As ever, our TICE Graphics mentor, Mark Pattinson, truly put students to the test for this year’s Explore Stage. 18 students from Hebburn Comprehensive School and John Spence Community High School had the chance to explore every possibility over the two days – including college courses and careers in the design sector. With help from the top locations of design in the North East, we were able to really showcase what the local area has to offer…

Day 1: Newcastle College (Mandela Building)

To kick things off, Mark wanted to put students to the test with a day of skills development, using the no. 1 software used constantly in the Graphic Design industry. Photoshop. Yes, the wrath of Photoshop returns!

Now the importance of Photoshop gets mentioned a lot, but its benefits are never explained, thus Mark took a few moments to demonstrate exactly how the software can be the primary tool for professional work. He covered image treatments (gradients, colour blocking), design layout (poster, websites), typography, packaging and animation – to name a few.

After Mark’s overview, he wanted to put words into practice with a creative task – to design a piece on Photoshop relating to the iTunes Festival. This was a great way for Mark to give the students that foundation of understanding and to also test their listening skills. Inevitably, these would be the two primary skills that would determine their place in the final stage of the programme. It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm and interest in the task – students were consistent in asking questions to make their work come to life in a contemporary and trend-driven way. Inevitably, students had strengths and weaknesses in a difficult task such as Photoshop, which encouraged them to work collaboratively and support one another. Already, the students were embodying a true, creative professional.

Newcastle College was also kind enough to give the Graphics team a tour of their facilities in the Mandela Building, including the rustic, stylish studios. Students were also introduced to the various courses available, and how in just a matter of years, they could potentially be in those studios working on their very own projects.

Day 2: Northern Design Centre (NDC)

Moving onto Day 2 of Explore, students made their way to the Northern Design Centre – an architecturally stunning building located on the Quayside, and a hub of creatives in the design sector. Once settled, the students were introduced to a few industry elites in the Graphic Design field…

Adam Burn – Creative Director of Precept:

Adam delivered a fantastic, and engaging presentation on his own personal journey into the creative industries, now working for Precept – a brand communications agency based in Newcastle, specialised in branding, web design and more. The underlining message throughout his talk was simply…’love what you do!’. He covered an array of areas into creative opportunities and by the end of it, students had filled their notepads with top tips and industry advice!

Alex Lockey – Senior Graphic Designer of Fueled:

Alex had the students laughing from the start with a clear introduction on screen…ALREET! Again, Alex covered an array of personal goals and failures throughout his career, highlighting, ‘…failure is good because you become a better person for it.’ Students gave a big sigh of relief as they couldn’t believe that someone so successful had been through multiple failures – it shows that not everything comes easy, and it takes a lot of knockbacks before you find what you’re meant to do. He opened the floor to Q&A and honestly, nearly every hand was up to ask a question. Amazing and inspiring conversations were had.

Holly Ellis – Freelance Graphic Designer:

Hollie finished the industry presentations by talking about her own career paths and some of the big brands she has worked for. She had worked on the stage in her Uni days, offering students to ‘come and look’. She even touched upon a personal issue she had to deal with – bullying in the workplace, and how you MUST tell someone if it happens to you. A very touching and moving speech, but she discussed how staying positive and charging forward in her career made all the difference to where she is now. Certainly, a huge inspiration for our students.

As you can see, students had a true taste of the paths available in the design sector and they walked away with new found knowledge, understanding and motivation. They all took up the opportunity to meet new people, including other students and industry professionals, as well as test themselves with a multitude of skills – teamwork, resilience and even technical ability. The Explore Stage has already given them the tools for an exciting, creative career path.

We also took a brief trip to the Media Partnership offices. Thank you!

A huge thanks to the venues, schools and industry guests for your participation and enthusiasm!