Placement Year: Bridging The Gap

Placement year can be difficult. For most people it is the realisation that there is no safety net in reality. At university and school, you can re-sit a test if you fail, in the work place, if you don’t do your job well, you are replaced. Placement year can both make or break a student; for myself, it broke me at this point.

During December, I was let go from BWAR. The reasoning behind it was difficult to comprehend for myself. The thing that placement officers don’t tell you is that the companies that take placement students will do one of two things: (1) they will make you shadow others and you will be the designated coffee barrister and maid, or (2) they will use your skills to their advantage.

I was lucky with BWAR, they helped me expand my skills in graphic design as well as other transferable skills. Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learnt though was to stand up for myself as well as learning about humility. Most placement students will feel that because they have got a placement, they are the best in their field. The fact of the matter is, that we as students are far from perfect or at the top of our game.

When I first started at BWAR, I thought that I would be used for the skills I had, as I was in essence stepping into a junior role that another member of staff was leaving. Whilst this was the case, it didn’t last for long. We are told before we begin placements that we should ‘make our own opportunities to learn’, so when the boss asked if I wouldn’t mind taking on more responsibility due to another member of staff leaving, I practically bit his arm off at the shoulder replying, “of course I would love to gain more experience”, this however, was the beginning of my fall.

My new title was “graphic designer and content writer”. I have never been a content writer, with blogging being the exception, but I decided that sometimes you need to do things you don’t like in order to get better at them. At first it was great. I got to learn how to talk to customers and gain an insight into the world of SMEs and other occupations. My writing skills improved, but with time the content I was writing became monotonous. There was only so many times you could write “we have over 50 years of hands on experience in the building industry, and are Gas Safe Registered”. With boredom came lack of passion, and in turn, my ability to content write declined. At this point, my job role was not as promised. My boss was not actively seeking a replacement content writer, nor was my role split 50/50; graphics and content. Instead, I was content writing most of the time and barely doing one logo a week.

With the content I was writing not maintaining the high standards expected, I was given a warning. This warning though was not welcomed, for I knew I could have dealt with it better. Though I had bitten my tongue during the meeting, I knew that I should have said something. I was not a content writer and the position was only supposed to be temporary. The fact that I was being punished for something I knew nothing about, and for all intents and purposes, was not great for me.

With time, I soon found myself out of a job and in a spiral of worry and depression. Christmas was far from easy. Businesses are not open over the Christmas period, so I had to wait until January for replies in regards to finding a new placement. I had chosen BWAR as it was a paid placement and I was trying to save up for university the approaching academic year. Now I was eating into those savings to stay afloat.

I do not hold anything against BWAR. The opportunities and teaching I got from the company were amazing. I learnt not only what I was good at, but also where I could improve. I learnt some basic CSS and HTML, how to put content into websites, how to duplicate sites, use of customer service skills, graphic design, templates for print and why we need them, marketing and so much more. The friends I made there were also invaluable and the clients I spoke to helped me discover more about the world around me, which is essential to life in the real world outside of university.

A few of my friends and old work colleagues endeavoured to help me at least find paid work after I left BWAR, and for that I am eternally grateful. The real world can be harsh, but with a few good allies and contacts you can go anywhere. I believe the expression “it’s not what you know, but who you know” was very applicable.

After Christmas I was getting interviews but no responses, which did not help with my depression or anxiety. I started to think that I was destined to fail my placement year and in turn my life in employment. All of a sudden, I received an email from a prestigious design studio, Neomam, in Manchester, stating that they would be willing to take me on under the conditions that I wouldn’t mind waiting until February/March time. I of course agreed and will be contacting them again soon to ask for an update. For me, this was the turning point. I had prospectively emailed the company asking if they had any openings for an intern. Though the reply was no, they had looked at my blog and had fallen in love with my perspective on things as well as my content writing skills.

