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What not to do in design school

This book is a guide to life starting out as a designer, it is not a set of do’s and don’t, but it is a big help in avoiding a lot of the bad things. It’s a bit rude and can be very blunt! Good luck!

Dedication This book is waving two figures at all my past teachers who said I’d get no further than school because of my dyslexia and fully expected me to be stacking shelves at the supermarket!

opening Quote


Section 4; dealing with Final Major Project

Section 1;

Beginning of design pathway

Section 2; three years of university

Section 6; Further reading

Section 5; Setting yourself up for the real world

Section 3; dealing with Dissertation

Collage work Collage is a great time, the best thing that you can do is enjoy what your doing and start to get to grips with what design is. It is very different to GCSE art, design generally has a purpose or desired out come. Other really useful thing to do is explore all the different design tools, both digital and traditional

Straight to University? Or Foundation first?

Most collages will be pushing you to be filling in your UCAS form and going to a good university (which reflects well on the collage), but STOP and think. An art foundation course is a brilliant experience and will teach you more than you can imagine. Most importantly it starts to break down the conventional teaching method of being told what to learn and think. Foundation start’s to teach you how to learn, allowing you to be freer and more independent.

Which University? Before going to university you need to ask your self what do you want to get out of it? The choose comes down to whether you want to spend all your time studying or want to enjoy the full all round ‘university experience’. To get the university experience it would be advisable to go to one of the big university’s where a large variety of subjects are studied. However if you want to purely study your subject go for a more specialised university. Don’t let location stop you.

Top Creative university’s as votes by students in 2014 Arts University Bournemouth Goldsmiths, University of London Falmouth University University of the Arts London (UAL) University for the Creative Arts (UCA) Bath Spa University University of Cambridge University of Oxford De Montfort University University of St Andrews Southampton Solent University Buckinghamshire New University University of Huddersfield University of Dundee

Don’t Sleep with your housemate! You may be in a house with a really nice looking person and want to jump into bed with them, but don’t. It’ll only be really awkward the next morning and when the rest of the house find out (and they will) it’ll be even worse for the rest of the year. Your housemates are your family for the next year and your going to need their support!

Who to live with?

In first year the norm is that you’ll be living in university provided accommodation, but in second and third years you’ll probably be living in a student house. The best thing is to live with a variety of people, both male and female from a mixture of course. This means that your not seeing, living and working with the same people 24/7.

Notes create issues

Eat good food

Having a TV in the flat is fine, in fact it’s grate if it is in a living room where you and your flat mates can gather round, relax and bond. However having a TV in your room is not the best move, as it becomes far too easy to distract yourself whit it whiles working, its very difficult to work, sleep and relax in the same area. Your diet at university is very important, the likelihood is that’s it’s your first time living away from home. Learn to cook well for yourself, it’s tempting to keep having take out, but you’ll regret it around the time you finish university as you’ll have put a lot of weight on and have no money!

Tv and games console

Pick a shower time

Your probably going to be living in a house of between four and eight and in halls probably more. You all need to shower, trust me a couple day of solid design work, your going to stink! So shower, however if you all shower in the morning before a lecture, there’ll be no hot water, so best choose a quiet time to have a good hot shower, even if it’s 1 am. At Uni you’ll do odd thing at odd times, but that’s fine.

Sleep well

Sketch book & camera

keep them with you

Defiantly for the next three years sketchbooks and cameras will be your best friends. Invest in a decent sketchbook and pens. Having a large number of sketchbooks for a variety of purposes is totally fine as well, but it’s always worth having one you at all times, you never know where inspiration will strike you.

Meet the locals

Your going to be living in the area near the university and on some level you’ll meet the locals. It is really worth making an effort and get to know the area. At some point you’ll need to interact with the public for your work and you’ll never know what amazing people you’ll meet until you do. There are a large number of ways of meeting people, such as; get a job, go to the local church or join club/organisation (like Scouts).

