Friday, 21 May 2010

Development Reflection - Reflective Journal

Upon arriving on my first day as a ‘Graphic Communication’ student at the Cardiff School of Art and Design, I felt (possibly naively) that as first year students we would all have relatively unrefined design skills. However, I quickly realized that several students had quite a thorough understanding of digital design software that they had developed from various college graphic design courses. During my foundation course at Newport University I had been more involved with a hands on approach to mark making, such as painting, ceramics and illustration, so I instantly felt like a “lesser” student and became intimidated by their design and computer software knowledge. It was at this point in time that I questioned as to whether I was good enough for this course and contemplated deferring to a fine art degree instead. Yet I quickly learnt that graphic communication isn’t about a shiny, sleek end product, it’s about the message you want to communicate. An aesthetically pleasing computer generated image means very little without being able to convey a meaningful message. This may have taken time to understand, but I am highly relieved that I persevered with the course enough to learn that fact.

During my first year I was introduced to many aspects of graphic communication that I had either never heard of or had very little knowledge. For example, before this degree I had given very little thought to the formation of letters, yet now typography has become one of my favorite aspects of design and I will often find myself trying to guess the typefaces used within various graphics. I had never even previously heard of several Adobe programs and all previous software knowledge had been obtained by myself without any additional help. I quickly learnt that the only way to become proficient in these programs was to familiarize myself with them, and so I made sure to take the time to experiment with this software in order to expand my digital design knowledge. ‘Critical and Contextual’ studies were an opportunity to explore many historical matters such as art, design, modernism, post-modernism, communication, technology and the Industrial Revolution. As my studio work involved being surrounded by students that were producing very contemporary designs, I found these sessions highly refreshing as it was a chance to view the history behind what we were currently studying in the studio.

Personally, while I found that the first and second years of this course were about being introduced and experimenting with the world of design, I believe that my final year was more about implementing the knowledge I had gained and applying my working technique to fulfill degree modules to the best of my ability. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t progress during the third year, as I believe that I am constantly advancing my skills every day, yet I found that my final year has been more involved in executing my existing skills to the best of my creative capabilities to successfully fulfill design briefs.

One of the most pleasing results I gained from this course was the completion of my dissertation. It gave me the opportunity to produce a thorough academic insight into a topic of personal interest and I learnt to communicate critical thinking of a subject coherently and academically. The whole process became a real test of my time management skills, yet while it became a very full workload to juggle a dissertation, studio work and a part time job I found that my studio work influenced my dissertation and vice-versa. I found that the research methods I had adopted for establishing content for my dissertation helped for my studio research. While the knowledge I had achieved through my studio work influenced the content for my dissertation and I believe that they had both come to complement each other well. Our course trip to Bournemouth was very insightful as we had the opportunity to see how other students approached their dissertations. Upon learning that the Bournemouth students had chosen topics directly related to graphics, I found myself truly grateful that we had been given the freedom to choose our dissertation topics and were not constricted to exhausting the field of graphic design.

I have built up many strengths over these last three years including: the ability to document my work neatly and orderly, a comprehensive understanding of typography, constructive criticism, an attention to detail, program knowledge (Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash and Dreamweaver) and the skill to communicate and contribute to a team. While I am very proud of my development so far, I understand that I am still weak in certain areas. As I enjoy the research part of a brief, I sometimes don’t balance my time and can become behind on developing the research forward into producing finalized design ideas. I also find that by constantly comparing my work to that of others, I become very critical in what I do. However, I have learnt that I will get nowhere by being in constant competition and need to work on my own strengths, and not those of others, in order to communicate myself to the best of my ability.

Reflecting on my development as a designer over these last three years, I am astonished at what I have learned, both as a designer and an individual, including communication, time management, software knowledge and professionalism. While I may not progress into a career directly involved with graphic communication, my development through this course has been a true asset. Having currently spent my entire life involved in an academic environment I am both extremely nervous and excited at the prospect of life as a professional, and whilst I am now officially ending my academic studies, I am only just beginning the future of my career.

Please click here to view a PDF of a feedback sheet from a personal tutorial with Annie G White. This session was used to reflect on myself, discuss the course and my possibilities for the future.

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