Designers should do more to teach graduates about the “real world”, report shows

Research from studio Michon suggests that design students lack practical skills, and makes suggestions on how businesses can better equip them for working life.

Design graduates lack commercial and management skills, a new report has found, and design studios should do more to teach them about the working world.

The Designing the Future report was conducted by studio Michon, with contribution from the Design Business Association (DBA) and the Design Council.

University “does not prepare” design graduates for jobs

It was put together after a DBA survey completed in 2015 showed that 65% of design studios surveyed felt that UK universities did not prepare design graduates adequately for jobs in the creative industries.

Adam Fennelow, head of services at the DBA, says: “Leaders of creative businesses are constantly despairing at the lack of ‘real world’ skills in design graduates.”

This includes time management and working to deadlines, understanding timesheets, understanding budgets and having the interpersonal skills and confidence to help them maintain good client relationships, he says.

The new report suggests that industry and academia – studios and universities – should work together and “form stronger partnerships” so that practical skills are taught throughout the entire duration of a degree, rather than solely within a work experience placement.

Designers should lecture at universities and colleges

It also advises that forming relationships with local universities will help to keep “the best creatives in the region”, as it will attract graduates to local studios rather than encouraging them to migrate to London.

The report suggests that design businesses should encourage their employees to become guest lecturers at local universities and colleges, to build relationships with students and help them make contacts.

It also suggests designers should give up a “couple of hours a month” to mentor young people for free, and offer open seminars and workshops in their studios for students to come in and learn about business challenges, creative software and equipment.

Give interns a chance to do everything

The final recommendation is that students should be fully integrated into creative teams when invited into studios for work experience placements, and given the chance to take parts in all aspects of a project. This would enable them to learn “soft skills” such as time management, teamwork, meeting deadlines, and how to tackle commercial problems and handle finances, the report says. It further encourages that studios stay in touch with former interns to see how their careers progress.

Studios could also inform college students that “university is not the only route” into design, the report suggests, and that paid apprenticeships are a valuable alternative.

The report reads: “By giving young people an opportunity to work on real projects, helping them to develop the right technical skills and recognising their successes, they will be ready for a rewarding career in design.”

Read Michon’s Designing the Future report in full here.

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  • Encho Pramatarov May 10, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Couldn’t agree more. I was given a month at university to do something that now I need to do in a couple of days.

  • mike Dempsey May 11, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Back in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s many working designers gave talks and Q&As as a matter of course at art colleges (as they were then called) up and done the country. And they discussed and gave advice on many of the issues posed in this piece. It was the colleges that became steeped in internal paper-driven exercises and cutbacks, that deterred many visiting designers from bothering. I recall visiting Norwich School of art many years ago to give a talk. The tutor that invited me up spent the whole time moaning about the college system and the internal politics. So, if that kind of thing still goes on, it is not very inviting for a visiting lecturer.

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