A year in the making

Exactly twelve months ago, I was standing at the back of Bute Hall in Glasgow University, hoping desperately that the combination of a frankly dashing kilt, hugely overpriced rental robes and a beautiful summer’s day wouldn’t lead to me keeling over in the astonishing heat. And then, in the blink of an eye, the shake of a hand and a wave to the folks up in the balcony, it was over. Done. I was a graduate, and I was a card-carrying designer.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been loose on the world for a whole twelve months, and in all honesty, I’ve only really sat down to consider what that means in the last few weeks, most intensely when I headed back up to Glasgow last week for degree show. Being surrounded by everyone you essentially shared your life with for the length of fourth year tends to have that effect, especially when you’re stood around a free bar trading war stories about what happened in the post-GSA reality of life. It makes you take stock.

To put it concisely, I’m not the same person I was twelve months ago, or the same designer for that matter. Leaving university has been the beginning of a whole new stage of learning for me – not more important, not better, just different and vital. Glasgow School of Art gave me one hell of an education – it fostered my furiously inquisitive nature, and encouraged me to turn it on finding and solving real issues, be they in a commercial or social context. It gave me the tools to do whatever I wanted as a designer, slapped me on the arse, and sent me on the way. From then until now, my education has been in how design works in the real world, and it’s one that everyone graduating today is about to launch into, head on.

Where it sent me has been to two totally different jobs – two entirely new opportunities to learn and develop my abilities and experience in the public and private sectors, and two places where I’d like to think my skills as a designer have had a discernible impact on what I’ve worked on. I’m not going to bang on about projects or techniques, but I now feel more capable as a designer than I could have imagined I would do at this point – the sheer amount of trust that people and companies have put in me and my abilities makes me feel incredibly proud and grateful. I realise that I’ve still got a huge amount to learn, and knowing that makes me even more determined to push myself at every chance. As for the future? Well, I’m thinking about it, but for now, those thoughts are just for me.

Really, I’m not old or wise enough to dispense much in the way of advice, but I will say one thing. It’s not to graduates, but rather those still at university, heading into their final year. This is your chance to do awesome things, to create something without the mundane boundaries that can exist around design out in the real world, and to take risks that you might find difficult to do once you graduate. In short, get your degree, sure – but go fucking nuts doing it.

(For the perspective of a close friend who I graduated with, and someone who I’d discussed this blog with before I wrote it, I’d recommend looking at Kirsty Sinclair’s post on the Snook website – HERE)

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