We presented our final pieces of work yesterday, for a module titled 'The Big Idea'. We were given a random word and asked to explore the word or concept visually, offering an interesting interpretation, a reactionary statement, or whatever.
"Within this project I have aimed to explore the relationship between the visual and verbal languages of authority, and their development over the last 150 years. The question of the origins of authority were also important to my outcome: How is the right to dictate authoratively earned? How is credibility given to the signs I have studied?
My current project is taking me on a journey into typography and poster design from the late 19th Century. Partly inspired by the taxi meter talk at St Brides (which I will be quiet about soon!), and also because I wanted a nice poster for my portfolio, I've been asked to explore and represent the word 'authority' in a piece of graphic communication.
We're working on quite a big module at uni at the moment, the 'student set project'. It's six weeks of fun where we get to set our own briefs and then work to them to produce a lovely piece of work that represents us well in our portfolio. That's the idea anyway. Today is the start of week 5.
As our final year show and graduation draws nearer, me and a lot of my course mates are starting to finally think about what we're going to do when the blanket of safety and mediocrity that comes with the student experience at UWIC is pulled from over us.
Part of what we’re doing between now and graduating is being introduced more thoroughly to the idea of ‘Professional Practice’. We’ve had quite a few live briefs previously, but these new weekly sessions are focussed on things like portfolio presentation, CV, and so on. We’ve been given a practical group brief as part of the module, but it’s a bit controversial. I’ll save that for another day!
Today, we had a talk on digital portfolios. The aim of the session was to instil in us the need to have a portfolio ready soon, so we can flop it about before we graduate. We were then encouraged to make a digital version, either a pdf or website. We looked at a mixed bag of case studies and different possibilities.
a reconstruction of this afternoon's lecture
The reason I’m thinking of this post (and I apologise for leaving this till paragraph three), is because of what our tutor had to say about blogs, and also because of what I’ve been thinking more generally about student blogs.
Why should students blog?
The first part. Paraphrasing slightly, our tutor said “Blogs are a little self indulgent. I would probably focus more on a portfolio site, and not really worry about a blog for the moment.”
I’m not disputing the self-indulgence; you only have to look through previous posts here to see that. But I couldn’t help thinking (and I hope you’ll agree) that he was missing the point. This is well-travelled ground in PR world, but I'm not so sure about whether it's been covered for design.
Is this enough?
Sure, if you’re hoping to go into graphic design, you need an awesome portfolio. It needs to show you are inventive, skilled, committed; everything that a studio with a junior vacancy needs. But when we’re being told to not even bother and to leave the jobs for previous graduates, one feels that one needs more than a flawless portfolio and impeccable tea skills. We’re constantly being told to ‘get a life’ and to be critically aware of the world around us. In my opinion, that’s what blogs can do.
And it’s so easy to set up! The hours, weeks (years!), and months spent building my own portfolio site haven’t stopped me from getting out through this blog and talking to people all over the internet, and making some really good connections along the way. If I fancy talking about my latest project, that’s fine, otherwise I can talk about an awesome song, a bit of architecture, politics – whatever. All that ‘get a life’ stuff starts to make me new friends in those areas, and new connections start to form.
Crucially, job-wise, who isn't going to be asked at some point to work on a project that needs a knowledge of social media. It might work for college tutors, but "blogs are self indulgent" isn't going to impress many clients.
I really don't understand why any student wouldn’t blog.
How should students blog?
So how should ‘any student’ behave once they’re here? That was the second part of my recent musing.
Since being online in this bloggy guise, I’ve been extremely lucky to have linked with awesome people over good projects, and had some help with all kinds of sticky situations along the way. I’ve been to some amazing events, and I’m planning to go to more. I’m averaging around 30 visits here a day now, which is both humbling and nice.
I say it’s been lucky, because I didn’t really start out with any agenda or intention, for example, to ‘connect with advertising people in the hopes of getting a job’. I just gravitated towards people whose blogs seemed interesting, and started talking. So brand me hopefully became just a keen student with a naive opinion on things, politely accepted by those higher up the chain, who really had better things to get on with.
I think, as students, we ignore that last sentence at our peril. Just because we’re on the same blogging platform, or we’re mutual followers on twitter doesn’t mean that people want to hear our misguided opinions on things that, frankly, we know very little about. Also, blogging, although I think it's pretty rad, it's not everything.
People in the industry are happy to hear about new bloggers and up-and-coming practitioners, whatever field they’re in. Everyone was in our position once. But they worked long and hard to get where they are.
This post is more of a reminder to myself really, but I’d love to know what other people’s opinions are?
I think we have to remember that we should be here to listen and to learn, and hopefully to meet like-minded people, sharing ideas and experiences.
That is all.
"I don't really understand what conclusions you are making, but an interesting and fulfilling read none-the-less, good work.
"For me, I'd probably take it one step further and argue that brands are really just delivery mechanisms for a much bigger set of meanings and messages. They're like a little package of goodies shared between a company or their product, and the end consumer. The company can try once in a while to put new goodies of meaning into the package, and the consumer will take out what they feel is appropriate to the product or service in question.
"That's when examples like First Great Western, who you mentioned, get interesting for me. They're a service that relies so much on staff and other companies. For example, a key brand attribute, punctuality (or lack of!) is more reliant on Network Rail. And their on board staff have so much power in brand-making. That's probably why the brand is so bland and generic! At least nothing can go wrong that way.
"I don't see your other examples as particularly strong brands, maybe not even brands at all. They're an interesting choice to use. It's semantics I guess. But there you go...
"I think the confusion of logo/brand probably stems in large part from the FMCG landscape, where a lot of meaning-making has to go on through television campaigns, or outdoor, or whatever. But the companies want people to remember all that when they come to make a decision in store, so the logo becomes the unifier, the big label on the 'package' saying "remember all this extra amazing stuff!". Or maybe the logo will utilise specific design conventions to give instant stand-out for specific demographics, i.e minimalism, greenwash, budget, or what ever. So people start to see the logo as 'the brand' when in fact it is merely the signifier for the brand.
"The Innocent 'dude', for example, really has very little to do with healthyness, tastyness, being welcoming, friendly or approachable. But through considerable effort from everything from labelling, advertising, quality of product, and social good work, Innocent have built this amazing brand. And it's all packaged up in the dude.
"What really excites me is the opportunity to use all this cut-throat marketing and design practice to inspire wider social change. I think people respond to little else these days. We've seen it in Obama and Make Poverty History, I hope it happens more often from here on in!
Being cynical, I'd say that the 'Product (Red)' is just an opportunity for existing and weakening brands or product lines to add someone else's meaning and ethics. It saves the brand time and commitment, by not having to do any build-up or development work themselves, and it doesn't really give the kinds of consumer pay-off that an initiative like that should. By that, I mean that it's not really encouraging anyone to engage with the issue of Aids, or really change their consumption behaviour. But that's just my opinion.
"You should try to get hold of 'Lovemarks' by Kevin Roberts, if you haven't already, it's a really good read.
Apologies for the slight rant. You'll understand now why I was a bit gutted to not be able to submit my comment on Stacey's blog!
In more hand-in related news, we also had to submit our responses to the Design Wales brief this week. Essentially, the brief was to design a series of book covers for contemporary re-tellings of Welsh folk stories, 'The Mabinogion'.
Still pushing on, Aspire to Enquire is my space to write about the inspiring ideas and artefacts I find from time to time.
What is inspiring to me? I like ideas that can bring people together for common good, I like to see things communicated with beauty, and I thrive on finding innovative ways to spread messages.