The government hasn’t done its homework when it comes to education, argues Neville Brody. Without investment in talented young creatives – at university and beyond – UK industry will stagnate
In the UK, we are facing a crisis in creative education. The government is obsessed with a Victorian model of society that is mechanistic, yet the modern world is hybridised and all about crossing boundaries. Education shouldn’t be about having to choose: it should be about everyone being given access to some form of creative learning.
For new creatives, it is now regrettably harder than ever to find employment. Tens of thousands of creative students graduate every year, but there are diminishing numbers of entry-level jobs. Unpaid placements are rife, and all too often it’s not what you know, but who you know.
At D&AD we’re trying to bridge the gap with our New Blood programme, which offers initiatives to students worldwide, providing them with insight, opportunities and those all-important first breaks. This year’s New Blood Exhibition is running from 2nd–4th July (it’s open to the public from the 3rd), where a hundred of the world’s top creative courses display their best graduate work. If you’re looking to hire new talent, it’s the best place to start.
The UK is a nation of inventors and we have successfully convinced the government of our engineering prowess. What is critical now is to break down the barrier between creative thinking and engineering thinking. But our current geo-industrial landscape means sections of the country have been disadvantaged by government policy with regard to broader creative education.
Because creativity isn’t quantifiable, it loses out – yet some of our greatest cultural treasures have been vilified at the point of launch. We wouldn’t have had David Bowie at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, or The Beatles, if not for art schools.
The bottom line is that we need to be producing a nation of creative thinkers, not creative objects. It isn’t about developing clichéd craft, it’s about building on an extraordinary legacy, and combining that with our ability to take creative risks. That’s what we’re supposed to be developing: people who will change and lead in global industries, not people who will become professional clones.
We are having to face the fact that students are being made to invest in this nation’s future, which is an absurd situation. We haven’t had the benefit of 50 years of US educational history – a country where the industry knows it has to create endowments and give gifts. It’s not been a phased handover. It’s just been a sudden culture shock, and we have all been pushed off the cliff and told to swim.
Through the D&AD Foundation we are trying to lead the way with new models of support for young creative people. But we can only do so much. Industry must take up the considerable slack left by a deficit in investment in creative people that could severely weaken our future prosperity, as a business and indeed as a society.
If creative education is broken, there are two ways we can approach it: we can fix it, or we can start again. There is a real opportunity to start again. It’s worth looking for inspiration at the original free-school idea and models like the Montessori or Steiner schools. I have based the School of Communication at the Royal College of Art in London on that – we provide a rigorous foundation, coupled with the deprogramming of graduate students to create a culture of lateral and critical thinking.
One of the biggest challenges for educationalists generally lies in massive open online courses (MOOC). How do teachers manage that process and what role do they play in MOOC-based initiatives like Futurelearn, which gives online access to some of the UK’s top universities? Open-source learning doesn’t work for creative education, which involves making and working in teams. It is all about community.