Professional Practice/Career Reflection

This module has allowed for various objectives to be worked towards and learning objectives to be met, which I have feel have strengthened my professional practice and future career prospects.

Research has allowed for various topics to be covered, analysed, critiqued and reflected upon, such as:

– Creative and Interdisciplinary Practitioners
– Organisations Supporting the Creative Industries (Local, National and International)
– Recent Advances in Technologies
– Policies supporting Practice
– Theoretical Perspectives

This research has been thoroughly discussed throughout my blog, report and presentations in relation to my practice, whilst also shaping exploratory work, working towards objective 4. I have found it most relevant to make use of industry contacts to secure research-led meetings, whilst making new contacts has become vital to working towards objectives 1, 2, 3 and 5. Such industry contacts have secured International meetings in Tokyo, Japan, National meetings in London and Local meetings in Leeds with research participants. I have found it invaluable to also contact HE institutions in regard to making contact with both British and Japanese students between the ages of 18-24 whom may be interested in answering a questionnaire post new-year regarding my research topic. I was unable to make contact with HE institutions in Japan, and found this was a good contingency plan with such a large international base of students in the UK.

Not only have I researched into organisations supporting both my practice and research question and secured both National and International meetings, I have found it invaluable to talk to them about their policies further supporting practice, such as the ASOS Model Welfare Policy in particular, whilst working towards objectives 2 and 5. Going forwards I would like to contact the likes of B-EAT and local charities in order to see how the response in eating disorders has been affected by such issues raised in my research topic and practice, whilst also discussing how policies and guidelines are created and enforced. This also in relation to objectives 2 and 5.

I am in discussion with London-based practitioners regarding a collaboration, and have also confirmed a collaboration with Scarlett Carson for semester 2, a Leeds-based commercial photographer. This has been derived from the MA course, meeting like-minded creative practitioners whilst adding a different dimension and perspective to my practice. That can also be said for Bobbi Gastall (Rae) a Leeds-based practitioner whom I have collaborated with in semester 1 through the Practice and Professional Development module, producing a zine entitled, “how to be a blogger”. As my practice is Graphic Design, this can be quite solitary especially when freelancing, so working collaboratively brought new ideas discussion and debate to the table which I really enjoyed being a part of and want to continue to do so in my practice going forward. In addition this was working towards objective 4.D.

I have also researched into future exhibition spaces for semester 2. This has not been part of my practice since leaving my BA(Hons) Graphic Design degree as I mainly work digitally and therefore promote my work and my practice digitally also. Going forward if I work on the Life-Size Barbie Doll project (working towards objective 4),  is the one project I have not had time to explore this semester, this would perhaps require such spaces to exhibit to the public, and therefore felt it was important to be aware of such spaces on a local and national platform.

Throughout this semester I have researched recent technological advances in both the fashion and beauty industries, and have found Instagram to be a key advancement for such industries allowing for digital marketing campaigns, collaborations with bloggers and international and instant reach for example. Keeping this in mind and working towards objectives 1 and 4, Instagram was used not only as a platform to showcase my critical-design Instagram Post project, but as a platform to share ideas, work and gain feedback in return. Findings have shaped the direction of both exploratory practical work and research working towards objective 4.

Instagram also has allowed for me to find creative practitioners relevant to my practice, with Anna Potter for example as discussed in my report, also promotes and shares her work in similar ways, using a critical-design approach also with underlying tones of satire and similar feminine aesthetics. Research has led me to find other more obscure practitioners such as comedian Luisa Omeilan and graphic designer Toni Hollowood as noted below, both of whom also work with similar underlying tones and messages. The three practitioners noted however are locally and nationally based, along with Scarlett and Bobbi discussed above and would like to find other practitioners who work on an international scale whom resonate with my practice and research topic going forwards to broaden this context and research.

Other key recent advances in technologies have been discussed and analysed in relation to my research to date, practice and research topic through my on-going blog, presentations and report surrounding this module.