I might not be a content writer for the likes of companies like at BWAR, but apparently I was a good writer when it came to columns and essays. This restored my faith a little. For myself, I knew that content writing like at BWAR was not my calling, but perhaps writing columns and blogs may have been. A few other companies started emailing me back stating that though they did not have any positions, but they would consider me after I graduated, due to my blogs. It was a path I then decided to consider.

A friend of mine in the meantime, placed me on his books for 4 weeks so that I would have a month less to worry about. Although this was not paid, it did go towards the weeks I needed to pass my year. The experience I gained whilst working with his company were essential and got me back on track to loving graphics again. I worked with some amazing clients who were based in the local area, as well as advertising for the Troll Run.

I still needed a paid job alongside this though, and opted to join a recruitment agency. There are many benefits to using a recruitment agency, the main one being that they find you work very quickly. In under a week of our initial meeting, I started a new job in customer services during the day, whilst continuing my internship from home in the evenings. Working in customer services, which doesn’t sound like it would help me with my graphic design career, actually did. Customer services taught me about content and humility again. The majority of inbound calls could have been prevented if manuals had been more user friendly, whether that meant text being bigger, content being clearer or images being a bit easier to understand. Although I may not have been doing any graphics here, it did help me understand the consequences of bad design. My time with this company came to an end rather unexpectedly, however it meant that I had enough money to pay off next year’s accommodation, with a little left over for the likes of my car insurance and so on.

I managed to find a placement that would cover me for my remaining mandatory weeks, which is where I presently am. Mel’s Weddings came at a time that I needed it most. Whilst unpaid, I am allowed to work from home and if I am needed to be in the office, I know that I will be covered financially.

During my first week or so, I helped in re-branding the whole company to “Luxury Events Group”. The following week I had helped run their social media accounts to learn about SEO requirements and Marketing. My followers on Instagram went from 200 to nearly 4000 almost overnight, with wedding companies, venues, marketing, bridal magazines and many brides to be now following my personal account.

It turns out that when you announce an “Instagram takeover” people assume you are a well-known blogger. I was posting not only to the company Instagram (@luxuryeventsgroup), but duplicating the posts on my own account (@scarletruthmargaret) and tagging the company in them. Hashtags and tags became my new best friends, as I will discuss in my next post.

Alongside this, an old friend of mine contacted me and wondered if I was still in the area of Staffordshire, offering me a teaching role. I had never considered teaching, as I was far from patient and I know that I was not a great public speaker. I may act confident, but put me in a room with 20 blank faces staring at me and you’ll find I internally scream for the earth to swallow me up. It wasn’t as it sounded though, it was 1-on-1 tuition in how to use certain pieces Adobe software and it was with adults and not children. At the end of the day, it was money and experience and would help me relearn what I hadn’t had practise in in a while. Though the company this was for has to be anonymous at this point, I know that it will eventually look good on my CV once they have signed a release.

I am excited for the next couple of weeks with Luxury Events Group and my teaching job, and I will be excited to see the opportunities that arise from them both. I will take each day as it comes and will aim to be a better me at the end.

So far, if I were to sum up my placement year, I would say that it has completely broken me. In saying that, it has also made me realise what I need to be doing in life and what strengths and weaknesses I need to focus on. All learning curves involve a steep slope, but I know that once I reach the top I will be ok. I may have had my confidence shot, but I know that the biggest lesson I needed to learn was humility, and I feel that I am doing this slowly but surely. I am not at the top of my field, and I may never be, but I do know that I am a better person from this.

Voyeuristic Intention

Art and Film is mostly dictated around voyeurism is modern times. Sarah Lucas is a key artist who has captured thepublic interest through her works based around eroticism, most importantly her Penetralia colletion.

Though art of the human body can be seen as beautiful, it should be questioned whether this form should be broadcasted to the world. In a prior blog post, I discussed how the ability to lose innocence in the modern age is far too easy, but if too censored the world could become too niave.

