We entered into Werkhouse thinking we would be enlightening the participants with our knowledge, but it quickly developed into a shared learning experience. In the end, we’re not sure whose eyes were opened more.
"It was brilliant to be surrounded by such talent and creative minds."
Aimee Harper, Participant.
Our learning: design professionals
When the professionals involved in Werkhouse came together, it was on the basis that too many of us had met graduates that seemed ill-prepared for working studio life. In the UK, the majority of design agencies employ less than 20 full-time staff. While they need fresh new talent, they can’t afford to take on staff that require a substantial level of additional support before they can fulfil their own junior role.
So, we entered into Werkhouse thinking we would be enlightening the participants with our knowledge, but it quickly developed into a shared learning experience. In the end, we’re not sure whose eyes were opened more. Everyone agreed that the professional development opportunity of working together, and facilitating groups of young designers, provided a learning space like no other.
The directors guided the techniques, the designers steered the teams, and the teams shared their ideas. Everyone witnessed how other creatives worked across different roles, and how different agencies approached the same brief.
Managing groups that had only just met was a test of people skills. Co-developing the creative direction in multiple teams was also a challenge. But it was a reminder of just what can be achieved when everyone focuses on one brief over two whole days.
The energy created from working with talented colleagues and motivated participants was remarkable. The students and graduates had real zest. Hearing their thoughts, and perspectives, created new understanding about the state of design practice.
"A fantastic opportunity to work alongside my peers, learn different approaches to the design process and to meet new people."
Bob Mytton Mytton Williams
On learning: design education
An important part of the Werkhouse weekend was an open conversation about design training. The group shared and compared the experiences they had at a variety of university courses across the UK, as well as overseas. And some explained how they had found a self-taught route to a design career.
A clear message was that university design courses vary. Some are excellent, and students revealed just how much they had learnt, and how much experience they had been able to gain. Others raised issues about unmet expectations or a lack of facilities or industry connections.
There was a sense that design courses carry a message of ‘the grade is not the focus’. Instead, developing a portfolio and adding the ‘extras’, such as work experience, collaborative projects or working on real briefs, is said to be more valued by the industry. But the situation also seems to reflect that the assessment process is not suited, and sometimes even prohibits, the ability to award marks for team projects, work experience or extra curricula effort.