In relation to theoretical perspectives underpinning my practice, I found that I had to do a large amount of research into different ideologies in order to gain a sense of which are most important to take forwards as key theories. The main two were Self-Perception and Social Identity which I feel also fall in line with the words of Anna Potter, Luisa Omelilan and Toni Hollowood particularly forming strong contextual links also supporting my current practice. I feel that understanding the work of these practitioners in regards to context, message, satirical yet serious tone, delivery and aesthetics has been crucial, with Potters’ work being quite resonant of my professional and practical design style, using feminine colour palettes, typography and a range of both print/digital-led designs to provoke thought using a critical-design led approach. In addition, such theories as Self-Perception have become the underlying theoretical context of my practical work to date, working towards objective 4. For example, the “what’s my name again?” project has been derived from the ideal of self-perception using theories throughout to support illustrations and copywriting, whilst the wellbeing campaign for example, uses third-person perspectives to gain judgement on themselves, therefore showcasing the the audience how this is not real and can in turn affect one’s self-perception. Going forwards, I would like to continue to research both noted theories more in depth, whilst looking at the other theories discussed heavily in my presentation (male/self-surveying gaze and self/objectification) in further detail to support further research and exploratory work.

In regards to future career plans, the MA so far has allowed for much self-reflection on this to be considered, supported with research, whilst it has also allowed for me to meet new contacts, and therefore gain invaluable HE teaching experience on a BA(Hons) Fashion programme, which was a personal goal set at the start of the course. One of the reasons I wanted to do the MA was to better career opportunities within my industry whilst opening new doors to new opportunities/alternate career paths and feel that this has been taken advantage of. The second reason I wanted to do the MA, was to find a way through my practice to help others, as I feel the industry is very corporate and actually damages many people in regards to self-perceptions and body image confidence, particularly within the areas of design I work in – fashion and beauty – and want to showcase the other, ethical side, being that, we can be whom we are and do not have to be dictated to by a business strategy, social media or a magazine for instance. In addition to this, I have often thought about setting up an agency supporting specifically fashion graduates enter the world of work, and feel that teaching at HE level is working towards this long-term goal in a way enabling to help students with the right skill sets and knowledge to have an impact on the fashion industry, whilst also learning myself via curriculum plans and assessment criteria what knowledge is needed to work towards this. In addition, I have found that teaching has allowed for better time management and organisation, whilst also allowing for myself being able to understand the course structure of the MA much more competency, enabling me to understand and fulfil the learning objectives required with more rigour. Further to this, I have also looked into PCGETHE’s at both Manchester Metropolitan University and Bradford College, however have recently been advised it is preferable to undertake a teaching qualifying course with a HEA also, which would allow me to apply for job roles at institutions such as LCA for example in the future. I feel that by talking to members of staff regarding such qualifications, doing research and speaking with my current employers, I have been able to scope out and assess options going forwards which could either be done alongside teaching if still in post, or prior to taking on a full-time teaching role in HE. This is something I will consider much more in depth in semester 2, however feel it was important to clear up my options for future development, career plans and strategies.

The MA has allowed for me to meet colleague Hattie Spowage, whom I have also been discussing potential post-MA business opportunities combining our practices of pattern cutting and garment design with graphic design, in order to create a viable commercial brand. This has been looked into in some detail with Hattie looking at fabric mills and suppliers, with myself looking at studio spaces we can work potentially obtain to start, along with opportunities for business funding and support. These have been discussed in depth on previous specifically related blog posts, however has not been the forefront of focus this semester due to as noted above, the priority has been to contact industry links and secure local, national and international meetings and interviews in order to work towards objectives, 1-5. Further to this, Hattie has also introduced me to a new platform of online networking called, Fashion in Leeds. This group also run networking events at The Tetley in Leeds, which Hattie and I plan to attend in semester 2 to gain further business insight and meet contacts whom may be required if the business was to go ahead.

I feel by having options post-MA, I am giving myself more industry led experience, whilst adding to my skillets further. Ideally, I would like to continue with part-time lecturing, whilst working alongside Hattie on a fashion brand, which would allow for skills to be developed for later in life/career I was to set up a fashion-led agency as noted above. This module has allowed time without any immediate pressure for me to consider my career choices, taking into account new opportunities and new contacts.