Sarah Lucas may very well push he boundaries on what should and shouldn’t be considered artwork, but what type of voyeurism is ok?

From sitting in a lecture in regards to the Penetralia exhibition, my mind went back to the film Cloverfield. Many viewers of this film fell in love with this documentary, home video styled piece, that felt too realistic.

The idea of having something so close to home, being displayed aided in captivating an audience and the minds of many conspirists. Watching it though, it may be considered as voyeurism. A key scene in the movie is when the Statue of Liberty is beheaded. This could be a metaphor for the enjoyment of voyeurism as a whole though, since it could be that freedom, is slowly turning into an institution that isn’t what it claims to be. Society is constantly oppressed by having it’s innocence lost due to the freedom to publicise art, such as Sarah Lucas’.

However, as mentioned in another blog post, perhaps voyeurism and losing innocence is up to the discretion of the individual or the individual’s guardians. Should we allow pieces such as “Wanking Arm”, “Swan” and the Penetralia exhibit to be displayed in such a large way, or is it only those who are interested in art and art critique who are subject to it?

Context Saves Lives

It is a proven fact that grammar can often aide in the understanding of any given text, but what about context. In this exersize, we took a well known manifesto and blanked out words. Words out of context can change the entire feel for a piece, for example, the one we editted as a part of the lecture: On the left, you will see the original, on the right, a blanked out version.

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Feminism Development

During many lectures, feminism has become a main focal point. Though I do in fact disagree with many feminists who say that women in western cultures are victimised, I will continue this blog post.

With a focus on propaganda during both world wars, we see a change in the role of the woman. As stated in the lectures, the woman is victimised into being a weakling and needing protection. Although I agree that the “damsel in distress” will always instigate a reaction from men, this was merely the times.

I would however like to disagree with the statements made about women being seen as the victim. Whilst men were off fighting the war, women were left to pick up the pieces. They had to take the place of the man in any given household. They were given a form of equal rights, as they were now seen as good enough to take part in typical male duties. The society became gender neutral.

Women were not victimised as not only were they seen as strong for being able to take over these roles, but also smart enough to potentially cause a collapse of a nation with slogans such as “Keep mum, she’s not dumb” may have graced the public walls, but this was not to belittle a woman into saying that women will gossip to the wrong people. Perhaps this was more the fact that women were smart enough to be able to partake in espionage.

Feminism is very different to sexism. Sexism implies there is a victim; feminism should stand for equality. By going out of our way to see women as a victim and try to better ourselves to outdo men, we are not being helpful. There should be a definitive marker of equality instead of trying to palm of sexism as feminism. The semiotics of propaganda when it comes to this topic will always be open for interpretation, but we need to realise that times have changed and victimisation in this context will not help society today.

Defining Trends

When designing, we aim to be influential. In my final essay for last year, I made the argument that the influential is still influenced by others, and that in one sense ‘there is nothing new under the sun’.   With this being said, it is key that design has an origin, or at least an attempted origin.

This piece of design below featured by the design group: Experimental Jet Set, has been the influencer for many designs to follow and has become a pop culture trend that has been repeated many-a-time.

This design, although minimalistic, is perhaps the most sucessful layout  that has been crafted in the modern age. But why does it work?

Society in itself is getting more and more complex with each technological and political step forward, so perhaps as individuals are looking for something simple to contrast with this in a more subconscious perspective.

Regardless of the opinions and theories behind minimalism, it is safe to say that a design like this, that as generated so many spin offs, is the ideal outcome of any piece of design. Whether or not this is deemed a good thing, due to copyright and perhaps the inevitability of boredom in regards to this aesthetic, aiming to be this famous, and the ability to set a trend should be an aim in any given industry. Market competitors will always look to out do you, so aim to set the bar yourself.

The Decline of the Brains of Civilisation

Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I sometimes question the human race’s abilities to survive. If evolution is true, why is it that nobody is smart enough to realise that sometimes something that is said is not meant to be taken literally. For example, today’s newsfeed rant comes from an article in the Telegraph, which can be found here.

