Sarah Temple is course director of the London College of Communication’s diploma in professional studies programme and believes that students have much to gain from a year working in the industry, whether at home or abroad. Her students have documented their experiences in a newspaper project, Be Brave – coordinated by students Alex Hunting and Charlie Hocking – which recounts the benefits that simply experiencing new places and new working practices can bring. In an interesting move, Temple is also recruiting for a new post-graduate version of the course, in an attempt to ease the transition into professional design life.
Why intern abroad?
The LCC’s current diploma in professional studies programme is an optional part of the college’s graphic and media degree and has been under Temple’s jurisdiction for ten years. Students are given the opportunity to spend a whole third year of a four-year degree working in industry, in the UK or abroad. Typically, a student undertakes a range of models of practice: several internships, a collaboration, an international experience, a period of design volunteering, and at least one freelance project directly with a client.
“I’m astonished that it still remains such a unique course,” writes Temple in her introduction to the Be Brave newspaper. “Research indicates that students are seeking to spend longer in education during times of recession and courses that enhance student ‘employability’ are booming. With art and design courses facing cuts in the next few years, courses that allow their students close collaboration with industry and business can only go from strength to strength.” While students of chemistry or engineering, she argues, would expect their curriculum to be built in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust, ICI, or Nokia, why are design courses in the UK so divorced from professional practice, from design-led business both in the UK and internationally?
While university is of course a place for self-expression and developing one’s own creative language, “the gulf between education and professional practice needs careful negotiation,” says Temple. “Experiential opportunity adds vital context to a student’s education and, it seems to me, that understanding that all design happens within a context is the first – and arguably the only – priority for an educator. ‘Experiential learning’ has tended to be devalued and regarded as fundamentally inferior to those forms of knowledge which have been constructed as subjects or disciplines,” she continues. “The practical and the applied do not tend to have the same status in educational institutions as the academic and the abstract. This is how students can be let down.”
The experiences recounted in Be Brave (cover shown, left) all suggest that this particular group of students have emerged with a renewed sense of what is possible within their career which may, or may not, be focused on design. “Learning in this highly-engaged, self-initiated manner,” says Temple, “has actually altered their personal philosophies and personal social engagement.” Indeed, Be Brave features a wide range of student experiences. There are internships in Berlin, LA and Tokyo; a project with Stefan Sagmeister; designs for disability; a conference in India; letterpress work; an art therapy placement; exchange programmes with Prague and Hong Kong; a Typographic Summer School; and a volunteer project that took place in an orphanage in Vietnam (see right). For Temple, these represent a whole series of individual journeys into different parts of the industry. “As students graduate they shouldn’t despair if a full-time job does not emerge at once,” she says, “but, rather, they should ‘be brave’ and try to develop enterprising and original ways of fulfilling their ambitions.”
Temple is currently recruiting for the new post-graduate diploma in professional graphic design studies, a unique year-long course that combines design, research and internships both in the UK and abroad. If you’re interested in finding out more about the course, Temple can be contacted at the LCC on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copies of Be Brave will be available at Futurising, the LCC and University of the Arts’ new two-day event for graduates. Futurising takes place at the Nicholls & Clarke Building in Shoreditch, London on 29 and 30 June. See futurising.org