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A couple of weeks ago I went along to THE Store in Dunstable (the new hub for Central Bedfordshire College's Art and Design courses) for the private view of an exhibition called Type Can Speak. I'd been invited by clients Martyn Dolbear and David Flynn of Xcaliba, a specialist print management company, who had teamed up with the College a few months earlier after searching for a local education "partner" to take on a graphic design brief.
It was refreshing to see the enthusiasm from all sides, especially at a time when we're used to just hearing complaints from "business" about how poorly equipped graduates are for the world of work.
Here was a company willing to support students by giving them a real business brief and by working with them and mentoring them throughout the process.
The aim of the project was to produce a book featuring typography and the role it plays in creating innovative and inspiring design. You can read more about the project on the Xcaliba blog.
Project collaboration with a local college is something I quite often suggest to clients but which all too frequently meets with a lukewarm response. They think it will be too difficult to organise or fear they'll invest a lot of time and effort only to get poor results which they are unable to use. Interestingly some also feel that they'll be taking advantage of students who take part for no financial reward.
At the Type Can Speak event College representatives and students were of one voice on this point - the "real world" experience of a project like this is simply priceless.
It is true though that the business commissioning the project must be prepared to give it their all and devote the same care and attention to briefing and developing the project as they would in a real commercial situation. They also have to be fully engaged in supporting learning, giving constructive feedback.
At its best this is a valuable exchange of experience and talent rather than cash.
Higher Education Tutor at Dunstable, Celeste Henney, says
"Students benefit in many ways from 'live briefs', this includes the meeting of realistic deadlines and developing communication skills both by email and in face to face meetings. They get to understand a little of the commercial restraints and restrictions inherent within real world projects, such as cost considerations. More importantly it is the pressure and challenge of having to impress a client that benefits them most. It helps to motivate the students who in this case have exceeded our expectations, really working hard and coming up with ideas that are original and unique to each of them."
If you are interested in typography, you can order your free copy of the Type Can Speak book from the Xcaliba website. All the student contributions are also available as prints sure to brighten up any dull wall! Xcaliba have set up a print ordering portal (using a version of their own "web to print" solution) with all proceeds going to the students.
If you have thoughts to share or tips on how to create successful student project collaborations, post them here!
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