BA (Hons) Graphic Design Alumnus Sam Pittman talks to us about being selected for the D&AD Academy and being a “designer of nothing in particular”

The D&AD Academy is an intensive design course that prepares young creatives for industry, our alumnus Sam Pittman was selected to take part. Here he tells us how he got on and what he’s been up to since graduating:

“The brief I won wasn’t the one I did as part of the course. I did a different brief for the hand in. So during my FMP (final major project), I did a 24-hour project where, I took a chunk of 24 hours and said how many briefs can I do in that time? It came from that one; you just trust your intuition sometimes on things. I think I got to a stage where I was just happy to trust my ideas instead of going to a tutor and saying this is my idea, do think this is good enough? At University level you should be calling the shots, they obviously know all their stuff but you only have them for three years and I don’t have them now. You’ve got to break the umbilical cord at some point.

The award led on for me to be able to apply for the Academy. That was a selection of fifty people, so you had to put a video together answering a few questions. It was all a little bit cringy, because the questions they put together were a bit… yeah. But it was two of the best weeks, honestly! You were meeting fifteen people a day that could potentially have the power to give you an internship. Fifteen people a day for two weeks is a lot of people. So, there’s a video that D&AD put together and everyone just says it was a degree in two-weeks. It really was, you were just that much more in it. You also knew you were around forty-nine other people that were really, really good. So you had to push yourself even further, to stand out within that group.

I started off, interning at studio called Multiadapter, I was there for a month. I then moved on to Ogilvy and Mather, they were very different as they are much bigger. Working on Unilever brands, such as Dove, Hellmans – big stuff. Tomorrow I start at a studio called, Studio PSK, they are creative directed by one of last year’s Designers in Residence, from the Design Museum. He’s just set up a small studio, with about four or five people but the work is similar to university projects, in the way that it’s so free, yes they have the standard everyday work – which I’ve done a little bit of. They do a lot of exhibition work for the RCA.

I studied Graphic Design, but I’d never call myself a Graphic Designer. I don’t think the term really exists anymore, as it was penned in 1940 when things were very much funnelled in, but with technology things are so much broader. I consider myself a designer, but if anyone asks I’m a designer of nothing in particular. I just think and then see what comes out of it.

If I was told at the beginning of first year that for my final project I had to make a dress, I would have said no, what are you talking about? I’ll make you a brand, or a print campaign. I went to one interview and was speaking to a few of the guys in there, they said just don’t try and be a clone in a company because they’ve already got six people that can do that, do everything that they can do already and be to the level that that company is at but add something more. They’re always looking to improve their studio.

I always take my process books to interviews, in reality they’ve seen you work on your website and seen the end product. They love chatting about the projects, they can see the polished piece and can see the thoughts behind it.”

You can follow Sam on his website and twitter.