Posted 18 June 2020

“I worry the pandemic will worsen inequality”

Before now, no one could have imagined graduating during a global pandemic. University doors are shut and students have little or no access to resources, graduation ceremonies are on hold, and the graduate show, as we know it, has been reimagined – virtually. On top of this, many students and soon-to-be grads are now distant from their course mates, and missing the energy of a bustling studio. With all this in mind, a few weeks back we reached out to students across the country to ask how they’re feeling, the things that were worrying them the most, and how else Covid-19 has impacted them so far.

On Access and Resources

Ishwari Giga
Third year Graphic Communications Design student at Central Saint Martins

“I’m in a constant state of feeling overwhelmed. For the first two years of my course I was consumed by the inequalities that exist within art and design, and spent so much of my time struggling with imposter syndrome. On entering my third year, I decided that this was it – this was the year I would make all work I wanted.

“Before Covid-19 hit, I was making big strides in the right direction, but once we were told we would not be returning, it was clear to me that I wouldn’t be able to make the work I wanted. What’s heartbreaking is I know I won’t have the resources to make it, even after this over, and I don’t feel like I have a solid piece of work that I could show someone in industry.

“I was also worried about the accessibility of online teaching. On-campus learning levels the playing field, in that everyone has the same space and resources available. That’s a big part of what you pay for an art and design institutions. But there are now students learning online who don’t have the luxury of the best equipment or studios in their houses, and it is them that will suffer. These institutions are already unequal places for Black and non-Black POC students and I worry that this pandemic and online learning will worsen that inequality.”

Gareth McMurchy
Third year student on the Product Design degree, The University of Dundee

“My biggest worry is the impact the crisis will have not just on my own studies, but on my friends at university. I am approaching my final year of study in Scotland, and the level of access to workshops and facilities will make a significant difference on the outcome of everyone’s final projects. I worry about my friends who do not have sufficient access to essential digital tools at home, such as 3D modelling softwares or Adobe programs. This will affect their ability to work from home in a major way.

“I fear that working remotely may be encouraged more, which undermines the whole premise of art school, and makes the assumption that everybody attending is privileged enough to have access to adequate resources; including computing equipment – whether that be strong Wi-Fi, printer, scanner or crafting materials. I also worry about the state of the creative industries after the crisis has subsided. The economic impact will be felt for a considerable time, and I am nervous as to how this will affect any potential opportunities after my studies have finished.”

On Entering Industry

Ailish Beadle
Third year Illustration student at Norwich University of the Arts

“My biggest worry is graduating and entering a recession. I worry that it is going to be near impossible to get a job. We are already falling behind previous years, as we’re unable to network at events like New Blood and degree shows. Attempting to break into industry was already daunting enough, but I now have no confidence in securing commissions – particularly as I’ve just had a pretty big one cancelled.

“It would be great if I could find an animator to collaborate with on a small project, to see what my work looks like in movement! Alternatively, I’d love to speak to someone about entering the world of advertising as a junior.”

Michael Peters
Third year Graphic Design student at Sheffield Hallam University

“A lot of agencies may not be able to take on a new junior designer or a few interns in the coming months. This leaves me wondering if I’ll end up applying for junior designer roles at the same time as next year’s graduates?

“Alongside this, I’m worried about the lack of connections and exposure myself and many other students will receive, due to not being able to run a degree show or visit different studios for portfolio reviews.”

Josh Adam Jones
MA Photography student at University of the West of England

“I am currently studying for my MA in photography at UWE, and I was recently able to cancel my direct debit for the course. It took quite a few back-and-forth emails with HR and the complaints department, and I’ll still owe the university when my final student finance payment arrives – but I did it! Although it has given me slightly more financial security, I still have to pay for the remainder of my course, which has now become very different to what I initially signed up for.

“My biggest worry is what the photography industry will look like for an emerging photographer, even with a freshly-acquired MA. I think it's going to be difficult to generate a new client base for editorial and advertising work, and public arts funding opportunities are probably going to be even more competitive.

“A positive that has emerged from this global crisis is the amount of individuals and organisations who have offered their time and expertise for free, which has definitely helped. In terms of specific help right now, like most others, I am trying to reach out to new people who I’d be interested in working with, post Covid-19.”

