Hannah Nightingale, project

London is renowned for the breadth and sheer number of art and design schools, from University of the Arts London (UAL)’s London College of Communication, Central Saint Martins (yeah, the one from the Pulp song), and Camberwell; to Kingston, a school on the suburban edge of the city known for an ideas-driven approach to graphic design; to the Royal College of Art, the Royal College, and the historically art-focused Courtauld Institute; to the more wild, artsy rep of Goldsmiths.

While each school is fairly different in terms of its courses and the tropes associated with its graduates, it’s hard to tell from the outside exactly what life there is like. Here, we live vicariously through four bright young things who’ve been there, done that, and probably screen-printed the T-shirt.

Harry Grundy, studied graphic design at Kingston, graduated 2016

Harry Grundy

What’s the student culture like in London?

It isn’t far off from what people imagine. Kingston, sitting on the edge of the city, provides its own student culture; one that self-sustains through SU fundraisers, long work days, and house parties, most of which happen within a one mile radius. Despite the microclimate, a half an hour train puts you in Waterloo, and the Erasmus Programme brings students to and from other universities in Europe. All of this has brought an energy to Kingston.

I was brought up in West London, so I’m familiar with its small world effect, always being a few friends of friends away from someone else. This definitely intensifies through university and can be very useful when you need to trade favors.

What do you think you got from studying in London that you wouldn’t have if you’d studied elsewhere?

Obviously London is known as one big arts and culture resource. It wasn’t hard to make use of it as there was always something happening. It has always been reassuring knowing that a British studio you’re interested in will most likely be a tube ride away. I think this adds an energy to working in your uni studio, feeling like a small part of the industry. This goes for resources too. Need to laser cut a sheet of velvet on a Sunday? You’ll probably be fine. A lot of my projects relied on resourcefulness and that was made easier because of studying in London.

Harry Grundy, Playbook

Why did you choose the uni and course that you did?

I chose Kingston’s graphic design course because I wanted to have my design thinking shaken up. Kingston taught us to excite first, typeset later. At art school I: made a print with an unborn baby’s kick, created a cult, designed furniture, wrote a radio ad, exhibited in a primary school, and broke a Guinness World Record. I can’t imagine where else I’d be allowed to do that. It was a lot of fun.

Where did you live when you were studying, and where are you based now? 

While studying I lived about 20 minutes from campus in a three-bed house, optimistically named Engleberry Cottage. I was lucky in that I didn’t move once in the three years. However the familiar student stories of damp walls, noise complaints, and opportunistic estate agents still applied. It was great being close to everything, though. I am now back with my parents in Chiswick, West London, where there is a fridge full of food and not a damp wall in sight.

Harry Grundy, Pangea, Process

What are the downsides of studying design in London?

Beer prices.

How was it for you in terms of finding employment after graduating?

I was quite fortunate in finding work. I have interned around the industry since I was 17. I filled my second year summer with placements and managed to impress NB, which offered me a full time role while I was in my third year.

 

Georgia Cranstoun, studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins, graduated 2016

Georgia Cranstoun

What’s the student culture like in London?

I was extremely lucky because I felt so aligned with the people I studied with as well as the tutors and facilities. I found it really beneficial to work within the uni environment so spent nearly every day there. I actually really miss student life because it was such a great environment to experiment and basically do whatever you wanted, and also to realize what you liked as a designer. It was really one big self-initiated project for me. Of course self-initiated projects are still possible and I still continue to do them, it’s just finding the time now that is a bit more difficult.

What do you think you got from studying in London that you wouldn’t have if you’d studied elsewhere?

I’m from Australia and I think the design that’s produced there is excellent, but I think maybe the difference is the people that you’re introduced to over here, through lectures and tutorials, are different. I found it quite amazing that the design books I was reading for references were more often than not written or contributed to by one of the tutors from the university. I feel there is a lot more opportunity here, more diversity and influence in design, and that’s thanks to London being a hub for creatives. I also really enjoy the never ending amount of cultural things to do; there’s a constant education.

Why did you choose the uni and course that you did?

The choice of university was easy: when I stepped onto the King’s Cross campus I knew it was where I wanted to be. As for the course, I didn’t actually choose it, it was really just luck. I had applied for another course and was contacted to start the one I did. Turned out to be the best thing to happen—growing up in Australia, CSM’s regard obviously reaches there too, so I was very lucky for the opportunity.

Georgia Cranstoun, Reebok edits

Where did you live when you were studying, and where are you based now? 

I lived in Earls Court and I’m still living in that area. It’s great to be so close to galleries such as Tate Britain, Serpentine, Seeds Gallery, and more. I try to take in as much as I can to keep the inspiration going because for me, it helps me work, get inspired, and clear my mind.

What are the downsides of studying design in London?

Being an international student, the cost of uni was probably one of the only downsides to my study. Also, because I’m originally from a much smaller city, the busy nature of London took me a while to settle into, especially the fast pace of everything.

Georgia Cranstoun, art direction for Legacy, photography by Leonhard Hilzensauer

How was it for you in terms of finding employment after graduating?

