Tool #1: Creating a fertile ground for your practice

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Despite the fact that over the last fifteen years, internships and performing free-labour have become normalised within the standard route to establish oneself in the creative industries, these modalities should not be seen as absolutely necessary. While a student, you can make use of the educational context – which is rich in people and (often) production facilities – to create a fertile ground for your practice.

On the one hand, the educational context facilitates your connection with others in mutually supportive ways that can reach beyond graduation. On the other hand, it offers you a framework within which to start producing the kind of work you would like to make a living from.

Whilst still a student, considering how the following elements can help you and your peers to build mutual support structures for the future:

• Who are the people you have strong affinities with? Can you start collaborating, building a collective practice or sharing a working space?

• Whose work are you interested in, both within and outside the field of design? Can you invite them to run a workshop or give a talk at your school? Can you spend a day at their studio/office/headquarters to learn more about their ways of working?

• Which of your student works reflects what you want to do in the future and how you want to work? What interesting ways are there to start circulating this work?

• Consider your thesis project as your first self-commissioned work through which you can express, explore and develop your interests, approach and expertise. People can’t simply imagine what you ideally want to produce and how you want to work – you have to show them first.

• What aspects of being in education do you find most supportive and inspiring? Can you think of ways to collectively replicate them after having graduated?

• Consider what structures (social, material, affective, etc.) you would need to have in place in order to continue to develop your own practice. In what ways could you start building or organising them?

• Would you prefer to work in the area where you studied or could you move somewhere else? How can you prepare the ground beforehand? What opportunities – and what costs (monetary, physically and psychologically) – will this entail?

• Consider that many designers who are starting out get commissions or jobs through their social network. What ways are there to build up and activate such a network for yourself and your peers?

• Consider that part of working as a designer is to engage in your rights as a worker or small entrepreneur. What organisation(s) can you become part of that will stand up for your rights? Joining them while still a student may not only reduce the costs but will allow you to become familiar with them.

Last edit: 19.06.2014