It was featured on Creative Review's blog this morning.
By providing 'design for the local community' with a pledge to spend at least 10% of their time working on community projects, the students have started their own design agency and they haven't even left college yet.
Whilst Creative Review seem impressed by the students' ambitious move away from the computer screen to find their own work, it is clear these graduates haven't ventured into industry yet. Whilst I am happy to celebrate the initiative and drive that these students clearly have and I do not deny their talent and bravery, I am rather cynical of its potential. With 6 months experience, I am struggling to find a job in London and, like many graduates, have considered setting out on my own. What has prevented me from doing anything more than mildly pondering over the thought, is my lack of knowledge and experience.
Working on your own, or in a small team requires flawless Mac skills, impeccable design skills and not to mention bravery and confidence. It is also worth considering that client liaison skills can not be forged over night and the time and attention this occupies should not be underestimated. I once worked with an agency that was not much more than a year old and I didn't see them design anything all week. The agency was made up of just the two of them, and whilst their work is impressive and their client list respectable, they spent almost the entire day liaising with clients, organising the next week's schedule and discussing production. Whilst I have nothing good in terms of design to show from that placement, I can't deny I came out much more knowledgeable and more certain that I wasn't ready for that yet. The two of them had at least 8 years experience from a top London design agency, which not only prepared them for production and project management alongside design, but no doubt aided their client list too.
For me, The Butcher's Hook epitomises what is wrong with graduates. University teaches ideas, a little in the way of typographic principle and basic Adobe operation skills. Most importantly, university teaches arrogance. It wasn't until I started my first placement, I realised how little I actually knew. Idealistic tutors cherish the students' naivete and love for design, and keep from them what the reality is like. My biggest fear about starting out on my own would be the lack of good projects, which is something well-established agencies can provide you with. On your own, a new and unreliable studio, you lack the knowledge and experience that can get you good clients with impressive budgets. Low budget work can be dull to design and the project management and client liaison can become stressful. Designing on a budget is harder. Students only design ideas and don't often have to worry about the production costs and client needs. I would be interested to see what local community work these graduates get at Butcher's Hook, and whether they have the stamina and love for design to keep it going. I wish them good luck, but wouldn't encourage other graduates to do the same. Never underestimate how much you have left to learn.