Although, yes, Red Bull’s ‘gives you wings’ slogan is indeed false advertising, who in their right mind decided to test it in that manner?

Our course at university is very broad and we are taught a variety of subjects including marketing, history and how to use a piece of software. In our marketing and design in context’s lectures, we learn that we need to make our work fool proof. This is not to say that our employers are idiots, this is merely stating that whilst we are taught about the more in-depth things at university, it is not needed when discussing something with an employer. For example, an employer does not need to know why a certain way of printing is best due to ‘insert-scientific-reasons-with-big-words here’. They only need to know that that specific style of printing is going to work better for them because of ‘insert simple term here’.

Layman’s terms can seem condescending, but time is money. Employers need responses to their briefs in there here and now. They do not need massive explanations, which they may or may not have time for. If someone needs to know the ins and outs, that is where you can explain. Everyone specialises in something, and therefore an employer will trust your judgements and advise, regardless of their decisions. It is our job to provide options and excellent outcomes for any given client.

Easy Reading: Laws and Censorship

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The world as we know it has always been governed by rules. Postmodern artists see rules as something to be broken. New discoveries and ideas can never be made from following basic principles. Rules can affect the art world and we must be conscious of the boundaries we push.

The Image of Law is a treatise written to take the idea of the conceptual and suggests we evolve a particular style of thinking. We assume, in law, that a judiciary applies laws that have already been set. Theorist and philosopher Lefebvre tries to explain that the concept of judgement as largely involving a set of creative strategies. A case could involve many complex situations and may have many potential outcomes.

When the law is questioned, or broken by an artist, although they may receive consequences, they are not persecuted as much and are not subsequently sentenced fairly. Examples can be seen in the celebrity world where they receive punishment for doing wrong that would be the equivalent of fining the average person two pence. It appears that famous artists get away with a lot more in a jury based trial as they can afford better defence lawyers. In conclusion, arts can push boundaries as the punishments do not take into account these people’s earnings.

In attempting to challenge the laws around us, protests and political art can be very powerful. Advertising campaigns such as those that PETA and Guerrilla Girls have used, acquire shock tactics in order to be noticed. Although these tactics may work, they can often be for the wrong reasons. For every controversial decision, there is a backlash.

Being controversial can often be percieved as offensive and questions how far an artist can push are often raised. A child will often push boundaries set by parents, but only so far as they know there will be a punishment. Grotesque images often make a point and through influential manipulation can change the mind of an audience. Many parents agree that these types of campaigns are not suitable for all eyes.

Graphic images and bold art pieces need to be made for a specific audience and for persons with high levels of maturity. Artists such as Damien Hirst keep their artwork in a gallery so that not everyone is forced to witness it. Art based on mortality is definitely for more specialised audience. The purpose of these pieces would not be critical and not forced upon public, like in Banksy’s work.

There are of course both pros and cons to censorship. Children learn through experience. The question of why we shouldn’t show controversial items to our children still remains. Many still question if it would be robbing our children of their innocence if we did show them.

In conclusion, controversial art should be distributed wisely and not overly censored. During both World Wars the government created censorship laws so that soldiers’ letters home and the newspapers would not worry the general public. Propaganda causes paranoia.

We do not want to cause a negative uprising. We strive to change the world for the better. The viewing of this kind of artwork though should be up to the potential viewers discretion and should not be forced upon someone.

Easy Reading: Childhood Game

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We all know the game where we start a drawing, hide what we have drawn and let someone else continue the picture. Not many people know that its actual name is “The Exquisite Corpse” and it was invented by surrealists in the 30’s, pioneered by André Breton. The concept of this mere childhood game is a lot broader than it initially seems.

