I applied to Cardiff Met as a mature student. I didn’t feel that I was progressing much as a designer, and it got to the point where I wanted to try something new and challenge myself. I knew Cardiff Met was the right choice for me when I came up and met the course leader, David Wrenne. The more he talked about the course, the more excited I was about what I could achieve and what it could do for me.
I’d already done a degree in Music in Wales. I had graduated from the University of Glamorgan [now part of the University of South Wales] 10 years earlier. That was very different. At that age, you’re trying to let loose a bit: you’re living away from home for the first time. The second time round, I had a job and I was gigging and touring with a Cardiff band. The focus was on working hard, not on my social life!
On the course, they really set you up for real-life work and design jobs. Clients would come in from outside and give us briefs, and we would then spend a month or two working with them as part of the course. I think it’s really important to have live projects: you’re not just working on an assignment that the tutors have set you. You have a real responsibility to make sure you meet the brief in the best way you can. It’s almost like a real job.
It’s an exciting time to be a designer in Cardiff – and Wales in general – because of the creative community. There are so many agencies and organisations thriving here, and new ones setting up. It made me realise that I don’t have to go to London to find opportunities. The creative community here is close-knit, and it’s really easy to meet people. People are very generous with their time – whether it’s giving you feedback on your work or telling you about opportunities coming up.
‘My confidence has completely changed – I’ll get involved in anything’
The university heavily involves the creative industries in the course. Cardiff Met runs ‘Afterlife’ talks, in which they invite people from agencies to come in and tell the students about their experiences. We found out what they expect from new designers coming through university and going into the real world. We got insight into how to apply for a job – things like how to show off your work and set out your portfolio.
My final year at Cardiff Met was crazy. I had an internship with a local marketing agency, and they kept me on for seven months after that. In my first week there, they wanted me to work on rebranding the company, which was a very big thing to do. This was a business that had been going for 20 years. I started a magazine and a networking club, both based in Barry where I live, and was able to do a lot of side projects with the local community – including Barry Pride, the first event of its kind there.
We had the chance to enter a lot of awards. I was one of five people on the course to be granted membership of ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers). I won a prize for the best dissertation of the year, and a creative design award. That was a big thing for me.
Compared with when I started the course, my confidence has completely changed. I’m happy to talk to anyone and get involved in anything. Before I did my degree, I’d probably shield myself from doing that, and wouldn’t take the sort of risks I do now. Since I graduated, my partner and I have got a lot of work from companies and organisations in Wales. Within five or 10 years, we’re planning to set up our own agency.