Join the Student Union and go to the gigs

The Student Union does so much, more than most students realise and they’re doing it for you! Some of the best time you can have is in the student bars at student events, it’s also the best way to meet people from around the university. At the same time its worth getting involved, the SU is always looking for volunteers, to take an active role in the future of the Union.

Forget everything that you think you know about design Forget everything that you think you know about design, hopefully you’ll have picked up a lot of skills from A-Level and Foundation, but university is where you’ll learn how to use the skills. First year is filled with a lot of odd projects, that at first you wont understand the purpose of. But trust your lectures, they know what they’re doing, they’re teaching you how to learn and how to think creatively.

Comic Sans is best

Comic Sans gets a lot of abuse, it’s not the worse typeface in the world, but it’s not good. There are rare occasions where it’s ok to use, only as a header and not body copy, but treat carefully using it, it may make you look like a child using word to make art.

Ignore traditional print In the world of design there are many different jobs that use different print methods. Students are expected to come out of university with knowledge and understanding of all the different methods of print. So even if you don’t think your interested in screen printing it’s still worth doing and understand them. Anyone can print on a home digital printer, but proper printing presses that use traditional methods create better results.

Just use Photoshop

Failure is fine

Experiment loads

There are two types of failure, passive and active. Passive failure is basically not doing the work, failing through idleness. Whiles active failure comes about through trying something new and it going wrong. Through mistakes we learn, when you’ve made a mistake evaluate it and add it to your portfolio of work. A happy accident can create the best designs.

Just turn up to class

Not doing the work that your meant to is a bad move, not turning up to class because you haven’t is a worse one. Always turn up to class, you’ll learn more than sitting at home, as for the work you haven’t done, you’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it!

Get the feedback

Getting feedback on your work is so important! Feedback from tutors is the most useful, they know what they’re talking about and it will vastly improve your work, also remember they are the ones marking it! But also get feed back from fellow students and give them feedback on there’s. Even when your out of education and working, get feedback from others before showing it to the clients, to save embarrassment and create better work.

Understand paper, there’s a lot of it Paper is key. It’s ok to digitally print onto normal printer paper, but if your doing big screen prints and other traditional print methods you need to use more substantial paper that’ll give a better finish. One of the top paper companies is GFSmith, who have created a huge verities of paper (talk to them nicely and they’ll send you some free samples, which may be usefull).

Get out of your room and experience design It’s extremely easy to just stay in your room and work because with the accessibility of the internet you can instantly look at a huge range of design with very little effort. But it’s not good for you, you need to go out, experience the world and be influenced by objects in the everyday. If your living near a big city, particularly London, make the effort to go to the galleries and just soak up the work and designs.

Just ignore books, Print is dead

Books and magazines are just so important! The phrase print is dead, referring to the arrival of the digital age, is thrown around a lot. This school of thought is that we can now access all the information that we need digitally on our computer, phones and tablets, that we don’t need to print books anymore. The truth is that there is a lot you can do digitally but there is just as much that you can do with print, books and magazines will always been needed. Take advantage of the library, you’ll never find a collection of creative books like that outside of the academic world.

Research everything using different media

Good research can never be under valued. By taking on in depth varied research, it gives a great foundation on which to work on.


one thing is a bad



Being fixated on one particular idea will stunt growth and creativity of the idea. For instance if at the beginning of a project you decide that your going to make a book on a subject then it will only ever be a book on that particular subject. However if you go into a project with you eyes open and say I want to do something around a particular subject then there’s no knowing what may happen. Also try not to get too fixated on particular brand as it becomes quite hard to break out of it.


then downsize


Working big gives you room to put all the little details in, but all ways bear in mind what size the out come will be, there’s no point putting in lot of detail only for the end result to be too small to see. If you doing designs that are going to vary in size it’s best to use Illustrator as it’s vector based so won’t pixelate when made big unlike Photoshop.

Take a break from work and enjoy life

Regardless of where your studying the years that you spend at university are some of the best you’ll have. Having freedom do to as you please with little restriction on your time from a full time job. So makes shore whiles your studying to have a day off to enjoy yourself, make new friends and if your lucky fall in love.

