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Design software experience – the strongest part of a student’s CV

29 November 2015

The biggest barrier facing today’s graduates is being rejected for jobs based on lack of work experience. If not enough experience stops them securing a role, how can they gain the necessary experience without being offered a job in the first place, asks Nikki Morris.

The Foundry has worked on Mercedes’ next-generation customer interface concept - 'Project Dash' - which, for the first time connects a true UI/UX designer’s tool directly to the in-car experience

The results of a Guardian newspaper graduate survey* showed that students said being rejected for jobs for not having enough experience was the toughest issue they face as a graduate job seeker. This is hardly a startling revelation — merely a reflection of the modern career world. The days of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” are long gone. If we look at the design industry in particular, is the lack of opportunities still the case?

Design students have one specific advantage over their peers as, right from the start of their studies many use the same design software in the classroom that they would in the workplace. In the sector generally, software tools and technology have a strong influence on modern design, speeding up the entire production and reducing the time-intensive grunt work, while giving designers unlimited options to focus on the creative and ideas side. Workflows have become digitised and whether it is product design, engineering, visualisation or art and imagery for marketing and advertising, many designers use the latest software to aid their creative processes.

In education, there are programmes that enable students to adopt the software as part of their learning paths. The opportunity to use cutting-edge software to learn real-world workflows gives design students a number of creative and career-boosting benefits.

In many ways the whole education process is the one place where students and the next generation of future designers will have everything at their fingertips. In the real world, there will almost always be a client to answer to – the education years are far less restrictive. The early part of the education process is about students really finding and playing with their creativity. Then, in the final years, students will start to think about how employable they are and, ideally, need to find that perfect blend between creativity and business acumen.

When it comes to entering the job market, at the end of the education period students who have access to software can also enhance and refine their portfolios. Young designers frequently create their best pieces during the final months of their degree and this can be demonstrated to prospective employers. In addition, during project work there will be no limitations on what they can produce and if they are asked to create a specific design as part of the job interview process, they will have all of the tools at their fingertips to develop the content.

There are many clear benefits for students when it comes to design software; however, there are also many advantages for the developers of the software themselves. The creative students form the next generation of designers and their opinions can be invaluable in helping to shape the future. The design software industry is being influenced from the roots up, as providers who engage with students during the earliest stages of higher education can respond to any relevant feedback in the design and development of their software.

Students have to think not only about their craft, but also focus on ways to establish longevity in their professional path. The education process involves understanding the business side of creativity and learning how each piece of work fits into the creative process. Software tools play into career longevity and give students the freedom to create and the power to express themselves. Work experience can be gained during studies by learning on the right tools, and the catch-22 situations that prevent students getting a foot on the career ladder may become a thing of the past.

*The Guardian survey results can be found here.

Nicki Morris is education manager at The Foundry

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