How design schools can even better prepare their students

1 Oct

Graphic Designer Danny PrewGraphic Designer Megan LouieTop Victoria design school, the Pacific Design Academy, produces some wicked smart talent. I’ve been lucky to work with a couple of them in the past year in  the form of Danny Prew and Megan Louie.

It’s been very educational to watch them each make the transition from school to the cold, hard world of advertising. To the credit of PDA, both bring a high level of fluency in the language of design and the software that supports it. Plus they are pretty unflappable.

But neither had the slightest inkling that such a thing as a Revision #10 existed.

A challenging brief; a committee of clients to get approval through; multiple feedback within the agency; job objectives that change mid-stream: new offers that come to light … and voila: you arrive at the blessed 10th revision. Not an everyday occurrence by any means, but it happens.

To acclimatize students to this reality, I would like to recommend that design schools throw some serious curve balls at their students.

  • When a project has been submitted, hand it back, alter a critical deliverable, and let them know their revised solution is due in 4 hours. When they submit the new creative solution, repeat Step 1.
  • Have up to 3 or 4 supervisors appraise the work, and ask the student to figure out how to revise based on the multiple feedback.
  • Stand over their shoulders when they are making revisions and offer further critique and suggestions. This develops their ability to function with a back-seat driver.

In many cases, the firm they work at will vet all the feedback, provide summaries to the designers and let them do their thing. But best be prepared, and trained to succeed in the worst-case scenarios.

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6 Responses to “How design schools can even better prepare their students”

  1. Amy October 2, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    Great tip Doug – totally agree! As an art school grad, I wish I had been better prepped for the real life, apres school reality. Although, I do remember one prof saying “One percent of you will make a living as an artist…” That may have been a little too real 😉

    • Doug Brown October 2, 2012 at 9:58 am #

      It’s probably true of almost any career Amy – you never really know what it’s going to be like until you’re doing it. That’s why I’m such a believer in internships. They put muscle and skin on the academic skeleton.

      Hm…now that’s got me thinking Halloween costumes…

      Thanks for the comment and the insight!

  2. Danny October 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Great idea, Doug. Hopefully Terry will read this one. Even better, they can bring me in to demand ridiculous revisions. That’s if I can find time away from my Maserati.

    • Doug Brown October 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      Danny it disappoints me that I spent so much time counselling you on the virtues of a Ford and you still went and got the Maserati. I will speak to Terry about practical vehicles too.

    • Terrance Lam (@kinematicdigit) October 4, 2012 at 6:58 am #

      A very good article indeed. Something that Doug and I talked about when he came in and talked with our Copywriting class at the beginning of the school year.

      As proud as I am about our program, we do miss things and feedback from industry leaders like Doug is what we need. Love his thoughts on this and will be implementing something sort of instruction based on what we discuss.

      • Doug Brown October 4, 2012 at 7:16 am #

        Give me a shout if you want to bounce around some ideas Terry. I’m a big fan of your school!

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