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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

Work / Back To School

Phil Cleaver’s highlights from What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

Back in March, Professor Phil Cleaver released a small but weighty new book entitled What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School. The book sought to fill people in on the finer points of design education often skimmed over by busy tutors, and the result is a funny, nitty-gritty-hitting publication that is genuinely useful! For our Back to School feature we asked Phil to share a few of his favourite, most memorable excerpts from the book. Enjoy!

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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

1. A run-in with Alan Fletcher in 1977

When I was a junior junior at Pentagram in 1977, Alan Fletcher used to walk around his team, and without saying anything help himself to one of his assistant’s cigarettes, in front of them. No one said anything. After a while of this he came to my desk again. As his hand reached down to my cigarettes I chirped up; “Either pay me more money so I can buy more fags or F-off and buy your own.” A small smile crossed his mouth and ever since then we’ve got on very well together.

2. The interview

For God’s sake smile—this is not the dentist, and you should look like you want to present your work. You might produce great, creative work but you have to fit into an agency ; they are looking for someone who will dovetail into their already well-oiled studio. The work should sell itself, so you have to sell yourself. Be true to yourself ; you have packaged yourself the way you are, now it’s time to unwrap that package and shine.

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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

3. Wise words from Sir John Hegarty

“Remove the headphones and unplug the computer. True inspiration comes from life. Real life. Not some pixelated version of it. And remember, it takes interesting people to produce interesting work.” Sir John Hegarty

4. Don’t sketch ideas out on a computer

I would never start design sketches on a computer; the computer will not aid your ideas but, in my opinion, only curtail them. No matter how good your computer is and your skill set on it, it won’t ever give you a concept.

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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

5. Don’t rush it

John Creasey failed a lot, he got 743 rejection slips before he published nearly 600 books under 28 different pen names. You might fail initially, but don’t give up trying whatever age you may be, as in the end you can win. Milkshake-mixer salesman Ray Kroc was 52 before he launched the McDonald’s empire. Colonel Harland Sanders launched KFC after receiving his first retirement check.

Don’t worry about failing. You couldn’t walk the first time you tried. It took a few goes to learn how to ride a bike. You couldn’t swim the first time you went in the water. You shouldn’t be scared of failing ; you should be scared of the opportunities you’ll miss if you never try.

6. Don’t give everything away on your website

Your website only wants to be a teaser to get someone interested in you and your work. Your website is the final tool, but if you put all your best pieces on your website you’ll have nothing new to wow them with in the interview. You have to make an impression against your competition and if you give it all away upfront you will lose this wow factor, so be careful about what you present digitally.

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Professor Phil Cleaver: What They Didn’t Teach You In Design School

Back to School
Throughout the month of October we’ll be celebrating the well-known autumnal feeling of Back to School. The content this month will be focusing on fresh starts, education, learning tools and the state of art school in the world today – delivered to you via fantastic in-depth interviews, features and conversations with talented, relevant, creative people.