained from the experience.

Why is it important to get this hands-on commercial experience?

This gives another dimension to the whole learning process. While we spend most of our time working on college-set briefs, having an insight into industry is invaluable as it gives you the confidence and the know how to approach your work in a professional manner.

I always had a vague understanding of how things actually work in industry, never knowing what to expect was scary...

Also, clients are something we never think of as students and its finding that balance that is really important. The mentors have helped with this, as I find it easier to time manage and produce work at a good standard much faster.

We do think about the commercial aspect of design, but it's hard when you're studying and all you want to do is have fun with work and avoid boundaries.

I think it's very important to think commercially, and I often do when away from college work, I have opinions on lots of commercial design and try and find a way to make something better.

Ottavio Di Sotto, student

How heavily do you think about the commercial nature of the industry while studying?

I think about how people will interpret my work if they saw it on the street or in a club and how it would look to a professional client. But I think it's more the projects that we are given than the students themselves that might not show off a student’s capacity to produce commercial work.

Liam Smith, student

What did you learn from this experience?

I learnt that I have to make quicker decisions, have more conviction in my ideas and more faith in my ability as I have the design tools and ideas already. It’s just about channelling them and working faster, as in the real world you never get a five week project!

I also learnt that it is important to share ideas and take criticism... and to get some visuals done as soon as possible so I have enough time to work them up, as in reality it takes a lot of tweaking to get them to resemble how they were in my head.

The client is the most important consideration and I think my work is commercial. But from my mentor project I contacted the client my fictional brief concerned and they have invited me to London to visit their marketing department and their ad agency (M&C Saatchi) as they liked my design approach.

As such, the mentoring project has given me the confidence to be more proactive with pushing my design ideas. My part time job is at The Body Shop and I pitched an ad campaign concept to them that has been taken on and rolled out across Scotland.

Gemma Rundell, student

And has this made you focus more on the business of design?

The challenge is to be able to keep up a high level of creativity with an eye to what is going on commercially.

This has confirmed that you should keep working through your ideas, and by putting the work in you will get results. But you need to keep trying to push the limits of your thinking because, at the end of the day, if you don't stretch your mind as much as you can, your creativity will not develop.

Because each mentor comes from a different type of studio with different working practises we were able to get a variety of opinions on the projects they work with, and an insight into lots of different working structures too.

Susie Paterson, student

Telford College

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