11th November 2013

What is not taught at art school


We’ve just had the joy of an intern working with us here at RBL for the past two months because we needed some extra help to get us through a particularly busy patch.

Young Freddie was, until recently, at London College of Communication studying graphic design. We knew he was a talented designer with a good eye, could drive a Mac and would be keen to do pretty much whatever we asked him in return for being paid. (Yes – we actually pay our interns!) Win:Win.

And so it was. Fred was an enormous help and the whole team fell in love with this funny and talented kid. But, the experience has caused us to question what on earth his tutors at design college both here in Leamington and London have actually been teaching him. Freddie has been badly let down and his tutors have not equipped him to make the most of his genuine talent with the technical and professional skills to fit into a commercial design team. He has no real idea of how a busy design studio operates and little concept of the speed that we have to work at. His software skills are OK, but there is too much he doesn’t know.


What was the issue?

Freddie knew nothing about professional litho or digital printing until we took him to see a printers. Is this really so radical a thing to show a design student? He is a very bright individual but he has clearly not been coached in how to present creative work and it could be years before we could confidently put him in front of a client. His lack of understanding of business is palpable. He didn’t understand the typographic conventions of something as basic as a business card design because no-one had ever explained these to him. You can only break the rules, if you know what the rules are to begin with.

Freddie, and people like him are being badly let down by their courses. Teaching someone to think is only part of the story. In design you need some very specific skills. Skills that design courses should be teaching you. What on earth are these students paying for? When students finally wake up to the fact that they are customers and that their courses should be equipping them with the practical skills and knowledge to get a job, then design education might actually start delivering some real value to both individuals like Freddie, businesses like RBL and the British economy as a whole.

As for Fred. We love him and we want him to come back whenever we need that bit of extra help. We are committed to helping him get his foot on the ladder. But, both he and we are under no illusion of how much he still has to learn after 3 years at college!

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    Rebecca Battman

    Managing Director

    Rebecca is the Managing Director of rbl. An experienced brand and marketing professional, Rebecca has spent her 25-year career helping businesses to build, design and manage their brands.

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