Liv Fairbairn
Second year Graphic Communications Design student at Central Saint Martins

“I’m increasingly concerned about how the pandemic will affect myself and my peers in finding internships and work experience. I love every aspect of my course, but I now yearn to find my path in industry – even if it feels this dream is more distant now. I am also worried that there will be less demand for the work I’m interested in. However, the fashion industry’s collective effort in producing emergency PPE has proved how creative people are in times of crisis. I hope that organisations and businesses reflect on this, and realise how the diversity of our skill sets make us all indispensable.

“While working remotely for the last term of uni has left me feeling disconnected from my community, there have been some positives. The extraordinary stretch of time spent at home allowed me to finally throw myself into projects with no distractions; I’ve become more organised, finished projects I never thought I would, and learned things I never thought I’d learn. Completing old projects gave me such a sense of satisfaction and achievement that it entirely altered my mindset.

“Being creative is a saving grace when facing adversity – not only is it an outlet to take your mind off the circumstances, but you have the power to create a sense of hope and change perceptions about the situation through the work that you make. It is true that every cloud has a silver lining, albeit some harder to see than others.”

On Missing Community and Adapting

Hannah Tunnley
Third year Graphic Branding & Identity student at LCC University of the Arts London

“I’ve gone from being in the studio pretty much every day, to now being back in my childhood bedroom. I’ve created a makeshift desk and have been joining virtual tutorials and group crits via my university. I miss the buzz of working in a studio surrounded by other creative minds. And now, two months in, I miss it even more.

“I really feel like I’ve missed out on the exciting conversations that would normally be happening around this time of year. I’m worried about what’s next. The plan was to intern at a few branding agencies but I’m unsure how that will happen, given the hard times we’re facing. I’d still love to do this even if it means starting the next chapter via Zoom.”

Isabel Murphy, on behalf of the AUB course
Third year Graphic Design student at Arts University Bournemouth

“Our final weeks of uni were disrupted due to the unavoidable pandemic. Our entire year group is saddened by the fact that we cannot complete our year on a high and and share our last moments together – especially after such an adventurous and exhilarating three years.

“Together we have been organising our virtual degree show, Align 2020, since we’re now working with the likelihood that the exhibition and graduation ceremony are likely to be postponed. Although despite these circumstances it’s been an opportunity to change up our working environment, make more connections with friends and realise how limitations can alter your design practices.

“We are still hopeful and excited to complete our Bournemouth experience, even if it wasn’t what we had expected three years ago. One day we will reunite as the AUB Graphic Design class of 2020 and reminisce on what we endured and look forward to the careers we are embarking on.”

Febe Tobing
Second year BA Graphic Communication Design student at UAL Central Saint Martins

“Being in a creative field of study allows me to utilise my projects as a way to streamline productivity and creative thinking as a coping mechanism while in quarantine. However, when projects end, I find myself going through Groundhog Day as the feeling of anxiety and loneliness kick in again.

“While my reason for staying in London was to prioritise my safety, dealing with the situation does take away the perks of isolating with family. As an international student isolating away from home and family, feeling isolated is not an unfamiliar concept. My biggest worry is the constant questioning of: When is this going to end? Or will it? while I’m adjusting through the ‘new normal’ of a daily routine filled with uncertainty.

“In light of this situation, I’d love to connect with a network of creatives that are in the same position, as I'm sure loneliness is an aspect many are experiencing. Having a support system in the creative community enhances our creativity to aid our wellbeing.”

Molly Rooney
Second year Graphic Design student at Nottingham Trent

“As a graphic design student who thoroughly enjoys working in print and physical media, I have found lockdown quite difficult without access to facilities or technicians. Although I am enjoying learning more digital methods of creating and having to experiment more with what I can find in my house to print with or scan, I feel the level of work I’m producing is far lower than usual. This has ultimately given my confidence, creatively, a bit of a knock.

“I don’t think I realised how much being in a studio environment, and being around fellow creatives, actually affects my productivity and motivation to create. I thoroughly miss being around like-minded individuals – being at home away from university in Nottingham is certainly draining in terms of trying to stay motivated. The rush of lockdown means I left some of my favourite graphic design books at university, so I’m missing those a lot too.”

Martin Floss
Third year Digital Interaction Design student, The University of Dundee

“A week prior to lockdown, I was due to study in Germany for an Erasmus. The start date was delayed by a month while we waited to see how it would play out. My university then shut down, so I have to do a full semester’s work, as well as make up the credits that I would have gained in Germany. It’s proving difficult without my peers, fact-to-face contact and a studio to work in.”

Written by Creative Lives in Progress