What’s it worth?
By Robyn Frost
When someone looks at your work, what do you want them to feel?
It could stir them to think, or it could raise a laugh. It could even make them cry.
If they just said “ooh, that looks nice”, how would you feel?
If you’re leaving school or uni soon – particularly if you’re on a Graphic Design course – read on. Perhaps you’re coming to SCA in September, you’re thinking of applying, or you’ve found this on your Facebook feed.
This post is for you.
Last summer I graduated from Kingston University’s Graphic Design course.
It was brilliant, and I was well and truly spoilt: I had first class tutors, facilities and workshops. I had the freedom to work in whatever medium I fancied, and learnt about typography, moving image, printmaking, bookbinding, packaging, web design, corporate identity, print production and 3d.
Maybe you’ve done some of this stuff too.
I came up with nuts ideas that my tutors helped me push, and I was involved in everything from idea conception to project completion. I spent the first 2 years having fun and making whatever I wanted.
Then I got to third year, and it was like everyone was reading from one handbook, and I was reading another one in a different language.
I just didn’t get any of it, and felt like I didn’t fit in.
I ended up making work that I thought my tutors would like. Anyone will tell you that that’s probably the worst thing you can do on a creative course, other than not turn up. It annoyed me that something I’d made could be deemed right or wrong with a mark in a box.
So I left for a year, and went out on my own. I worked for some fantastic design studios – a couple of start ups, and some others that were a bit bigger. I learnt a lot, and was lucky enough to work with some brilliant people. And stuff went live! I remember seeing a billboard at Westfield with my work on it, and the feeling was electric.
But out of every studio I worked at, only a handful gave me the opportunity to come up with my own ideas. And that was weird. At uni we could do whatever we wanted – it was an ideas-led course.
Out in the real world, I was so junior that I wasn’t doing much problem solving, or strategy, or even naming. I was airbrushing people’s faces in Photoshop, being asked to “make the logo bigger” or “make it pop”.
I wasn’t sure how much room there was for irreverent, audacious ideas, and suddenly the thought of leaving uni a year later and going into the industry made me feel uneasy.
I returned to uni knowing what I didn’t want to do, but also what I was into. I loved idea generation, and I loved looking at the world and thinking about what had the potential to change, or what boundaries could be pushed.
Have you seen the Sony Bravia Bouncy Balls ad? It gives me all the feels.
It’s not world changing in a worthy sense – it’s selling a telly.
But for me, it completely changed my life. It’s the ad that made me want to make ads.
Of course, I’d seen it before – but this time it was like a current ran through me. The art direction was stunning, and threw me way back to my childhood where I could remember pulling one of those brightly coloured bouncy balls out of my stocking at Christmas.
I knew it wasn’t graphic design, but something in me went “that’s the stuff you should be out there doing”.
So two months later, I applied to SCA.
It was the easiest decision I’ve ever made, and one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced career-wise.
I’m a firm believer that conformity kills creativity, so when I applied I made sure my presentation was 100% me. I made work that got me excited. I infiltrated my favourite agencies and made a bit of noise. I took everything I’d learnt on my Graphic Design course and applied it – the freedom of thought, the craft, the stunts and the fun.
I got in, and from the first day of the first term, I knew that SCA was the best, and only, place to be.
It lit a fire in me, because it showed me that I could push myself and get results.
I’m learning a lot about myself – what I’m capable of, where my limits are (my late night work cut off is 1am, in case you were wondering), how badly I want something and how far I’m willing to go to get it.
When I was working on a brief at uni, I might get a handful of ideas. If they got killed, I got worried, because I didn’t know how to get any more. I didn’t know where to start or where to look. And more often than not, I came up with executions that were predictable and pretty first thought-y.
SCA gives you everything you need, and more, to be brilliant.
You learn creative techniques, how to come up with hundreds of ideas really quickly, how to find problems, how to look at them from a different and unexpected angle, how to solve them, how to write, how to art direct, how to craft like a total boss, and how to make work that serves a purpose.
(Graphics students – think of Jessica Walsh. She’s got a reason for everything, and her work still looks goddamn gorgeous. There’s no sign of form over function. You CAN have both).
But the best thing for me is the talented bunch of people I get to hang out with every day – the students and mentors.
Nobody is the same.
And unlike uni, there’s not one person in the room who dresses like anyone else (usually). Everyone makes cool work, has their own stuff they’re into, and we all listen and learn from each other.
I feel like I’ve been taken apart and I’m being put back together again – still me, but probably a way better version that the one that walked in on the first day.
I’m learning that I’m capable, and employable. I’ve got a purpose – and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
So ask yourself: do you want to make work that makes people feel something? Makes them laugh, shed a tear, or tell their friends?
Graphic Design wasn’t for me. But SCA is.
And it might be for you too.