College projects must avoid the self-indulgence trap

In his role as external examiner to three universities and through his willingness to offer portfolio advice and lectures at a further five design courses, Adrian Shaughnessy (pictured) should be applauded for having the amount of exposure to graphic design education that he has (Private View, DW 1 July).

If only more people from industry had similarly wide levels of interaction with UK design courses. However, I’m not totally convinced that this exposure is enough to warrant the suggestion that he has been able to ’inspect the personal hygiene of current graphic design education’. The collapsing budgets and mountains of bureaucracy-driven administration he discovered are likely to be common to most, if not all, design programmes up and down the country.

However, what isn’t necessarily common practice across courses is the encouragement of ’large amounts of self-directed projects’. The graphic design and illustration programme at the University of Hertfordshire has always believed that what makes graduates attractive to industry, and by this I mean employable, is their ability to solve other people’s problems – not their own.

Self-directed work can sometimes result in introverted self-indulgence and a belief that design somehow exists for its own sake.
We certainly don’t subscribe to this way of thinking, preferring instead to offer realistic and challenging problems, the likes of which graduates will be exposed to in their professional lives.

Martin Schooley, Programme leader and principal lecturer/ BA (Hons) Graphic Design & Illustration, University of Hertfordshire, School of Creative Arts, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL10 9AB

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