Sunday, March 30th, 2014

I was recently invited to talk & host a workshop on behalf of Substrakt at the Creative Journeys event at the Think Tank in Birmingham. It was aimed at helping young people currently in education (GCSE – College) in their journeys into the creative industries. I’ve already written about it at the Substrakt blog, but after the event there were a few things which came to mind which I wish I could have said. So, I’m writing this blog post as advice to my younger (more foolish) self, and anyone else currently in education with creative ambitions.

Academic achievements; they do matter.

During the Q&A session I was asked how academic qualifications balanced with a portfolio of work, and I gave an answer which perhaps weighted towards the latter. After, I wish I had specified an asterisk to my answer… A portfolio of work can be more important than academic achievements, but that sort of approach isn’t appropriate for everyone. You have to be extremely self-motivated and passionate to make this path work. Being both open to new ideas, approaches and technology, whilst being mature and free of ego.

Being totally honest, this path wouldn’t have worked for me back when I was 19. My university course was open to experimenting and exploring possibilities, gave me employment opportunities, and It helped me mature as an individual. The piece of paper at the end of a degree might not mean everything to future employers, but simply put, without my university experience I wouldn’t be where I am today.

So don’t dismiss university or formal education as something out-dated, it certainly does still have a place for many people, just make sure you pick a relevant and flexible course.

My regrets

I’ve certainly got a few, but right up there was not doing as well as I perhaps could have in my A-levels. I felt over-worked by the time-intensive Art and Product Design modules, and was distracted by self-teaching graphic & web design. As a result I achieved an E in AS level Physics, dropped Chemistry, and failed AS History. At the time I was immature and only seeing the smaller picture of what I thought I’d be doing at university and perhaps a year or two beyond. In reality, those qualifications might have helped me approach problems and situations with a different perspective, or become useful for future jobs, as you never really know where you’re life will end up. They also stand as a symbol of laziness to some, and they might one day have control over your destiny. So always do everything to the best of your ability and follow through what you start to the ‘end’.

A list of qualities & tips I’ve learned are essential for the creative industry

  • Artistic flare and creativity helps you keep your work fresh, always pushing beyond the standard and helping you stand out.
  • Learn new technology and techniques to make your skill set more diverse. Don’t rely on being taught by a course though…
  • Love what you do. If you can do this, then everything else will fall into place.
  • Share and be helpful. Creative industries usually have brilliant open communities based around them, so get involved to help others and make friends with mutual interests to push yourself further.
  • Be free of ego. It’ll make you easier to work with, and improve the work you do. User experience work is also particularly important for you to be impartial and open to thoughts, opinions and evidence.
  • Don’t be afraid of hard work. The industry can be demanding, but if you love what you’re doing then this should be no hardship.
  • Do everything to the best of your ability and don’t settle for the minimum.
  • Take on side-projects for yourself, friends or even clients, just to learn , experiment and develop skills as you add to your portfolio. Being proactive in this manor is also attractive to employers.
  • Being able to communicate is paramount. Not just within the team working environment, but also to justify and present ideas and concepts to clients. Without it, even the most well thought out and considered design/interface could be misconstrued and dismissed.

There’s plenty more to learn…

…but it’s largely up to you. There’s an abundance of tips & advice on the internet for specific creative career paths, but ultimately you’ll likely learn more from you’re own experiences. Reading insight advice is one thing, but unless you take it onboard and it works for you, it’s just advice, and that alone.

I’m available for questions on twitter If you are in education and wondering about anything, as I’m more than happy to help.