Rewind 23 years
I was a pupil at Ardrossan Academy in Ayrshire, just starting my second year. I was bright, but not particularly academic and the subjects I most enjoyed were Art & Design and Craft, Design and Technology (CDT); essentially anything where I got to use my hands and make stuff.
I’ve always been a mastermind in getting distracted, so would sometimes find it a challenge to focus and concentrate in classes such as English, Maths and the sciences. Like many kids this type of ‘daydreaming’ didn’t go down well when put on the spot by the teacher as I stared out of the window, a million miles away. But, in ‘hands-on’ subjects, I found it easy to focus and thrived; I loved the opportunity to draw, to learn how to make things out of wood, plaster and clay and relished the challenge of coming up with creative solutions to problems using different materials.
Second year was all about trying out the full range of different subjects to help make informed choices about what to choose going forward. Back then, Art & design and CDT were seen as enjoyable past-times as opposed to more serious, career-minded subjects and saw a high drop-off rate as children opted for the latter.
Fortunately for me, I had encouraging teachers and open-minded parents and choosing to follow these subjects through school became the first decisive steps I took to pursue a career in design.
Fast-forward to last Tuesday
I find myself, along with my colleague Anne Grieve and Edinburgh College student Natalie Loh, in front of twenty second-year pupils from Royal High Secondary School in Edinburgh, talking through my experiences - from being in their shoes to the present day – easily one of the more nerve-wracking presentations I’ve been involved in.
They’re here for the kick-off of ‘Daydream Believers’; a 15-week course in problem solving, critical thinking and creativity spear-headed by Edinburgh College as a means of connecting industry with education; giving pupils an insight into how these skills are being applied in the real world and to help prepare them for the workplace of the future.
Almost all industries have gone through dramatic change since I was at school, as the digital revolution continues to disrupt every sector. No-one knew what a ‘digital agency’ was 20 years ago – it’s just as likely that the type of places that second year pupils of today will work in the future don’t exist yet and that existing careers will be transformed by technology such as artificial intelligence and automation.
These changes are reflected in shifts in the skills considered to be important for the future workforce; in the 2016 ‘Future of Jobs Report’ the World Economic Forum predicted that, by 2020, complex problem solving would be the number one skill, followed by critical thinking then creativity.
Daydream Believers looks to support pupils to develop these and we were delighted to take up our place in the pilot for the programme along with two other companies with bases in Edinburgh – Whitespace and Skyscanner.
Our preparations began early in the Summer as we were teamed up with Natalie along with three teachers from Royal High and Drummond Secondary School to plan out the 15-week programme of 1hr classes.
Over the course of a few meetings we devised a programme starting with a series of 6 mini-projects over the first 6 weeks.
The first involved a visit and tour of the AmazeRealise office in Edinburgh and a brief for the pupils to create some ‘expressive typography’ about their visit. The pupils noted down words they heard during their visit, collaborated to share and choose their favourite words, sketching concepts and developing a final visual each. The results were impressive, and it was exciting to see the pupils engage in the activity and be enthusiastic about our agency.
The following 5 weeks will see a different AmazeRealiser visit the class each week to introduce themselves and set a brief related to their role. This includes briefs such as storyboarding a reimagined journey to school with Pete Rogers, our Senior Motion Designer and creating prototypes for custom-designed alarm clocks with the help of Nic Dunlop, our Senior UX Designer.
Each week will introduce a different type of role and challenge the pupils to work on a diverse range of briefs in a variety of materials.
The final 9 weeks of the programme will see the pupils focus on a ‘big project’ on themes including plastic pollution, space tourism and the health crisis using the skills they’ve developed and following the process they’ve learned on the mini-projects at a larger scale.
The programme will culminate in a show where the pupils’ parents, carers and families will be invited to see the work they’ve produced and share in some of the insights they’ve learned.
The ambition of the programme, led by Helena Good, design lecturer at Edinburgh College, is limitless, with discussion on the potential for it being rolled out across Scotland.
At AmazeRealise we’re passionate about identifying and nurturing the next generation of talent, so, for us, it’s been an exciting opportunity to engage with education at a grassroots level and an inspiring challenge to help define a cutting-edge initiative.
Most of all though, it’s been a fantastic opportunity to put all those hours of staring out of the window at school to good use.