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How to learn, do, unlearn, and do more
Ways to adopt a creative mindset of future-thinking that fosters new opportunities
Whilst success often rests on opportunity borne from qualifications, we are slowly learning to champion alternative spaces, and create new avenues for the next generation of designers to thrive.
We’re no stranger to an unconventional design journey — our co-founder Abb-d bypassed university to play basketball in the big apple, only to find himself working in quite a different ball court a few years later. The design world is constantly shifting, an ever changing pool of knowledge built up from a rich and diverse community of creatives. Learning from platforms like Where Are The Black Designers?, a good education exists beyond the Eurocentric default curriculum, and reaches into mentoring, peer support, and more informal forms of guidance.
We’re facing some barriers
It’s all too often a catch 22 of needing experience to get experience, an industry brick wall that we will all likely have found ourselves in front of in the early days of a new career. This kind of industry gatekeeping is an accepted norm - entry level opportunities are routinely asking for years of experience, reams of expensive qualifications, or offering long hours of exploitative unpaid internships in return for fresh perspectives from newly skilled designers.
Historically, young people are expected to have undergone conventional training to be taken seriously for in-house positions, but we see an industry working towards a future rooted in alternative education and freelance trajectories. Mentoring, accessible opportunities, and maverick approaches to unconventional creative careers, nourish an expansive culture of digital design and a future we all have a stake in.
So how can we make the playing field a little more accessible?
It’s all too often a catch 22 of needing experience to get experience
For aspiring creatives of any age, mentoring can provide a safe space to develop skills and gain invaluable advice and guidance to help grow in confidence (and competence). Hearing from seasoned professionals with years of experience in the field helps to shape a new point of reference - it’s on-the-ground and on-the-job insight, something you can’t get from a university lecture or a digital handout.
In many ways, it’s an exchange - mentors are given a space to provide a perspective that education can’t quite capture, whilst mentees offer a fresh outlook and a chance for mentors to exercise listening skills in a new context. Mentors gain an insight into their own management styles and approach to work, in turn developing their confidence in leadership and highlighting their personal strengths (and shortcomings). Helping others to problem solve, helps to solve problems of your own.
🗣 If you’re an industry professional…
Look into sharing your knowledge and expertise by becoming a mentor to emerging designers with ADP List, a global community of mentors providing 1:1 guidance at no cost.
🎨 If you’re an aspiring creative…
Take a look at some mentoring platforms like Arts Emergency to get a helping hand with starting out in the arts industry.
Can we create luck?
The questions surrounding “luck” are thick with mystique - how much good fortune can we create for ourselves? Do we have any control of our futures? Whilst nepotism and privilege might say otherwise, there’s a conversation to be had about the actions we can take to help nourish opportunities for ourselves, or facilitate a space for others.
We are governed by the parameters of our privilege. Our business environment and professional economy is structured around a default profile, and sadly there’s no amount of good fortune we can generate to wish away the inequalities rife in the industry. What is in our control is the way we respond to the unjust, and where we have the privilege and capacity, to take action to right the wrongs.
🔑 If you’ve got an opportunity to share…
Do your research and budget for consultation to make your opportunities accessible. Start by having a read of The Roundhouse’s top tips, and take a deep dive into Sarah Fossheim’s Ethical Design Guide archive for resources and advice.
💻 If you’re from a marginalised background and want to access new platforms…
The actions we take have an impact on our future. This applies as much to the industry heavyweights as it does to the aspiring creatives making their design debut. We have an opportunity to shape the space where we learn and earn - let’s start the conversation, and take the steps necessary to make a real change.