The design agency boss that went back to design school

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By John Fountain


Here’s a widely sweeping statement but in the main I think it’s true: Creative people are not so fond of training.
Think about it. I bet most designers, illustrators and art workers are self-taught on the Mac. In fact I’ll wager that most haven’t received any kind of tuition since they left art school. “On the job”, they argue, “is the best way to learn”.
And I’d agree with that. But the point is, with so many new things going on in our industry, it’s almost impossible to be as proficient as one would like. Particularly when those more ambitious digital projects come along. So it was interesting when I spoke with Paul Warrington, boss of design agency Cutting Edge Graphics. After 20 years in the business he told me that he‘d just completed a year back at design school. Well, here’s Paul to explain:


The course was called MA Professional Practice (design). Hitting the mid-career point, I felt the need to re-think what I was doing and where I wanted to go. The catalyst was the realisation that another new wave of technology was going to drive the creative agenda and I wanted to understand it at a deeper level rather than just as a user.
A year’s sabbatical learning, thinking and experimenting would have been ideal but with a mortgage and family that was never a possibility so I looked around and eventually found a part-time work based MA at Kingston University which allowed me combine both study and work. Essentially I learned and developed the skills to be a better practioner and communicator of design. Secondly to engage and harness technology in a beneficial way.
It started with me thinking and writing about what I had learned (as apposed to what I have done) over my 20 years. Sounds easy but actually it was very challenging. I was allocated an academic supervisor and together we designed an individualised learning agreement comprising four modules to be completed over two years and which was a balance of reflective learning and real life projects including an app I designed for a Cathedral as part of a Heritage Lottery Fund bid.
One of the modules included a study into the creative brief and how better briefing benefits creativity and relationships; and in fact should be treated 'creatively' rather than a necessary chore. I looked into other design disciplines to see how they approach it and was quite taken with the architectural world who regard briefing as a continual process rather than something at the beginning of a process. Being back in a design school is great for the soul; the energy and realisation that anything is possible are the things that get ground down over the years in the ‘real world’.


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