How going to college can bring out your creative side

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My foray into graphic design started well over a decade ago while I was still at school. At the time I didn’t realize that I was honing my skills for what would become my career. To me it was hobby that I took seriously rather than something that would make me a living.

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Moving on to college
When I finished my GCSE’s I had three choices; to stay on at school and complete my A-levels; to start college education; or to venture out into the real world. Option three seemed a little too scary and I couldn’t stand the thought of being stuck in the same school for another two years, so I went with option two.

While looking through a countless amount of “career prospect” guides and having my fair share of Connections meetings, I decided to take my hobby further; especially after receiving positive encouragement from my art and design technology teachers. I chose Oaklands College after hearing excellent things about their graphic design course.

My time at college was very rewarding. I realized during the first day that I was on a course that required a great deal of passion for the craft. College exposed me to a way of life that I was completely unaware of during my school years. Being surrounded by a class of like-minded people didn’t only fuel new ideas, but gave me a newfound passion for learning. In just a matter of months the standard of work I was producing far exceeded anything else I had done in the past.

Progressing to university
While college was great, I still didn’t feel ready for a career in graphic design after the course ended. I decided that university would provide my ticket into the industry. I chose St. Albans University for the same reasons why I went to Oaklands – because I had heard so many good things about the quality of education. Not only that, but their graphic design course had a proven track record and many of their past students had gone on to land placements as professional graphic designers.

University took things to another level. Immediately after starting I joined the art society and made an effort to partake in as much graphic based extra-curricular activities as I could – this was encouraged by the staff.

It was refreshing to have tutors that were successful graphic designers themselves, and who actually worked in the industry. This allowed them to provide us with far more than an “academic” approach to learning. Like college, I found being around such an inspiring group of students to be invigorating. We exchanged ideas, workshopped our designs and gave each other feedback whenever we could; however, the most challenging element was the competition. I realize that it’s not about who gets the highest grades, but I always felt an underlying sense of competitiveness among my fellow students. Being in that atmosphere doesn’t just encourage creativity; it literally forces it out of you!

The final hurdle
After graduating I felt an overwhelming sense of pride; however, pride doesn’t pay the bills. Luckily I had the opportunity to do a little networking while I was studying, and when I left university I had compiled a phone book of contacts.

Straight after graduating I was eager to get into the business in whatever capacity I could. I called up a friend who I’d met during one of my placement terms and immediately got offered an apprenticeship scheme at one of London’s most prestigious agencies. It was a long journey, but having job satisfaction and wonderful memories makes it all worthwhile.

When it comes to creative industries everybody seems to have their own story on how they broke in. There is no secret formula, it’s simply about hard work, developing your craft and networking. If you’d like a career in graphic design I’d certainly recommend studying, not only to learn the skills, but to prompt creativity and network. Many of your fellow students will go on to have successful careers, so if you don’t manage to secure a position through other methods, at least you’ll have connections within the industry that you could utilize in the future.

Author: James Timpson

James is a freelance writer with expertise on a number of creative topics.