A design year abroad

Traveling experiences from students from the London College of Communication

A design year abroad

“It was an amazing experience for us,” says London College of Communication graphic design student Paul Cooke, who in 2009 returned from his diploma in professional studies year abroad that he undertook with fellow student, Jemma Mackle. “There were lots of reasons why we wanted to do it but the main one was the opportunity to experience the design world in different cultures,” he says. “We also wanted to get a taste of the professional life, before being thrown out there after our third year, and further explore the possible areas we could go into.”

India, Australia, Vietnam
The pair began with a six-week internship at Wieden + Kennedy Delhi in India. “It was exciting yet demanding to work in a culture totally alien to us,” Mackle says. “But having to understand a new audience, and truly comprehend the context of the work we were doing, has given us a broader awareness and a set of skills we now constantly draw upon.”

Their next stop was Melbourne where, despite not having any internships organised when they arrived, they were eventually offered a placement at design studio, Chase & Galley. “We helped design the annual Melbourne Design guide which taught us about publication design, something we’d never done much of and are now really interested in,” says Cooke. “We then proposed to produce our own publication with the studio’s director, Stuart Geddes, and ended up making a beautiful project. It’s sometimes worth working for free so that you can propose work like that.”

Cooke and Mackle then left Australia for Vietnam, to pursue a personal project exploring ethical design. “We found out about the Hoi An orphanage through the Kianh Foundation charity in the UK. So we went there with a huge canvas and fabric paints and had a great day with the children creating a playful masterpiece,” says Mackle. Back in London they approached ten fashion designers who used the canvas to create a series of one-off bags. These were then auctioned off at the London Design Festival, with all profits going back to the orphanage. “Our experience in Vietnam definitely furthered our interest in social and ethical design,” adds Mackle, “which also became the subject of both of our dissertations.”

The students claim they gained invaluable experience from a working year in industry which reinvigorated them for their third year in college. “The year away filled us with confidence to go out there and give it our best,” says Cooke. And it’s not an experience one forgets easily. “We draw from our experiences all the time; it’s made us more rounded designers,” says Mackle. “Would we recommend an industry year for a young creative? Hell yes.”

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