Designers are wankers: Agony Uncle

Dear DAW,
Just a quick couple of questions:
What would you say the percentage of graphic design graduates actually work in their chosen field – Is it down to luck, a blag or talent?
I'm not sure if I've come across any kind of topic that questions whether years in design education boils down to stacking shelves or the like, or even the dole. Are design degrees now obsolete?
Sorry about this, do you get similar e-mails to this, or is it a big grey area that nobody wants to mention?

Take care and kind regards,
Great magazine.

Dear Jack,

According to the Complete University Guide, the success rate for art & design graduates getting a job in their subject is 43% after 6 months.

Want to know how much you’ll be earning? Well unfortunately you are at the bottom of the pile, it’s you, actors and Celtic studies graduates that can expect to earn no more than £16718 a year to start with, and that’s about £3,000 below the average wage.

Why bother?

Because life isn’t just about statistics and money! If you are put off by these figures then drop out now and go and do some thing more ‘profitable’.

A career in any creative industry is one of hard graft with severe unrelenting competition for work. With the rare exception, it takes years before the rewards reveal themselves. It’s a long haul.

To answer the first question about the validity of design courses:

Are design courses relevant to employers? Yes. A good course will teach you technical skills, provide you with the latest equipment, learning resources, peer support, opportunities to test out various strands of your chosen field and further your thinking and approach to life. Do college courses do this? Some do, some don’t, the more investment colleges get the more they are likely to offer: the bigger the better. Does the college you go to affect the likelihood of getting a job? Not in my experience, although the geographical location and a prestige name normally attract more interest from employers.

Does going to college get you a job? Not necessarily. A degree is not a ticket to a job. The job seeking rationale applied by arts and media graduates is sometimes misguided, in that they do not realise the severe competition for work and that there are other skills that are just as important as their degree such as hands on expereince, motivated self propelled work and enthusiam for the industry and working practices.

Media courses have multiplied like rabbits in the last 10 years. For some professions, TV especially, you will always start at the bottom of the ladder – probably as a runner – whether you are a graduate or a school leaver.

Colleges build up the importance of degrees as it validates their existence, however I would argue that education for educations sake is an important life skill.

Thirst for knowledge about the things that interest you regardless of the diploma or peer recommendation that you receive will lead to a happier life.

Because we now pay, in the UK, for our further education, there is a growing trend for the student – academic relationship to be more of a client – service provider transaction: Students expect certain results from their chosen course: Rather than just an education focused on academic pursuit, we now expect a job at the end of it. Academic institutions have had to adapt and pursue students. The resulting competition to put bums on seats – the more students you have the more money you earn – has had to be balanced with what the students expect: good career prospects and a curriculum that deals with industry focused learning.

Is this a fair relationship? No matter how good the university course is, there are many other factors – global recession, market saturation etc. That are out of their control. They can only equip students to a certain level, after that it is the responsibility of the graduate to find work. Lee’s book ‘Designers are wankers’ aims to bridge the gap between college and ‘real life’. When he wrote the book there were little or no facilities for creative students to get an education in the business side of their work. Now colleges are picking up on this.

To answer your question about whether or not this subject is talked about, I’d say yes, it’s now a burning question for all higher educational institutions.

As for the luck, blag or talent question. Hopefully it’s a mixture of all three. That’s life!



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