University vs Apprenticeships in Design | Reflect Digital
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  • 23/07/2019
  • by Wayne

University vs Apprenticeships in Design - The University Route

Our Head of Design at Reflect Digital, Wayne, shares his experience of studying a degree in Graphic Design and explores the pros and cons of taking the University route.

The degree route was the only viable passage to me at the time I left A-Level education having only explored Fine Art but knew that job opportunities would be few in that area. I left not knowing exactly what I wanted to do but I was sure I wanted to steer my creativity in a direction that enabled me to explore new avenues so undertook a Foundation Degree to experience other creative disciplines. I expected to emerge with my mind set on Illustration but I uncovered a desire to study Graphic Design further and found that to be a more fruitful direction when looking into possible careers.

I specialised in Graphic Design for the second half of my foundation degree and secured the grades that saw me onto the Graphic Design degree course. As this was a relatively new direction for me, I felt I needed to study the subject as opposed to going straight into an apprenticeship as the theory and application side were lacking for me. Over the three years, I went from knowing very little about Graphic Design to achieving a first and getting a junior role within weeks of finishing my degree. Although I lacked any agency experience, I had a solid foundation to build my design career on and entered the industry having developed my own style and passion for the subject.

Pro’s:

  • Dedicated tuition sessions teaching key principles of design, covering theory and practical.
  • Tailored tutorial sessions which helped us grasp graphic programs and processes that we may have had no previous experience with.
  • University culture - sharing the experience with hundreds of other like-minded students of a similar age. This exposes you to a rich pool of influences and styles which is really valuable at that early stage.

Con’s

  • Lack of hands on experience in a design studio environment.
  • Arguably a harder route into getting a work placement after studying.
  • It’s very expensive.

Advice

  • Keep designing. In can take a while to get your first design role so don’t sit and wait for a job opportunity to drop into your inbox. peopleperhour.com is a great resource where you can earn money for generating design work for those who have posted a brief. It won’t make you a millionaire but it’s a great way to earn some money whilst adding ‘real’ work to your portfolio. You’ll also gain a good understanding on how to produce work from a brief and deliver a finished design to a client. In addition to this, it looks great to a potential employer that you’ve remained active.
  • Educate yourself. There are a wealth of resources out there that weren’t available to me when I studied. YouTube has a huge number of video tutorials for all Adobe programs, as well as other resources from established designers and agencies in the industry. There are free stock imagery websites, icon galleries, web elements etc to start playing around with. Enjoy experimenting with new styles and processes.
  • Make sure you have a varied portfolio. It’s great to have a niche but in an agency environment, client demands vary wildly so being able to demonstrate that your ready to take on anything thrown in your direction will make you stand out from the crowd.
  • If you’re struggling to get your foot in the door, why not ask some agencies for work experience? It’s a great way to gain that experience you’re likely to be lacking after a degree. It may be unpaid but real work experience is invaluable and who knows, if you impress there could be a junior role on offer at the end of it.

Watch out for our designer Steve's blog on his journey into Graphic Design through the apprenticeship route.

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