Back to school

A couple of months ago, I was contacted by Forum Talent Potential ( and asked if I would be interested in engaging with a group of students in Derbyshire. As the focus was Graphic Design, I was up for it.

The students in question were year 9 students at Pingle School, Swadlincote.

Having previously, briefly, taught design at a college, a very frustrating experience (another blog post), I was keen to see if all years were quite as lazy as the 19-21yr olds, or was there still a passion for design in the younger years.

The project made me reflect on how I got into design and what it meant to me at school. I was passionate about school, it was my haven from a difficult home life, and the design and technology teachers were fundamental to that level of care I received. They listened. They encouraged. Without them, I would not be doing what I am now.

To hear that design and technology are being phased out of schools makes my blood boil ( it is a very short-sighted Government that can’t appreciate the way design helps create a rounded society. Only today I saw an article by Design Week on this very subject ( which reminded me to write this post. It is not all about cash-rich brands employing advertising companies to design wacky adverts, without design exploration in their lives, there will be a whole generation of suppressed creatives with astounding mental health issues ( It is a ticking time-bomb.

So, I had to get involved.

I was asked to set a couple of briefs based on jobs I have completed within my business. These were mainly set around logo design and the application of the logo.

The students had these briefs woven into their curriculum. After discovering more about logos, branding and graphic design in general, they set to work.

The results were interesting. Some kids were not interested, but I could still see some passion coming through from others. I recognised a naivety that I had at that age, the use of clichés, but generally, I was encouraged. I picked out three of the most interesting submissions and awarded them with a book about design. If I can bring just one of these students into the field of design, I would be thrilled.

The great thing about being involved in this project is that I got to see the feedback:

Benefits for the Students

‘It was an experience because you got to learn how they thought throughout the process of making it – and it was kind of stressing at times … it was good to have a graphic designer comment on it because it’s what they do.’

‘It’s taught me that it’s not as easy as it looks. It takes a while to think up the logo.’ 

‘I never get complimented on work, because everyone else’s is better … I feel proud of myself because I didn’t think I could produce the work.’

‘It was a fun experience because it’s different from being given a task and doing it … Because it’s not the teacher that gives you the task; it’s someone who’s actually in the real world – someone who knows what it’s like.’ 

Benefits for the School

‘The students were motivated to undertake work to be presented to an external employer …. Students were excited that an external employer would be viewing their designs and asked on numerous occasions whether I thought the employer would like particular elements of their work, demonstrating to me that the extrinsic motivator was enhancing their learning.’ ‘I would definitely be interested in repeating the project either with the same or a different graphics designer.’ 

For me, getting involved in this project has made me ask a few questions about how I can help the design industry in the future. I am going to speak at more schools, particularly at Primary level. I started this last week at my son’s school in Burton (year 5). Here the kids were very open to finding out how to work creatively, they had no preconceived ideas about working in design and running a design business.

It was a relief to see this.