Today is A Level results day, so we’re eschewing pictures of pretty tanned young things opening envelopes in favour of picking the equally pretty brains of some top creatives about what they studied, how they did, and whether what they did between 16 and 18-years-old made any difference to their careers.
Mike Alderson, co-founder/creative director, ManvsMachine
“I didn’t do A Levels, I did a mechanical engineering apprenticeship in a glass factory. It was a five year apprenticeship but I left after two years, it wasn’t what I wanted to do. By hook or by crook I got into design, I did HND course and went from there. I don’t think A Levels have any bearing and I don’t even think degrees do : we employ 18 people and I don’t think I’ve ever asked what degree they got, it’s the portfolio that matters. What I think is nice is variation – it would be so boring if everyone went through the A Levels, art foundation, degree route.”
Shaz Madani, independent designer and art director
“When I did them they’d just introduced AS and A2s. I did maths mechanics, physics, fine art and graphics. I loved both the arts and sciences. But it was pretty intense. I quickly found it required two very different parts of my brain and it was hard to constantly switch from one to the other. So I eventually dropped physics and maths (to the disappointment of my teacher – I was the only girl in her class, and she had “high hopes" for me!) I went with my gut and focussed on art. If someone had shown me more support/guidance I may have been able to combine the two, perhaps pursued a career in architecture or creative engineering! But who knows…”
Jake Green, photographer
“I did media studies, photography and business studies, getting two Bs (media and photography) and a C. I do think they informed my career, not that many of the things I learnt are really still relevant or of any great value… But they feel like a really good test for what I actually wanted to do. An introduction, but clearly much more focussed than GCSEs. A levels were a step in the right direction after tedious GCSEs.”
David Blanco, graphic designer and founder of Blank Editions records
“I did art and design and communication at St Aloysuis college, Highgate. I enjoyed it, even though at that age ( 16 – 17 -18 ) all you want to do is get out of school and explore the bigger picture, it was very a productive period for me. I was immersed in music and found it very empowering to be able to use the facilities at school to create things. I wasn’t into drinking and smoking, so I ended up having to come up with things to do with all the spare time I had whilst my friends were out getting sloshed…pretty boring I know. I wasn’t very studious at school, not in any academic capacity anyways, i wasn’t the brainiest kid in my class, but I wasn’t the thickest. I think most forms of studentship have value as you are in a position to use it to your advantage and take what you need from being a student, art is a tricky one as your portfolio, attitude and reputation are ultimately what get you work not how well you did in your A Levels, which will seem like ancient history to most working professionals. Saying that, I think it’s good to be in an environment where you can be inspired of what is going on around you, but ultimately it really does depend on the individuals attitude and what vision or goal they have set themselves.”
About the Author
Emily joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in the summer of 2014 after four years at Design Week. She is particularly interested in graphic design, branding and music. After working It's Nice That as both Online Editor and Deputy Editor, Emily left the company in 2016.