Bridging the gap between design degree and studio life

Australian initiative This Is Not University introduces students and graduates to the everyday realities of working in a busy design studio, with the aim of filling in the skills left lacking by many creative degrees

Earlier this year, designer Christopher Doyle sparked discussion on Twitter when he commented on the pressure social media puts on young designers, and their resulting need to define themselves before they’ve even left university.

“We’ve been having an ongoing debate in the studio about students pitching themselves as multi-disciplinary designers specialising in art direction, branding, typography and so on,” he wrote. “Often before they have graduated. This wasn’t a thing ten years ago. Study was a foundation and exploration phase, and then industry was where you grew into your profession. So what’s happened?”

When CR spoke with Doyle, he placed some of the blame at the door of Instagram and similar networks. While they might have become rich sources of inspiration, he says, they’ve also created unhealthy and unreasonable expectations for students.

“A lot of schools are expecting students to come out guns ablazing and ready to go,” he told CR. “Students also feel like they need to come out like that, and social media plays a really big part in this. Instagram has changed the landscape for students and designers of all ages and stages. Everybody now has to keep up. We didn’t have that when I graduated, and it’s changed the whole game. I think students see so much more in terms of what comes out of countries all over the world, and the pressure to keep up with that and perform must be huge.”

And it’s not just social media making students feel inadequate. Doyle says that studios often have unreasonably high expectations for graduate designers, with students reporting that first time roles demand more skills than they can reasonably be expected to have. While Doyle is talking about the situation in Australia, it’s undoubtedly a problem that affects the creative industry across the board, and hovering over all of it is a bigger question – are universities doing enough to prepare students for real life jobs?