The Three Years
Throughout this self-reflective assessment I aim to cover what I’ve enjoyed, what I’ve learnt, some experiences and what I plan to do next.
Before embarking on my university experience, I completed a foundation degree, which would seem somewhat out of the blue to some people, as I was always unsure of what path to take after secondary education. Coming from a fairly creative family background, my sister, a developed prosthetics make up artist and my father, an architect with his own business; I always felt a connection to design, especially graphic design since secondary school.
In my first year of the course, we attended university as if it was a 9 till 5 job, “developing ourselves creatively” through workshops such as live drawing and projects based around the learning of vital design techniques such as typography and magazine layout. I had a basic knowledge of the subjects being covered through my foundation but it wasn’t what I expected and did give me some doubts about whether I had chosen the right course for me.
Towards the end of the first year, we had assessments in both a design sense and in our cultural and contextual studies (CCS). At this point I had completed essays before but I had always felt my ability to write wasn’t as strong as some of my other attributes, as I have developed as a designer and as a writer over the three years my confidence has grown in this area and it has now become less of a struggle or chore but a hobby. I now keep a reflective blog as part of my website and update it regularly, this I feel is a result of the academic based learning (CCS).
As we moved into our second year of study, I noticed that we began to get given more time outside of university to complete our work, this being a good aspect because it forces you to consider your time management carefully and builds up a commitment to project work. I also found in the second year that we received less tutor feedback as we were not always in the studio, but when we did we received harsher criticism than before, this took me a while to get used to, but I feel honestly creates great work and I’d rather get an honest view on my work than a sympathetic “it looks ok”. Also at this stage in the course the second year group and the third year students have a lot more interaction, which I think helped a great deal going into the third year. I especially found myself comparing my present work to the levels of the third years; this I think really helped raise the standard of work before embarking on the third year projects. One aspect of the course that I really think affected everyone’s work was the fact that “the third year is the one that counts”, I think it is unfortunate that this is how the graphic communication program works because I think work would have improved at a much faster rate if we were given grades summarizing our first and second year. However I understand that this is how things are done in almost every University creative arts programme.
The summer before beginning my final year was a great experience in every light, I was lucky enough to get chosen to represent Wales for lacrosse in Germany, with it being the first time I’d played internationally and travelled to Berlin, it’s a memory that will stick with me for years. As the second year came to an end, we were urged to get work experience as much as possible. I managed to work alongside Stripe design, a web design company from Bristol. The experience was great but going into a commercial industry with only a basic understanding of web design and software did make life difficult for me, however they catered for me and for the week I was there, I learnt a lot about the commercial world; the speed that designers work at was a shock to my system but one that I feel I needed. I had also made a decent start on my dissertation which looking back now, I am so thankful for.
On my return to Cardiff, I moved into an 8-man house, 7 of which were third year graphics students. This I feel really helped our project output in the third year, we used each other for feedback throughout projects rather than just at the end or in-group tutorials. I knew that the third year would present some challenges, dissertation, graded modules and final exhibitions. I feel that on return, I approached everything with a much more professional manner, this being a habit that I developed from my work experience. I found the course in the first term very demanding, finding the balance of project work and completing dissertation was difficult to begin with but because I had made a start on my dissertation over summer I managed it well. During the first term we were given a live brief, The Link. This project was a group project; the groups were picked at random and we were working with a ‘fake’ live client Mike Smith from Elmwood’s London studio. Looking back at the project now, I find it hard to say any good words about it, the design work created wasn’t third year standard and is something that I will fight not to put in my portfolio. I think that it had potential as an idea but the execution would have been completely different if I was to rework the project. We did however have a chance to work with existing design companies around Cardiff in a mentor scheme, this was an aspect of the project that I feel really worked well, we established links in the industry and had some real feedback from working designers.
After the relief of the dissertation deadline out of the way, we were faced with a group of competition projects DNAD, YCN and Penguin Books. I really enjoyed this period of work, the fast paced and creative nature allowed us to find a balance creativity and reality with the projects quickly due to the deadlines.
The third year did present a few ups and downs but I’m confident to say that I have overcome them and I’m happy with the majority of the work produced. Since completion of my the three years at Cardiff School of Art and Design, I feel a compelling connection to the print based area of graphics, this being my primary interest that I am hoping to work in.
I find myself now looking on to future prospects, looking for possible work placements and job opportunities. I recently received a possible placement opportunity at Black Dog Publishing in London, which I will be looking to for fill as I develop as a designer and build up a catalogue of experience. I hope also to travel the world and continue to find inspiration and life experience.