I was lucky enough to get a job straight out of uni as a junior graphic designer with Made Thought. During my second and third year I had lined up internships and had spent my holidays there. I didn’t necessarily aim for employment before graduating—I thought some time off sounded nice before getting into anything serious—but I also really enjoy working full-time. I did find it really valuable, though, to have those internships before I graduated, because you tend to learn so much more on the job. It can be another learning process once you finish university.

On the side, I seek out freelance work in areas that most interest me. I feel that’s the best way to continue practicing and gain more experience. As well as my full-time work, I am currently working with design studio Vedet.

 

Joel Antoine-Wilkinson, studied graphic design at Kingston, graduated 2015

Joel Antoine-Wilkinson

What do you think you got from studying in London that you wouldn’t have if you’d studied elsewhere?

The ease of access to exhibitions, studio visits, openings, and other relevant events makes studying in London very enjoyable. There’s always something happening for you to go and see. Having your degree show in London also helps a lot; many universities have external shows in London, though, so this isn’t necessarily a deciding factor when choosing a university. Even more important than all of this is the exposure to a wide variety of cultures and different people with different backgrounds.  

Why did you choose the uni and course that you did?

I’ve experienced time studying at two different London universities. I studied my foundation year and first year of the B.A. graphic and media design course at London College of Communication before re-starting my Bachelor’s at Kingston University. I first chose LCC because of the great facilities and the strong history of the university and its successful alumni. The foundation course at LCC was one of the best years of education I’ve had; the tutors were very good. However, having no dedicated studio space for all five days of the week was quite a frustrating experience (I have heard this has changed quite a lot since my experience), as well as the high number of students in one class. I chose Kingston University because I had visited the degree shows and I found the students’ work to be really interesting, with a strong emphasis on conceptual thinking.

Joel Antoine-Wilkinson, Farm, university project

Where did you live when you were studying, and where are you based now? 

While studying at LCC I lived at home because it was close, easy to get to the university, and free, which is a very lucky position to have been in. I moved to Kingston because I wanted to experience independence as well as a large amount of debt. Living with your friends is a great experience and if it’s possible I would recommend this for students. I’m currently based in Berlin.

What are the downsides of studying design in London?

The first thing is the expense—people say that all the time, but for good reason. London is a very expensive city that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for recent graduates. I lived in London my whole life until recently, but I can imagine it being quite a stressful place to move to if you don’t know anyone or the city. Fortunately, university is the best place to meet and make new friends.

Joel Antoine-Wilkinson, Limitless, made in collaboration with Billy Bull

How was it for you in terms of finding employment after graduating?

I did a string of internships at different design studios after graduating, which seems to be fairly normal. I know some people are completely against internships and I understand why; however, I chose to treat the year after graduating almost as a Masters/experience in the industry year. In this instance I’m very lucky to be from London and have has a place to stay, which allowed me to do those internships. But I have friends who found it a lot harder.

After doing multiple internships I did begin to think “how much longer will this last?” especially since I had said no to a previous job offer in the hopes of finding something that either fit me better or allowed for a greater life experience. Again this is a very fortunate situation to have been in and saying no to a job offer as a graduate is hard.

Hannah Nightingale, studied graphic design at Central Saint Martins, graduated 2016

Hannah Nightingale

What’s the student culture like in London?

To be completely honest I’m not really sure what the student culture is like in London. I joined Central Saint Martins during second year, so I was never part of any freshers events. I’ve also never lived in halls or student accommodation, so I guess I’ve been removed from it somewhat. I think London is such a huge place as well, that it’s difficult to have much of a student culture. Smaller towns with universities tend to only have one central building/one bar/cafe etc, so I guess places like that have more a student hub and subsequent culture.

What do you think you got from studying in London that you wouldn’t have if you’d studied elsewhere?

So many things! First and foremost the amount of fantastic culture available everywhere—galleries, museums, exhibitions, talks/lectures, etc. I also think studying in London means you are surrounded by a huge mixture of cultures which can inspire, influence, and encourage you creatively. 

Hannah Nightingale, Neitan Guide Book

Why did you choose the uni and course that you did?

I chose Central Saint Martins because of its reputation for the graphic design course. I knew that it had good links to industry and some fantastic tutors, not to mention really great facilities. Also, because it is quite a large course, everyone seemed to have their own style and specific interests, be it digital, typography, or print. I chose graphic design because it is something I have always been passionate about and I was pretty certain I wanted to pursue it throughout life in one way or another. 

Where did you live when you were studying, and where are you based now? 

I lived in London when I was studying and I am still based here. I love London! Like I mentioned previously, it’s a hub of culture and such a great mixture of people. I also met most of my close friends here (at uni) and they all still live here, so it’s nice to be close to them. Work-wise as well, I feel like it’s got such a range of opportunities.

Hannah Nightingale, project

What are the downsides of studying design in London?

The downsides of studying design in London is quite frankly the amount of people doing it. Honestly, there’s a high rate of competition and many people trying to go for the same jobs once graduated. 

How was it for you in terms of finding employment after graduating?

I was quite lucky in terms of employment after graduating. I was lucky enough to be featured as one of the It’s Nice That 2016 graduates so I was contacted by quite a few studios. I started off doing an internship, then was offered a freelance job working for a film festival in Qatar. I’m now happily freelancing at a design studio based in East London.