Working without direction

It’s important to have a sense of direction while working, it’s extremely easy to go off on different tangents, whiles this may create some great design it may not fulfil your brief. Best thing to do is to keep referring back to the brief and desired outcomes.

Keep It Simple!

Some of the best design is the simplest. Students can get carried away making highly detailed designs, it’s not always necessary.

Save and back up!

Just keep saving and backing up your work, you never know what can happen. It seems simple but it’s amazing the number of people, both students and professionals, who forget to save on a regular basis and loose vital work.

Fear the white space

There’s nothing wrong with white space, it’s very easy to overfill a space making it cluttered. Learn to embrace and incorporate white space into your design.

Go off the grid Grids are so important in design work, particularly thing like this book, but ever once in a while you need to break your own design and go off your grids. The grid helps to give structure to your work and keep it in line, but every so often there is something that doesn’t fit into the grid.

Don’t just copy

Copying is a serious issue, but in the design world can be very difficult to prove. It’s perfectly fine to take influence from design that you have seen so long as you site where the original design has come from. Particularly at university you have academic safety because your only using it for academic purposes. However as soon as you step out into the real world your on your own and can be sued for intellectual propriety rights. At the same time your design work can be ripped off as well.

Stay organised

Visual clutter can distract

Degree is worth it

People will tell you that you don’t need a degree to be a designer, in one sense they are right, anyone can design. What a degree gives you is a understanding of critical thinking and teaches you how to think creatively to help with solving problems. If your just going to be a Photoshop monkey don’t worry about the degree, but you want to be a designer so get the full education.

Work your ass off

Unfortunately having the degree isn’t everything. You need to be able to demonstrate that your work does what it needs to do. This means that at the beginning of your design carrier your going to have to work your ass off at university and the first couple years as a professional.

Legibility is important

There’s a fine line between making great art and practical design. When doing your work always keep in mind what it’s purpose is. If your making art then let it be what it is, however if your designing something with a purpose to be read, then think of the wideness of your audience.

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Go for gold

There are a load of design awards programs that go on in the design industry, particularly for students, such as D&AD and RSA. It is strongly recommended to have a go at them, some university’s will pay for you submission, you’ll learn a lot from doing the briefs and the taking part is what counts. Having longer to work on something should mean that there will be more of it and it’ll be better. In theory that is correct, but students will still leave it to the last minuet, as the perceive pressure of a deadline creates a more focused effort.

More time, more work

Remember to have fun whiles studying

As stated earlier it will be the best few years of your life, so just really enjoy it other wise you’ll hit a point in third year where you start panicking about life after university and realise that you’ve missed great opportunities whiles at university.

What interests you?

You’ve at the dreaded dissertation point, best thing to do is not to panic and take it step by step. The first thing you’ve got to do is pick a topic for it, so go for something that you find interesting but has lots of academic righting that surrounds it.

Vary your sources

Researching for a dissertation is one of the hardest things that you’ll do as a design student. If your on the ball, you’ll get a load of books out at the end of second year and read them at home over the summer, but most students don’t. Reading academic pieces can be really hard work and time consuming so remember there are other sources that you can use that aren’t books, like film clips, TED talks internet journals and so much more.

Harvard referencing

Harvard referencing is a neccery evil. It’s a pain to do but has to be done, you’ll be taught how to do it. However it is good practice to start doing it from first year and always make note of everything you read, even if you don’t use it in your essay.

Break the Essay down into easy sections

Break the righting down into easy sections Introduction and literature review are the first 10% of righting Each chapter should have four subsections8 to it, chapters make up 80% of righting Conclusion, it brings all your ideas together through out the righting and makes up the last 10%

When checking your work at the end, make the effort to print it off to check it all fits on the pages properly. Also spending all your time staring at your screen your eyes are use to the righting, so by having a printed version you can often find more mistakes because your eyes aren’t use to it. Also get lots of different people, including your parents, to read through and check it for you.

Good working space.

