Between chaos and order lies creativity....Simon Kavanagh from Danish design school Kaos Pilots maps out the work process at the University of Gloucestershire's Change the Game conference on 21 January. Image copyright Christina Barrett, a level 2 editorial and advertising photography student at University of Gloucestershire.
Higher education is changing but John Ingledew, course leader of the Photography-Editorial and Advertising BA at the University of Gloucestershire, is one tutor determined to meet the challenges head on. He teamed up with John Brewer, the Graphic Design BA course leader, to host the Change the Game conference on 21 January, which included speakers such as Simon Kavanagh from Kaos Pilots and James Reed of Reed.co.uk recruitment specialists and took a long, hard look at arts education. Students and tutors were both invited to the day, which was held in the University of Gloucestershire’s Pittville studios.
Interestingly, all of the speakers invited to the event emphasised the importance of work experience, pointing to live commercial projects their students had worked on. Trudie Ballantyne, the Senior Lecturer in Photography-Editorial and Advertising at the University of Gloucestershire, talked through the course’s annual trip to Shanghai, for example, which is part -sponsored by local clothes manufacturer Superdry. Level 1 students took bags of Superdry clothes to their counterparts at the Suzhou Art, Design and Technology Institute in April 2010, working with the Chinese students to produce a pop-up exhibition in Shanghai. Superdry then used the images on its blog. For the students the project offered the chance to work on a live project with students from another culture, said Ballantyne; for Superdry it was an opportunity to make contact with the lucrative Chinese youth market.
Aarhus-based institution Kaos Pilots, which was recently named one of the best design schools in the world, is part-funded by the Danish government and its students and pairs its apprentices up with live projects for companies including Lego, Statoil, Google, Apple, Carlsberg and various NGOs. Students must develop the right mindset to work in a commercial context, said Kavanagh, adding that he tried to help them to become self-confident. “We want students to be proactive in creating their future,” he said, adding; “We encourage them to think of new plans and work out the way to get there.”
James Reed also emphasised the importance of attitude, arguing that employers consistently rank mindset over skillset in recruitment surveys. “Your mindset is the one asset you really need to win and keep the job you love,” he said. “We break it into the three Gs – global, good and grit, which roughly translates into being adaptable, trustworthy and committed, and commitment is the most highly valued by employers. You need to be determined, energetic, resilient and assertive and you should never, never surrender.”
Ingledew and Brewer are both researching teaching and learning innovation, and Ingledew says they put the day together to discuss alternative models of creative learning, very different to the UK university model. He is also keen to emphasise practical learning on his course, and added: “We aim to train our students to have all the skills necessary to begin and sustain careers in the photographic industry. It is vital to have the experience of working on real world projects and I have pioneered many, including working with Diesel jeans, Illy, Jigsaw, Getty, Time Out, Gas jeans, Vogue, Elle and Superdry.” Ingledew is returning to China with his new batch of Level 1 students in April, working on a brief with Nike China for its Converse brand.
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