Can young bloods pump fresh life into design?

We’re on the last leg of the great student fest in London that has energised the capital’s creative community over the past couple of weeks.

We’ve seen D&AD’s Bloodbank (now known as Talentpool) get replenished at Old Billingsgate with new work and a host of new graduates walk off with serious cash as a result of its student awards, providing a fitting finale to the D&AD Congress (see News, page 5). Over at New Designers at the Business Design Centre, graduates from across the country have enjoyed media coverage and won accolades – and are showing their stuff until Sunday.

To the east, in Spitalfields, Undo and Free Range shows have similarly launched many a career. And to the west Kensington Gore has revealed its treasures, with work by graduates from the Royal College of Art and the Helen Hamlyn Research Centre showing the social relevance of design as well as its commercial and aesthetic potential.

Now we can expect in-trays heaving with optimistic CVs or letters complaining about consultancies’ seeming indifference to the the class of 2004. We will discover again that many colleges didn’t alert students to the imbalance between graduate numbers and available jobs in the business and disaffection will set in.

Or will it? Maybe not this time. Even hardened pros in design have detected a real change in graduate attitudes this year, a culmination of the self-assuredness that has been building over the past couple of years.

These young people are clearer in their direction than their predecessors and can communicate their views. They are also better informed about the ways of the world – only a couple of RCA graduates professed no knowledge of their intellectual property rights, which is something the college might do more to address.

Take fashion designer Hannah Marshall, winner of the £1000 Crafts Council/Nesta prize at last week’s One Year On at New Designers. She graduated a year ago but, partly thanks to the Nesta programme which gives design start-ups insight into the ways of business, she has honed her marketing skills and developed a vision for her tiny business to create an outlet for her undoubted creative skills.

Marshall comes across as a confident professional, though she is personally humble about her achievements. But she is pushing the edges and in doing so is typical of her more savvy peers.

So don’t be too dismissive of this year’s graduates when they approach you this year. Try to listen, even if you don’t have an immediate job to offer. You might be inspired by them at a time when design could do with building its confidence.

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