Before you even start your Final Major Project, clear your work space make shore that you’ve got plenty of clear space to use and make shore that you can spread out. Generating ideas for you FMP is hard, so make some notes or a mind map of all the thing could do and talk your ideas through with friends, other students and your lectures

Talk about ideas

Love your project, but challenge it

The best results for a FMP come from something personal or something that you really believe in. So after thinking through all the different possible and ideas pick the one that most interests you. From there challenge what your doing, think about the crazy thing that you can do with it and all the possible outcomes. The only thing that is stopping your FMP from greatness is you.

Make a brief

The next stage is to make a brief, in your head you may know what you want to do, but by righting it down you have something to anchor the project to. With in the brief you can note down where the ideas have come from, research around it and any limitations that you want to set on yourself for the project.

Make a Schedule

Being a student life and time is all over the place, you don’t work the normal 9 to 5, but the rest of the world does. So making a personal timetable for FMP is a great move. It’ll give you structure and mini deadlines. Give a student 4 weeks to do a project and they’ll do it in the last week, so by structuring time you (hopefully) continually work, you need all the time you can get for a FMP.

An empty set of pages

Keep showering

It seems like a random thing, but seriously keep showering, you’ll end up spending long days at a time in your room working and sleeping and you’ll forget that it’s been a couple days between showers. Also a shower is refreshing and helps to get your brain going, specially if you get stuck on something.

Set yourself rewards

Your working hard so its ok once in a while to have a little treat for design work. Best to have the treats in a cupboard in the kitchen as they’re not easy to get and it get you out your room for a bit.

Stress is good

It’s totally normal to get stressed whiles working, in fact worry if your not getting stressed out. But make shore that you can deal with the stress and don’t take it out on your house mates. Along with the stress it’s very easy to get distracted by even the smallest thing on your desk, so as stated earlier, it’s best to have a completely clear work space.

Remove bad things

Procrastination Get over it

Procrastination is a totally normal thing, everyone gets it from students to professionals, but what you need to do is realise that your procrastinating, deal with it and move on quickly.


Experimentation, it can’t be stressed enough how important it is to experiment with your work. Even at FMP when you’ve spent the last two and half years experimenting with different methods and styles, it’s still important to experiment with variations around your project to find the best results.


Now that you’ve experimented, evaluate. This is the best way to understand the work you have done and work out the best way to improve it. Also righting it done and putting it in your submission folder is a really easy way to get marks for your project.

Wear many hats

Little bit of theory time, in the work place everyone has different job roles, some are designers, some are printers and others are art workers. However at university you have to all the jobs by your self, effectively wearing many ‘hats’. This idea of creative hats comes from theorist Edward de Bono.

Think of your resources

Much like your Dissertation, you need to think about where your getting your information from and the format that it is taking. Do you need to ask people questions, how you going to do that? Has someone done something like your project before, what was their outcome? How is your project different? These are all thing to consider when researching your FMP.

Love layers

Layers in both forms are key to your project. The most obvious layers are those in the design programs that your using, by working on separate layers it becomes a lot easier to edit than working on a single flat layer. Also having layers with in your project can make it more engaging. By making it look like one thing, but as it is viewed and the viewer can start to read more into it, much like a Pixar film, that has subtle jokes that only adults get and the children don’t realize.

An empty set of pages

Check it test it

Keep checking your work, make shore that it’s going to work for your desired out come, remember print in CMYK but for screen work make it RGB. So the best way to check it is to test it. So before your hand in do a dummy run, go use the printers that you intend to use for instance and see what quality it comes out and how long it takes. Don’t’ forget to evaluate the test run and the adjust for the final run.

The small details Keep going back

Always keep an eye on the small things in your FMP as they have a tendency to get out of hand an course an issue later down the road. Further to that, remember the brief you wrote at the beginning of your FMP? Go find it now and read it through, does your project look like the intentions of your brief? If not, what are you going to do?

