Tuesday, 21 June 2011

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

Hello and welcome to my first ever blog post!

In this post I am going to provide you with a little bit of history about me and explain how I gained a First Class Honours degree at the grand old age of 28 and in just one year!

Last September I entered onto the BA(Hons) Design Futures programme at the University of Salford directly at Level 6 (year three), based primarily on being given Accreditation for Prior Learning as a result of my work-based experience and skillsets.

I have been very fortunate to be able to make progress during my working life by finding experiences and posts which have allowed me to continue and develop my skills and approach to visual design, especially graphic design solutions.  Because these have always been ‘live’ projects, my solutions have been tested out in the market place, and this has allowed me the opportunity to frame and develop my work by keeping aware of trends and demands in that market.

I am pleased that the modules on the course were structured in a way which looked to develop self-directed and independent work, as again I feel this is a required skill in the real world of work.  At the same time, I am also pleased that some modules required team-working and collaboration, a model with which I am very familiar and very comfortable with some years of learned skills in this area behind me.

With regard to study skills and independent learning, much of my present skill-set and ability up until September last year had been drawn from the discipline of self-directed learning, using a variety of sources including books, online resources, interactive tutorials and more formal short-course training.  As a result I have good information and resourcing skills, and a history of being able to schedule task and work to deadline.

On both a personal and industry-awareness basis, I am always seeking to develop and place my ambitions to meet the demands of business. From my early work as a print designer, I have taken steps to furnish myself with the skills to move into web design and saw my engagement with Design Futures as an opportunity to further strengthen my design and professional practice skills.

As part of my own continuing development, I identified that more formal training in business would provide greater opportunities for me, and the chance to gain some context into how areas of branding and marketing could shape my design work.  As a result I studied and gained an Advanced GNVQ at Level 3 in Business Studies.  I am fortunate that with this training, and now in my current post with Citizens Advice Bureau, I am able to understand the needs of ‘both sides’ in developing design solutions which work to the benefit of audience and provider.

Having worked in property, newspapers and now a public-service organisation, I can differentiate the nature of problems required to solve in a set brief, for example to understand if the output is essentially about brand recognition, awareness marketing or sales generation.  This combined with developing my visual, creative and written skills on the course has allowed me to become self-confident in my communication skills, including presenting and explaining my design decisions.  This has been extremely important in laying the foundations for my freelance activities in print and web design, where I am now comfortable in presenting to clients.

As my work has moved more toward web design, I have been able to build a wider skillset. For example, I have learned some elements of HTML coding in preparing web pages, and have been able to work with Photoshop in a different way, for a different final delivery media.  I have developed the ability to write copytext where required, and to understand the importance of visual imagery as a primary element in communication design.

My client list is starting to expand, and I have been able to move into different areas and successfully engage with clients.  As my business grows, I am able to continue to develop my awareness and ambitions to keep pace.  The work I undertook on my course set out to encourage ambition and innovation.  In positively managing my own progress is evidence of that in itself, that I am demonstrating my own energy, determination and ambition to become an ambitious design professional.

I continue to have ambitions, both personal and in business and it is the latter which is currently my focus.  I have demonstrated my capacity to understand the creative needs of a range of business clients, and would welcome the opportunity to deepen my understanding of creative entrepreneurship, the continually evolving nature of the digital sector, and how the two can be brought together through an understanding of the contribution of design

During the programme, I was particularly excited about the opportunity to gain knowledge in areas of Usability Design which I feel has directly benefitted and improved my design work.  I have taken on board new skills to help me understand the design process, with regard to understanding target audiences etc., and how good design solutions can impact brands and marketing for business.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Roy Chilvers, the Programme Leader for all his help and support and for convincing the Board at the University of Salford to give me the opportunity to join the course at year three.  With my First Class Honours, I hope he'll agree that I didn’t let him down!