On the 22nd February, over 400 students attended the 4 Designers Conference held in Logan Hall in London.
The day started off with Patrick Baglee who chaired the event; he welcomed students, teachers and introduced our speakers.
Our first speaker of the day was Carol Whitworth.
Carol is a proud Northerner, Glastonbury performer, ukulele player (you can find her videos on youtube!), and lead singer in one of Bristol’s most popular bands Doreen Doreen. Carol Whitworth shared her extensive experience in helping large organisations communicate with their own people and overall making the workplace a better place.
Home is based in both Bristol and New York. She’s worked internally with Allianz, Great Western Railways (GWR) and The Hershey Company. Carol explained that by changing the way an organisation treats its own employees it has an effect of the external brand image of the company.
She imparted invaluable advice to the aspiring audience to stand out from the crowd, collaborate, and be good at attention to detail, dream big, have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.
Up next was Simon Manchipp who talked about the power of colour, the coherence of branding and Cat-Copters. Simon has worked with Cancer Research, The Children’s Society and Compare the Market. He talked about the power of simplicity and the impact it can have as shown in his work with the Children’s Society.
The craziest stuff is the most powerful, creating a brand is no longer an internal process, and it is grown by your consumers; allowing consumers to take the brand and develop it themselves can have greater brand impact. His work with Compare the Market – which he was nearly fired from – was a huge success. The idea was so crazy but as he had the confidence to follow it through, the company is now one of the leading comparison websites. The audience was entertained by the play on words of Meerkats and Markets which gave the company instant brand recognition.
The morning session concluded with a Q and A session with Simon and Carol and broke for lunch. We had some excellent questions from the audience and some great insights from our speakers.
Q and A session
Q – Do you have a memory of a crazy idea where people thought it was too crazy but you did it anyway? – how do you make others see your point of view? – UHI: Perth College
A – Patrick - You learn the art of persuasion which is a skill you need to develop slowly. Simon - use your passion to persuade and sometimes the craziest idea is the best and have unexpected outcomes and this differentiates you so have the courage and confidence to follow it.
Q – As a woman in design what is the most challenging things you have faced? (Directed at Carol) – Blackburn College
A – Carol - The industry was very male dominated but her company does hire equal ratio of women and men. Her advice to women in the industry is to do what you want, follow your passion and women to have ‘more balls than the boys’ and don’t play it safe just because you are a woman.
Q – How do you deal with clients that don’t really know what they want? – Glasgow Caledonian University
A – Simon - Clients usually have an idea of what they want but sometimes want everything but, it might not necessarily be the best fit for their company image. Usually doesn’t happen as the client is spending a lot of money on these projects but they do deal with a lot of indecision. The way the designers deal with this is to have a ‘therapy’ session with the client, to really understand the problems they want to solve and find out their true issues. There is always a brief. Carol – give them options – the safest, medium safety, to crazy out-there-ideas.
Q – Britain’s creative industry is Britain’s greatest export as said by Simon Manchipp during his presentation, but why is the government cutting art funding to creative subjects?
A – Simon – our industry is seen as the sector you get into if ‘you can’t add-up’ and therefore not taken seriously by others. It is also those within the industry who do not give each other (designers) mutual respect. Carol – I agree. But being resourceful is a designer’s best asset – designers need to be able to be resourceful.
A member of the audience observed that designers have all these transferable skills such as being flexible thinkers, challenge and disrupt the industry, problem solving and communication therefore it should be a well-respected subject to go into. Which the speakers collectively agreed with.
After the Q and A, the conference broke for lunch and returned to start the afternoon session with Alan Ainsley.
Working with Irn Bru, promoting poo, Tottenham Hotspur, putting a stop to knife crime among youths and his outstanding work in raising awareness for mental health with The Power of Okay and See Me Scotland, Alan showed us his diversity in his past projects and more importantly, how design can improve people’s lives.
Alan’s designs are constructed in such a way that allows humour when appropriate to be included in his projects with the ultimate purpose of creating a wider awareness –such as the previously mentioned ‘test your turd’ prostate cancer campaign and with his fun, sport-inspired station signs for ScotRail to mark the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
His advice for the students was simple - believe and you will achieve. Not everybody sees what you see, you might have a different perspective on something that might be better. As Alan phrased it - Shy bairns get nowt – so if you’re too shy or don’t ask, you simply won’t get what you want!
Our final speaker of the day was Jonathan Sands, OBE, with a clear message for the students - It’s no longer enough to be the best – you have to be the only one that does what you do. At just 28 years old, he lead the buyout of Elmwood, re-mortgaging his home in the process.
Working in this industry, Jonathan has had the pleasure working with brands such as Heineken, Ann Summers and Cow and Clover. He has also worked with Andrex, Coca Cola, Lynx, Boardman Bikes and rebranded waste management company EnviroTech to ‘Serious **’.
Jonathan gave some inspiring advice to the audience, reminding them to never underestimate the power of getting something through the post and when you are doing your portfolio ask yourself - do you like it? Does it say something different? Is it relevant? What’s the story? – 50% is your portfolio and 50% is yourself.
He reminded the students that now is the time for design so stay positive and life will reward you, Attitude=Altitude. Be a radiator not a drain, there is no such thing as a boring job, just what you make of it.
The day concluded with a final Q and A session with Alan Ainsley and Jonathan Sands...and a few selfies by our speakers.
Q – Is it still possible to get into the industry for people specialising in traditional methods? Is there a market for specialist techniques? – Bradford College
A – Our speakers spoke about typography and the importance of having the physical technical skills. If students are too focused on digital aspects, they don’t know basic skills that design is based on.
Q – When it comes to looking at portfolios, do you prefer a tangible portfolio or a digital one? - Glasgow Caledonian
A – It depends what you want to convey and what your personality is. What really matters is what you put into it and your personality.
Q – What is your advice about taking non paid design work when starting out? - Glasgow Caledonian
A –Designers put a lot of work and effort into their work and if you are not getting paid, then what does it say about your value? Don’t be afraid to say no to work you do not agree with, it is difficult when you start out but don’t devalue yourself.
Q – How well do you think Universities are setting students up for the workplace / portfolios? - Northumbria University
A – Both speakers could not judge on the teaching or curriculum as they are not aware of this information but based on the calibre of interns they are receiving, students are very well equipped and most importantly passionate about what they do and interested in the industry.
Students had a chance to meet and greet with our speakers at the end of the conference for some networking! We hope everyone had a great time and were left inspired by our amazing speakers! Thank you to all the speakers, Patrick Baglee and attendees for joining us this year and we hope to see you again next year!
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