Why and how you should keep learning throughout your creative career
The creative industry – and the world – are changing. We chat to two designers working in industry and the founder of Created to hear their thoughts on why we need to capitalise on this moment, and how the key is going to be changing the way we learn.
Created is a completely new kind of academy, committed to giving individuals the kind of skills that creative people need to succeed in the real world. It offers a series of online courses in motion design, UX and UI offering real-world briefs combined with coaching and mentoring. We’re working with Created on a series of articles exploring the future of design education.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the past year has changed a lot for all of us. The way we work has been irreparably changed and, in turn, many of us have emerged from the pandemic with a fresh sense of perspective when it comes to working. We understand more about how and where we want to work, and what we want to get out of it too. These revelations have instigated a moment of flux and a lot of positive adjustments are happening off the back of a year of chaos. Now is the time we get to shape the future – and our own personal futures – for the better, and it feels exciting.
What this may mean for many of us is a major career shift, not just from one role to the next but from one field to a totally new one. That said, it can be hard to know how to take that step. In the creative industries, often the obvious choice is to return to arts education to do another bachelor’s in a different subject or to take on a master’s to further your craft. This route can be incredibly rewarding, but as we’re reevaluating so many other aspects of our lives, it is time to look at further ways of learning too.
“The most successful creatives are masters of their craft, but can also sell themselves, ideas and potential.”Dom Davenport
Dom Davenport, founder and CEO of Created started the company in January 2018 because he “wanted to create a new take on educating creative people, one that embraced a holistic approach to the development of people rather than a siloed view,” he tells us. Dom found his way after studying fine art and then became interested in 3D animation; a path that led him to his first job as a runner for Framestore. He describes this process as “very clumsy” despite the fact that it worked and so, with that in mind, Created is a place that offers a balance of learning and hands-on experience.
“The most successful creatives are masters of their craft, but can also sell themselves, ideas and potential,” he tells It’s Nice That. “They are collaborative, can lead and follow, great communicators and can harness the power of others.” Created, in turn, bridges the gap between education and industry through courses in motion design, UI and UX which include mentoring, coaching related to personal development, and time with industry experts. The idea is to ignite the creative spark in everyone and although there is a price tag attached to its Professional and Foundational courses, Created hopes to equip its students with tools to easily transition into the industry. Most importantly, Created wants to instil confidence in its students, whether that is in presenting your work, your creative abilities, or winning work.
Since launching three years ago, Dom explains that the kinds of people Created engages with has expanded somewhat. “It isn’t just the new creatives at the start of their journey but also working professionals who are on their way, but need a helping hand and the support and encouragement to stick to their goals and to make them happen,” he says. “Careers aren’t for life anymore either. People are often reassessing their priorities and have choices and opportunities in front of them.” What the Created team has come to understand and value, is that learning is a continual process when you’re a creative – it doesn’t end if and when you finish university.
The notion that learning can happen in myriad ways and at various times in your career is something Nate Agbetu, co-founder of Play Nice and a creative strategist and producer, also notes. Nate swerved the university route altogether, instead, getting early experience in industry as well as taking part in two creative incubators: the Kennedy’s at Wieden + Kennedy and D&AD’s New Blood Shift programme. “I’ve always felt that the creative education system exists in a silo of the working world that it is preparing people for,” he explains. “It’s been interesting seeing a lot of my peers come out of the other side of their degrees and go into roles as runners and assistants, whereas I’d started that journey five years before.”
“It’s been interesting seeing a lot of my peers come out of the other side of their degrees and go into roles as runners and assistants, whereas I’d started that journey five years before.”Nate Agbetu
What Nate learned by not going to university is clear, and he feels diving straight into the workplace opened up his world. “People wanted to nurture my growth because I was young, and the gratification of understanding what worked and didn’t work on projects helped me to feel grounded while everyone else followed a more structured path in life,” he explains. He enjoyed being able to drive his learning in a way that suited him and still enrols in “short courses every year to understand new and interesting processes”. The key to Nate’s success has been agency over his own development.
A UI designer at KodyPay (a job he recently landed with direct assistance from Created), Gajan Panchalingam represents the kind of person Created has been able to help. Having previously worked as a 3D designer in the events industry, he was dissatisfied with his work before Covid-19 proceeded to cancel all events anyway. Finding himself with no contracts, he turned to Created and enrolled in its UI Design Foundation course. “The fact it is backed up by industry brands is what did it for me,” he explains, adding that through Created he learned “the ‘dos and don’ts’ that come straight from industry brands, the methodical way of breaking down briefs, needs, data, how to sell yourself and your idea.”
“We need to talk more about learning differences, neurodiversity, and accessibility.”Gajan Panchalingam
Money and working processes aside, what Created also offered Gajan was a way to mould the course to his own learning style. “We need to talk more about learning differences, neurodiversity, and accessibility,” he states. “It’s ironic that, despite a high number of dyslexic people in the creative industries (almost double compared to others), universities sometimes think a three-hour-long, in-person lecture with one break in-between is the way to go (nightmare).” In 2020, just before he began his course with Created, Gajan was diagnosed with ADHD and proceeded to learn more about himself through an Adult ADHD Group CBT service. “I finally felt like the world started to make a bit more sense and I felt more confident about my learning processes. Having a more diverse method when it comes to teaching and education is the key we’ve been missing and sometimes refuse to acknowledge.” In turn, he sees courses like Created – which provides a hybrid approach that utilises digital learning through various media combined with the live support of community and then more specific and targeted 1-2-1 work from industry mentors– as a viable option for building a better learning experience for other neurodivergent designers: “For a creative industry, I don’t feel we’ve been creative enough in how to disrupt the system to be the best it can be for a long time, and I’m glad that things are changing.”
By capitalising on this moment of change and diversifying the ways in which we learn but also by multiplying how often we learn, we could end up with a better equipped creative workforce. It would also lead to a more diverse creative industry as avenues would be available to those previously not able to access them. Something Dom, Nate and Gajan all agree on is that there are huge gains to be made if we build on the current momentum. “I think we need to embrace the opportunity in the change that is occurring every day, and that has been amplified by the pandemic,” Dom says. While Gajan feels “the creative landscape would be better without the elitism and sometimes gatekeeping” that exists, and capitalising on alternative forms of education can aid in that. Finally, Nate adds that he often imagines “how decentralised the creative landscape would be if more people came from more unconventional routes… At times, the structures that we are taught and work within can prevent innovation. I’ve always wondered what it would be like if we had a culture of iterating and clashing processes.”
“I think we need to embrace the opportunity in the change that is occurring every day, and that has been amplified by the pandemic.”Dom Davenport
Looking ahead, Dom and the Created team have big plans for how they can continue to produce industry-ready candidates and create a better-equipped creative workforce. But crucially, Dom believes the impacts will spread beyond the creative industries: “Created is a network and community of like-minded people spreading around the world with the same aspirations and dreams. I think that because of the times we find ourselves in, there are opportunities that will continuously emerge that will help us change the paradigm of what both creativity and education really are to the new economy and how they both can be harnessed to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”
Over the coming months, we’re working on a series of articles with Created that explore how the future of design education could look, the real-world skills that designers today require and the avenues available to procure them. We’ll dive into the benefits of the goal-focused, holistic experience that Created offers and speculate what skills will become the most important in the future of our industry. As an endnote, Dom adds: “I want to be part of an organisation that makes a dent in the universe and provides the opportunity that so many people need to harness their creative potential in all aspects of their work and lives.”