Discovery, Gratitude & Love: Advice for the Final Year of Design School

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Semester 1 is just around the corner, and my thoughts have lately been with those who will soon be undertaking their final year of design school as I did in 2016. I know that in the lead up to my last year, I was unsure about what lay ahead, my head full of unanswered questions and my heart full of anxiety. To ease those panicked feelings, I am here with an arsenal of advice for you to turn to when you are looking towards what’s to come.

Embrace Discovery

I studied a Bachelor of Design with Honours, which meant that the first half of my final year was spent researching a topic, and the second half spent designing a response to that initial research. I began the year researching coworking and imagining that I would design a coworking space for students, but eventually ended the year exploring peer learning and designing a cross-platform application for giving and receiving real-time creative feedback. The lesson to be learnt here is that your topic is not set in concrete so I implore you to view it with a flexible lens. You will begin the year choosing a topic that interests you, but as you research and explore it, you will be taken down weird and wonderful tangents that will lead you in new, unexpected directions. Be malleable and allow these tangents to shape and mould your topic and your ideas into something new and exciting. You never know where it will take you, but if you strap in for the ride, the journey is sure to be full of wonder and discovery.

Fall in Love

When you are choosing your initial topic, be sure to choose something you really do care about. It is a huge question to ask of yourself, what do I really care about, but it’s a question worth asking. Something that means more, ignites your passion and gets you excited will carry you throughout the year. You’re committing to one topic for the duration of the project, and while it will flex and adapt, the base concept will most likely stay relatively the same, so you need to like it enough to become it’s best friend. You will live and breathe this for the whole year and it will almost become a part of you, so if you can’t envision a year-long relationship with it, you need to look elsewhere.

Enjoy the Process

Enjoying the process is definitely easier said than done when you’re in the middle of a computer meltdown the night before a deadline, or enduring the worst mind-blank of your life right when you sit down to do some work, trust me, I understand. I know that you’ll most-likely want to punch anybody who tells you this at some stage of the project, that’s understandable, but (before you want to punch me) it is true and those people are truly trying to help you. At the time it might seem ridiculous, but there actually is so much value to gain and joy to be had even through the worst parts of the creative process. Whether you’re having a good day or a bad day; if your computer is working or if it isn’t; if you’re overflowing with ideas or running a little dry, there is always something to learn, something new to try or a different perspective it can give you. See the challenges as opportunities and the successes as fuel to push things even further. Make the most of every moment and every part of the process and you will enjoy the year much much more.

Be a Sponge

You are so lucky at design school to be surrounded by incredible tutors, professors, librarians, mentors and peers so take advantage of them all while you can. These people make up an abundant resource of knowledge, ideas, inspiration and experience that can help you and your project along the way. You and your peers are all aiming for the same thing, so give each other a helping hand and you’ll take each other further than you could’ve done alone. Your teachers are all there to help you; that’s literally their job, so let them help you! Ask them questions, get their advice and talk to them about your ideas to make the most of their willingness to help you! Obviously this doesn’t mean you can get them to do your whole project for you, but they can guide you along throughout the process.

Put Yourself First

This year is full on, I’m not going to lie to you. There will be some late nights, stressful moments and periods of frustration so it’s more important than ever to look after yourself. You will be infinitely more productive, efficient and effective if you are well-rested, full of good food, and mentally sound. Do what you can to make yourself the priority, even if that means sacrificing an hour or two of work to go and see your family, or finishing your work earlier so that you’ll get a good night’s sleep. Whatever it is that will make you healthier and happier, do it. It’s a long year and you need the mental and physical stamina to help you reach the end strongly so always put yourself above the work.

Choose Positivity

All in all, my message is to have fun. Make the most of your final year and do what you can to make it work for you. Do work that you want to do, pick a topic that you are passionate about, spend time with positive people, and keep yourself healthy and happy along the way. If you put your foot down against the negativity, don’t let things get to you, and choose positivity, you will have such a fun year! It’s not often that you get to spend a whole year being creative and making things about a topic close to your heart, so be grateful and honour that opportunity that you’ve been given the best that you can!

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Through all the highs and lows, I had a blast in my final year and I have a lot of stories to tell and advice to share. Please let me know if there are any questions you have, or if there’s anything specific you’d like to hear more about. You can also watch my video below where I talk more in-depth about this topic. Otherwise, have a great year, and good luck!