When I was a child, the exquisite corpse was played to both entertain and to break the ice in classroom settings. In one sense you could say that this game attempted to fill the void of loneliness. Also, the segments of each drawing can be analysed from a psychological stand point to try and gain insights into who a person is. A logical progression could show signs of an intelligent person; an elaborate progression would show a creative mind ; an innappropriate progression could show signs of an immature mind. If each part of the drawing can tell us a lot about an individual player then the exquisite corpse is a gateway to knowing someone, filling the void of the absence of knowledge.

There are many perspectives taken on the theory of the exquisite corpse. The Steve Sandvoss film, “The Exquisite Corpse” and the famous novel “Frankenstein” demonstrates filling the void of companionship. Frankenstein’s monster was constructed to remove the pangs of loneliness, though it did not work too well in his favour. In the Sandvoss film, multiple women are harvested in order to save one life, curing death, filling the void, once again, of loneliness and to eradicate the feelings of the loss of a loved one.

In the movie “The Exquisite Corpse Project” the concept of the exquisite corpse was taken to a written form, in order to bring a group of friends together for one last time. The concept was used to mask, for just a few moments, the fact that they will all soon be dispersed and will inevitably be lonely without their close companions near. Each section scripted by each individual, can be psychoanalysed, each segment represents each person and shows that there is quite a contrast in everyone’s writing style. This could possibly be a metaphor for psychological distancing between each character as their inevitability of leaving each other becomes more real.

The anthropmorphising and personifying of the exquisite corpse is a matter of life. The international film project of the exquisite corpse brought people together for one common finality just like the process of farming and produce selling. Someone will plant the food, but it takes many people and stages before that food can be eaten after being bought. This process would be for the inevitable filling of the void of hunger.

In applying the exquisite corpse concept to the bigger picture, life is what it is all about. Life is made up of segments and the final outcome of each set of segments will fill some sort of void.

Easy Reading Essay: Artist’s Roles

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An artist narrates the world visually, but why are they needed? The role of an artist can be one of breaking conformity and aiding in peacekeeping aims. They may not always be perceived as good people since some aim to change the minds of audiences. Therefore, the question remains: is being an artist a matter of ethical principles or is it just a form of martyrdom.

From an academic point of view, you could say that what an artist does is similar to that of a psychologist Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst, tells that that a person needs to narrate their way around a trauma in order to get over it. With careful guidance, a person can deal with emotional traumas.

From the more vocational perspective of art, you could apply Freud’s theory to how art works. The artists would be the middle man, in that they would be the ones constructing the narrative. This means that a person would just need to comprehend the artwork in order to recover from whatever they are dealing with. Hypothetically, this could mean that the artist is painting their own dreams in order to narrate their own problems.

Dreamers are often frowned upon in modern day society, as explained to us through the life story of John Lennon and in his song “Imagine”. The world is never ready for controversial ideas. Philosopher and psychologist Foucault, states that we are all subjects of social institutions, for example a student of university or a family member. We need to follow some often unwritten rules to remain in these institutions, so being controversial is not an option unless that person wants to be considered “ill”.

Artists are required to express their dreams, which potentially could mean veering off these laid paths they ought to be consciously following. To put it literally a person will be turning their subconscious into consciousness and that is what is considered not conforming to institutional discourse. The world wants conformity and that could potentially mean being under a form of a communist regime. Would this then hypothesise that it is not ethical to wake a dreamer, being that most people agree that communism is a negative form of political control?

It is far too easy to lose the innocence in being allowed to dream in society today. Artists Marcel Duchamp and Sarah Lucas explain that innocence dies with the growth of maturity. Eyes sting when they see light for the first time, and so does losing innocence. The Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet film “Finding Neverland” is the perfect example of what an artist’s job is. Artists paint dreams we no longer see, for the purpose of bringing a person back to their younger, more carefree self, with guidance.

We must take responsibility for keeping the arts alive. Art is a potential cure for conformity and the reminder of naivety once lost. We must not wake a dreamer.