Below is a comment I made on the Creative Review blog in response to a post about commercial enterprise initiatives on higher education graphic design courses. For the full context, please read the original post on Creative Review first:
NUA students design beer brand identity


I am inundated with requests every year from people wanting students to get involved in a live project, stating they think it will be good for their folio. Many are just after a free piece of design, and when I point out the ethics of this in my (now) stock email reply, I rarely hear from them again. If we can run something through a module, so it counts towards the students’ degree, or if the company is prepared to offer up a competition brief, then we will look at what we can do to run such requests while ensuring that students are not being exploited.

But as agendas in HE change, and there is a pressure for institutions to become ‘income generators’ as application figures plummet, then I can see the rationale for what NUA have done here. But I’m still left with an uncomfortable feeling with such arrangements especially with increased fees situation. Questions arise such as how you give a similar level of experience to ALL students so that there is parity of opportunity in an increasingly commodified education system? It would also be interesting to know the level of tutor involvement in the NUA project, and how much of the success of the project, in design terms, was down to their expert consultancy? Was this overview an incentive for commercial companies to get involved in education in this way, and how do local design firms in Norwich feel about this loss of potential revenue? However, experience is experience, and is often a prerequisite for any graduate to get a job these days so it could be argued that the industry has created a rod for its own back should any design firm have a problem with this.

I recently ran a project with second year graphic design students to design a healthy eating guide for people who are in the unfortunate position of having to rely on food aid/food banks. Suffolk County Council got involved, and students had to pitch their ideas to them, liaise directly with the client, organise meetings and buy all the print themselves, (with SCC paying all production costs). The students ran this from start to finish and the learning experience was invaluable to them, as was the underpinning social/community aspect of the project. I deliberately kept a hands off approach to the design side of things, as this was for the students and the client to discuss, and all I did was over see the process to ensure students weren’t coming unstuck or were not at anytime out of their depth in what was an ambitious brief. At no stage in the project did I feel I was compromising the students in their development as professionals, and the transferable skills they learnt along the way advanced them in leaps and bounds. It will be interesting to see how this feeds into their final year of study and their future professional careers. Project details can be found here for anyone interested:

This is a vital debate for both design education and the design industry to be having. I look forward to reading future reports along these lines in Creative Review.
Nigel Ball
2013-06-07 12:39:17

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA big thank you to Sam Hall and Jess Harvey of The Partners for their presentation to second year UCS Graphic Design and Graphic Illustration students last week. Thanks also go out to Sarah Habershon, Art Director at The Guardian, for her talk to students on the same day about The Guardian’s illustration commissioning process.

My first article for Eye magazine’s blog was published today. It is available to read here.

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We had Jude Law bemoaning Michael Gove’s education plans from the Turner Prize rostrum earlier this month, and there have been a few rumblings beneath the surface from a few design professionals, not least with Neville Brody taking the presidency at D&AD earlier this year, (as mentioned here a few months ago). But generally, no one was really sticking their neck out and actually organising anything to try and counter act this government’s disastrous education policy and fighting for the future of the creative industries in this country. Well, now many design professionals have decided to club together to try and make the government see sense in not abandoning art and design education in the new Ebacc qualifications. Check out the Include Design website, sign the petition, and write to your MP.

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The BA (Hons) Graphic Design course at University Campus Suffolk is proud to be hosting Image Conference on 13 November 2012. Speakers will include designer and typographer Jonathan Barnbrook, illustrator and designer Brian Grimwood, Roderick Mills of the Association of Illustrators, and motion director Jonathan Yeo.

Held in the UCS Waterfront Building in Ipswich, the conference will look at where images come from, how they help us to understand the world we live in, as well as reflecting on the potential of images. The conference will co-incide with the UCS Waterfront Gallery hosting a retrospective exhibition of the work of Brian Grimwood, which celebrates the launch of his monograph: The Man Who Changed the Look of British Illustration.

There are three pricing structures for Image Conference: Standard ticket — £30, Studio ticket — £100 (admits 4), and Student discount — £10. Price of admission includes lunch and refreshments.

For more information, and to buy tickets, go to:

For a long time I’ve been quietly critical of D&AD’s education stance. Not that it hasn’t had one, but that it is overshadowed by its other activities to the extent it felt like a platitude. Further, it seemed that the opportunities that were available for students and their courses tended to be London centric and concentrated on those institutions with big reputations and long histories. Having a stand at the graduate New Blood exhibition several years ago was a daunting experience for lowly Suffolk students, not to mention expensive. They didn’t get a single look of interest in the two years in attendance and this wasn’t because of the quality of the work or their talent. But when faced with big guns like Ravonsbourne, Kingston et al, who seem to have unlimited resources to throw at their stand and a reputation that means industry creatives seek them out first and ignore the rest, it tends to leave a bitter taste. Initially I put this down to my own cynicism, until I heard other lecturers from regional colleges and Universities say similar things. And then they stopped running the XChange conference, where inspirational speakers addressed design lecturers in a fantastic networking opportunity. All this when the D&AD website proudly claimed ‘For Education’ next to their logo. It is not surprising that D&AD’s University Network numbers appear to have dropped in the last couple of years, if comparing the amount of stands at New Blood 4 years ago and the Universities listed on their website is anything to go by.

Well hopefully all that is about to change as incoming president Neville Brody announces some major changes, as D&AD plans to refocus its commitment to education. In a D&AD 50th Anniversary Special in this month’s Creative Review, it is reported that Brody will head-up an education sub-committee, which he says, “formed in order to make sense of the education space for D&AD and also to clarify the intention, the scope and the kind of activities D&AD should be doing.” When discussing its education remit being overshadowed by D&AD Awards, he states, “…the statement of intent has never been as clear as it could be.”

This is refreshing stuff, as are his comments on government attitudes to arts education. “We’re not going to be shy of raising our voices more politically…What this government has done to creative education in this country is an absolute fucking disaster.” He goes on to explain, “They’re shooting themselves in the foot. A huge amount of UK income comes from the creative services, so what possible good can come out of killing creative education? I don’t support the idea that industry should be paying for education but we have no choice, so let’s formulate a positive response, make it work and stick two fingers up to the government.” I look forward to what develops during Brody’s presidency.

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