Input, advise and inspire.

Why it is important now more than ever, to give back to future generations of Designers.

This is not a political rant. I keep my political views separate to my professional ones, because I believe in order to keep an acceptable level of professionalism, that the two should not mix.

In July 2021, the UK Government confirmed 50 percent funding cuts for arts and design courses across higher education institutions in England. The former education secretary Gavin Williamson has directed the funds towards STEM subjects instead of the creative arts.

The University and Colleges Union has named art, design, music, drama and dance as some of the courses which will see their funding cut. “These courses face a 50% cut to their studies, which will make many unviable, forcing them to close,” the Union wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the University of the Arts London said “Vulnerable institutions are therefore likely to be forced to reduce investment in high-cost technology and technical support. This will affect student preparedness for the workplace.”

Which brings me back around to my subject subtitle; why it is important now more than ever, as a design professional in industry to give a little back to future generations of designers. To input, advise and inspire.

In January 2021 I signed up to a student mentoring scheme at Bath Spa University. I volunteer to mentor students across the universities Art & Design degree courses. The sessions so far have mostly focussed on how to bridge the gap between graduating and finding that first job posting relevant to their degree, if that is the direction in which they wish to travel.

It is an area I struggled with as a freshly graduated individual (graduating in a major recession didn’t help…) but it is also an area I had a fair bit of help with. I spoke to other design professionals, designers who ran their own consultancies, university lecturers and tutors, parents, family friends and business owners in un-related subject areas. All of which was a great help. From a very young age I knew I wanted to be a designer, and having this extra input and advice after graduation gave me even more drive to work in the design industry.

Even recently after starting my own product design consultancy I participated in life and business coaching covered over ten sessions from a professionally trained business coach. His advice proved invaluable in helping me figure out a clear pathway for my business, sort out the work/life balance struggles I was facing – especially having two very young children – and helped me work out problems I was facing in running my own business; be it tricky projects, how to manage working over-time, and how to plan ahead to keep one step ahead of the workload. 

I am about to embark on a new level of giving back, having been invited to appear as a guest tutor for the Product Design students at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. There I will help the full time tutors mentor and guide the third year students with a two week long, intense RSA project. 

The RSA Student Design Awards is a competition for design degree students that has been running since 1924. It is run by the royal society for Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce. I took part in the competition when I was a student and I remember it vividly, which is why I am extremely excited to get stuck in and help the next generation of designers with their competition briefs.

UWE runs the RSA brief as a two week intensive design module, with the students focussing only on the RSA brief for that time. It is faced paced, full on and all consuming – so in actual fact, quite similar to some real world design projects! 

But I digress. I am looking forward to my first tutoring venture, to giving back some of the knowledge and skills I have picked up along my 13 plus years in industry. I also hope that even if just a handful of design students find the help and guidance I can provide them to be of use, I will have fulfilled my goal of giving back some of the great help I have received along my career journey.

And I don’t intend to stop there.

Watch this space…

Header image courtesy of Photo by Designecologist from Pexels