Degree Show

Degree shows are such an important thing. A lot of university’s make an effort to have some sort of show in London because this is where the heart of design is. However these days designers don’t necessarily have time to come out of the office and visit a load of different shows, but they have the occasional five minuets to look at a website. So the best thing for you to do as a class it to make a great website that will interest potential employers to come to the show or get in contact with you. Most importantly enjoy it, it’s the last time that you’ll be working with all your class mates.

Now have a beer and have a party

Not that that’s all over, have a beer, enjoy graduation and have one last party with your fellow graduates, you deserve it!

Being a Designer is a real job

It’s now time to get a job! A couple things to remember regardless of what path you take. Firstly being a Designer is a real job, regardless of what any one says, but your going to start at the bottom and your going to be working your ass off for not much money! The average graduates starting salary is between £18,000 - £24,000, however there is a tendency for artist and designers to get screwed over and be paid less. This is a industry problem! So best to stay positive and work through it.

Clients can be difficult, so work with them

The classic “the customer is always right” is thrown out the window in the design world. Working for a client is a partnership, ideally what will happen is a client approaches you with a design issue that need solving. They will brief you on what they want, so take note in a meeting, but don’t do any sketches as the client will instantly like it and want that. From there mock up some ideas and take it back to the client, talk through the ideas and together work out what is best, the client may be best at what they do, but you’re the designer so it’s your job to lead the client to the best design for them. This way you’ll end continually working with the client.

Don’t do free jobs

Simple put don’t do free jobs. Everyone has money to pay you even charities have some money. The oldest scam is a client putting out a pitch to win, so they’ll put out a brief and wait for submission, so potentially a hundred different designer will work for nothing to put something together to win the job but they’ll only select one and pa them, so the other nighty nine have wasted weeks for nothing and the client has a hundred different ideas to play with.

Personal Brand

Unless you’ve got sh*t hot designs and your making your carrier in clothing design very few people will be interested in your own branded clothing line. By all means give it a go, but don’t over estimate how much your going to sell.

Any location is fine

The design world of the UK seems to resolve around London, there are a lot of design agents that are based in London, but it’s getting so expensive to live in around London. So it’s not so necessary to come to the big city, now everyone is easily connected through the internet that you can easily work anywhere in the country or world and still meet the clients need. So don’t get bogged down with worrying about where you are in the world.

Pay for Type, you only need a few

There are a lot of different type faces out there, some legible and others illegible. There is a lot to learn about working with type, which you’ll pick up as you go through life. However there is a hand full of types that are extremely good as body copy, others are terrible and some should only be used as a header or title. When working professionally never just download a type for nothing, there is always someone to pay and this cost should be taken to your client for the job!

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Urgent; is a cock up

What ever job you do in life everyone’s worse nightmare is getting an email on Friday afternoon, about an hour before you finish, saying urgent deign needed by 9 am on Monday. This sucks, but its not the end of the world and it’s not normally your fault. What it is is someone above you has really cocked something up and is trying to fix it to save their ass. In the design world it wont be a matter of life or death if it isn’t done so there should be some wiggle room. It’s not your fault!

Nothing is original

Nothing is original, is yet another phrase that get’s thrown around, there can be a lot of argument around this. If you have an original idea, that’s cool. However if you come up with something based on something else that’s fine as well, just make shore others know where your inspiration has come from. For instance this books design is based around the London 2012 design, but at the time of making this book the style of bold coloured triangle is very popular.

A CV is only a foot in the door

A CV gives the potential employer a 30 second view of you, its what’s going to get your foot in the door. There are all sorts of way that you can make it eye catching and interesting but don’t go over the top. The first thing that you need to do is your research on the company that you applying for, what have they done, what’s there style. Then tailor your CV to that.

What’s in your CV?

There is a large number of thing that you need to consider when righting your CV for the design industry, you need to ask yourself what’s most important to you? Location, distance to travel, size of team, type of work, pay, living costs etc. From this work out which are the most important and then look for jobs that fit your criteria. SWOT analysis; Strengths, Weaknesses, Threats & Opportunities. Researching, look at their websites, their clients, Blogs, magazines etc. find out as much as possible about them before approaching them, even build up a folder about the companies that your looking at.

