Preface – I Used to Be a Design Student

A certain way of doing things



The idea for this project came when we were invited to give a talk at our old college, Camberwell College of Arts (London, UK), 12 years after our graduation. For the talk, we presented old student projects alongside work we had done in the ‘professional world’ and looked for connections between them.

Initially, we weren’t sure how fruitful this comparison would be, but we quickly realized that the connections were there once we started looking. These were sometimes conceptual, other times visual, but there was also a certain attitude that permeated the work. So, without necessarily being able to say exactly why, the work always felt that it belonged to the same people.

The students responded very well to the talk because they could relate to the college work and see how it fed into future projects. We also felt that it helped bridge the student and professional worlds a little, demistifying the transition from one to the other, reassuring students that they needn’t tremble with awe at the professional world, but instead remember that most practising designers used to be design students too.

And it was also strangely reassuring for us to revisit old projects and see that no matter how much our lives and work may have changed and developed, there was something there that was still fundamentally the same.


Realizing that other people’s work would also offer such insights, we invited graphic designers to share both a student project and a professional project with us. These two works could be similar conceptually or visually, or share a certain attitude or approach. They didn’t have to be the designers’ favourite projects but, rather, memorable projects of which they were fond, or which they considered to be defining in their development as a professional.

Our selection of contributors was pretty personal: some we had met during our studies (fellow students or tutors), others during our teaching (fellow tutors or students) and others are practising designers whose work we have always liked. Between them, the designers featured in this book have a total of 832 years of working experience and have spent 309½ years studying (see pages 20–21).

The aim of this publication is to trace the links between past and present work, and look at each designer’s particular methodology and attitude. We see this book as a resource students can use and will hopefully learn from, as well as something teachers can use in their practice.

For professionals, the book provides a great opportunity to have a peek at colleagues’ student work. And for the participating designers, it’s an opportunity to get all those unseen student projects (brilliant or slightly confused) out of the black leather portfolio, and give them a much-deserved public platform.


Being a designer is often a vocation, so it’s difficult to split the person from the work. We therefore asked contributors to give us feedback not only on their practice and influences, but on such incidental things as their weight, favourite food or their most valued possession, to help get a sense of what the person behind the work might be like. We decided to look at all these personal details alongside each other, comparing responses of different people to the same questions, for an overall ‘portrait’ of the design community (see pages 8–23 and 234–253).


Teaching for the past 15 years has made me very interested in the different means by which good design finds its expression. What I often see is that attitude (towards design, and also towards life in general) plays a major role in the kind of solutions one finds, and consequently in the kind of designer one becomes. A better description for this is the German ‘Haltung’, which describes attitude and mindset, as well as one’s posture – a person’s stance, notional and physical. It is the ‘Haltung’ of each contributor that we are looking for in this project. What kind of ‘Haltung’ do different graphic designers have? How important is it in creating a piece of design? What role does it play in how one’s work is received by others? Is it subject to change? Is ‘Haltung’ individual or can we adopt that of another? And most of all: does ‘Haltung’ visibly manifest itself in moments when things fall into place, when we realize and understand, when the penny drops?