I have also recently made contact with a friend and now female body builder, Brittany Rhodes, as discussed in a previous post whom was recently on a BBC Documentary regarding women, self-perception and positive body image, have discussed the possibility of teaming up in the new year to run local body image workshops to promote healthy body image and educate regarding the power of the media, in particular social media and Instagram. Not only does this fall in line with my research topic but allows for a different perspective, and allows for someone with an already established based and following to support a practice such as mine in a positive way, allowing for me to fulfil my objectives and potentially adding another regarding such community led workshops.

The professional context module has also allowed for positives and issues within my professional practice of freelancing to be reflected on in context of my current practice. This is something which has been discussed heavily in my first presentation and report, understanding how working with previous employers and clients has perhaps pushed the direction and focus of my MA understanding how and why for example social media and models affect self-perceptions. In my presentation I noted working for a previous employer whom asked me to design cosmetics for children and have since worked with freelance clients whom work with in my opinion, emaciated and unhealthy models, and those who particularly do not represent a positive body image relatable to the mass public and general target audience. It is such issues which have influenced my research topic, research to date, future research and objectives, in the hope of raising awareness and exposing the industry in some senses. To me, this raises many ethical issues surrounding my practice, as I feel within the fashion industry and beauty industry, as much as policies can be set in place, or I myself can write and propose one working towards objective 5 to alleviate these issues, I feel that such industries will not want to standardise due to the ‘identity’ of brands being damaged. Working within these industries as much as I love them, in practice, has become a battle at times to consider if a job is viable, but then freelance is a business which needs to be ascertained. Therefore, working with Hattie on a more personal business would alleviate many of the issues of working with a larger scale industry and will allow for positive body image to be relayed through the brand for example, whilst allowing for our own policies to be created in line with this which may hopefully inspire and guide women to feel okay with their bodies, identities, style and self-perception. I really want to encompass my practice and what I love but in a positive way, helping people, opposed to having a negative impact on the target audience.

Freelance work however has allowed for various contacts as discussed in my report to be contacted in order to arrange meetings and interviews for semester 2, working towards objectives 1, 2, 3, 5.

Furthermore, I have found that seminars, lectures and post-presentation discussion and debate have allowed for issues within the field of graphic design to be openly talked about, particularly between other designers and teachers alike. Issues have been raised around muffled creativity due to use of stock imagery in industry opposed to free creative licenses and how this can affect motivations and exceptions of students working towards industry. Issues surrounding ethics and HR in the workplace have also been discussed, along with management structures within ‘agencies’ which often feature little creative encouragement. Also discussed were high expectations set for students in regard to the industry post-university, allowing for false hopes and deflated realities when entering junior designer roles with little real-life context being instilled into students. I found these forms of discussions interesting having felt similar myself, whilst also helping Ross with feedback and research for this MA topic regarding the Graphic Design industry and its readiness for Graduates. This forums allowed for reflection on my own career to date, the current positives of freelancing, working for oneself and having creative control, whilst putting into perspective how I can alleviate such issues in my own practice, as discussed above also.

In support of my freelance practice, self-promotion is key and has been discussed in blog posts in depth, however not touched on as much in my report or presentation due to not being of key relevance throughout my practice so far on the MA. Instagram has been a continuous method of both promotion and feedback as heavily discussed, however throughout the module other forms of self-promotion in regards to freelance has not been a priority, due to limited time to work on additional projects whilst not being the focus of my research topic. I have now at the end of the semester, began working on my revised personal branding to ensure I have updated CVs and business cards for any meetings/interviews taking place in semester 2, and plan to update my professional website and online portfolio with photographed exploratory work to date to share the message being worked on, whilst gaining feedback from a different audience. I would of perhaps liked to of done this earlier on in the semester in hindsight in order to have these in place for when contacting individuals/organisations, as this may in some instances prompt a response opposed to not.

Below shows the learning objectives for this particular module, and feel through my on-going blog (research journal), presentations and report to date that I have evident objectives 7A2, 7A3, 7B2, 7C2, 7C3 and 7D2 competently in relation to my practice, professional context and research question.