Carpet design

Hugh Williamson: “It’s crucial to celebrate our local design talents”

The government has estimated that the creative industries contribute £112 billion to the UK economy a year. Look around and almost everything you see was designed or produced by someone who may have started their career after graduating.

From your plates and bowls to your family car, from TV series and documentaries to comic books and graphic novels.

Having designed everything from preschool toys to luxury cars, and modular buildings to train interiors, I know from experience the buzz of seeing your own creations in the world.

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And the students who participated in our annual degree show last week were able to experience the fruits of their labor as they showcased their creative talents to visitors from industry, local schools and colleges, and friends and families.

The Degree Show is one of the visual highlights of the year and a fantastic celebration of three years of hard work showcasing the year-end projects of over 300 talented art, design, media and performance students.

The event was opened by our honorary graduate, the inimitable Keith Brymer-Jones, who enthusiastically praised our students’ production (maybe there were tears!).

We were delighted to be joined for the event by visitors ranging from designers from Bentley and Marks and Spencer, to staff from Grain Projects and Johnson Tiles.

Many of our creative students will now showcase their work at New Designers in Islington, an annual graduate show that can be a real stepping stone to their careers.

The majority of our courses have “live” industry briefs, which involve working with large local and national companies. This ensures that our future graduates are industry-ready and aware of current issues.

We carefully nurture students’ entrepreneurial skills, and many will now start their own creative businesses, often with the help of Staffordshire University programs like Be Inspired.



Staffordshire University

Having the courage and confidence to show off your talents is part of the degree experience and our cartooning and comics course was recently on display at London Comic-Con, with most students selling their publications!

We also won first and second place in the Young Cartoonist of the Year award, once again demonstrating the high caliber of our students.

While many graduates will find direct employment as designers, artists or photographers, others will seek to expand their practice with one of our excellent master’s courses.

For example, our MA in Ceramic Design always attracts students from around the world and their work is regularly featured at the UK Ceramics Biennale, held in Stoke-on-Trent.

As a leading digital institution, Staffordshire University has fabulous facilities for 3D printing, virtual reality, virtual production and CAD.

However, as befits a city with a proud artisanal heritage, we embrace analog craft skills alongside digital. This can be on the potter’s wheel, using a carpet gun or working in a traditional photographic darkroom.

We have seen a resurgence of public interest in the practice as evidenced by TV programs such as Great British Sewing Bee, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Great British Bake-Off, Repair Shop and many more. I like to think we offer the perfect mix, what I like to call ‘Digilogue’!

Our new BArch (Hons) Architecture course takes us a step further, so that we not only influence products and processes, but create places in a way that will act as a catalyst for ideas and solutions to regenerate our diverse city. .

Again, we draw heavily on the area’s creative heritage and now hold an annual Cedric Price Day to celebrate and explore the work of this Staffordshire-born architect, responsible for innovative proposals such as Potteries Thinkbelt.

We are delighted to report that our reputation as a creative hub, within a creative city, seems to be improving. For example, Art UK, the online home of all UK public art collections, recently moved from London to offices in our Innovation Enterprise Zone.

Award-winning advertising agency VCCP has also opened a Stoke Academy to tap into local talent and open up opportunities for local young people. Their creative team worked closely with the University of Staffordshire and eight students from a range of courses were offered places in their ‘Best Summer Job’ internship programme. The paid internship will be based at VCCP’s office in Stoke, with fully paid travel to the London agency one day per week.

We can all play a part in embracing and celebrating creativity by supporting local designers, artists and makers, so the next time you brew yourself a cup of tea in your favorite mug or rest your head on your cushion the cuter, spare a thought for the designer who made your day a little brighter.

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