Once you’ve researched the company and choses toapply to them, you need to tailor your cover letter, CV and Portfolio to their style. The cover letter is short and simple, it needs the person who you are applying to name at the beginning instead of sir/madam. Then why you want to work for them, here you reference their past work, and what you think you can bring to their team. The CV needs to do three things; be eye catching, get the information that you want to get across and needs to show some of your personality. Don’t make it too long, only need to be a page, and have a link to your website with your portfolio of work on it (portfolios will be covered in the next few pages).

What makes a good candidate? A lecture from Ross Oliver from the Big Consulting on what makes a good Candidate Your first job is to market yourself, you’re a designer you should be able to do it easily. You need to be; Confident, keen, have a bold approach & be approachable, professional, transparent, resourceful, and have a can do attitude.

A good candidate needs to have a rounded skill set, they need to know the design programs as well as knowledge of traditional methods. Also understanding coding is now really important. Most important is that the candidate know who they are meeting and know about the company that they’re applying to.

What are the opportunities?

When’s the best time? If you start when you’ve just graduated, June to September, they’ll already of gone to the other graduates. So wait for it to get quiet, September – December, you may have some luck, employers will take you on get you trained and then you have a holiday for Christmas. After Christmas January and February, no, your now coming to the end of the financial year and budgets are thin. So companies do there budgets in February and March ready for the new Finance year in April, so this is your prime time as they know whether they can afford to take on a graduate. So start looking whiles your at university in March and April.

Every year university’s are churning out around 400,000 graduates, 30,000 of which are related to media and entertainment, this includes deign. So where are you going to find that first job!? Through networking Jobsites Consultancy Firms Design magazines Business events Doing your own thing and getting noticed Don’t just sit on Google, get up and go be productive, your in the real world now!

Preparation for interview

So you’ve got an interview, what do you need to do for a great interview to get that job? • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Don’t be late Dress to impress, if in doubt dress up Don’t take what you don’t need Show what your proud of and believe in Do you understand what the job role is? Be an individual that stands out Find a relaxed point of contact, which allows you to chill out Know the content of your portfolio so you can talk about it with out having to look Bring a second copy of your CV for reference Go prepared with Questions for the interviewer Show that you’ve spent time on your work Ask for a glass of water, it gives you a breathing space It’s ok to ask about the pay package and benefits.

• Check your social media, make shore there’s nothing embarrassing that a potential employer can see.

Portfolio you need two

How to get your portfolio right; • It needs 8 to 10 projects in it • Have the three best projects spread out, one at the beginning, one in the middle and the best at the end for them to remember. • Show a rang of job/projects • It should tell a story in your absence • Should show your thinking process • Keep all the pages orientated the same way, portrait or landscape. A3 is best, but A4 is ok. • Keep it tidy and consistent through out • Make shore it’s all captioned • Photograph large pieces • Spell check • Put your name on it! Before interview you should of already sent a digital version, so for the interview have a printed version which is slightly different to digital version and bring with you a sketch book as an example of your thinking methods.


There are many different jobs that fit into different category’s • Design Agency (5+ people) • Design Studios (5 or less people) • Advertisement groups • Book designers Depending on who your applying to, you need to structure your portfolio accordingly.


For a design studio you need to show that you’ve got a hands on approach, whiles a deign Agency will need prof of a wide set of skills. An Advertisement want to see lot’s of idea generation whiles Book Design need to see passion for Typography. These are just some thing to think about when tailoring your portfolios. But most of all for your digital version and print version embrace the benefits of the two styles.

Closing thoughts

Book Graduation guide for design students Author Moniek Paus About the book This handy little book is a series of well illustrated pages filled with pieces of light hearted information useful in the last part of design school. Use Good for the last part of your degree course

Book Ways of Seeing Author John Berger About the book

Use Theory on images

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Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


Book Author About the book


We all change, when think about it we’re all different, all through our lives. That’s ok, that’s good, you’ve got to keep moving so long as you remember all the people that you use to be. The Doctor

17-3-14 all testing  

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