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Welcome to rachelsays... The blog of Rachel Lewis, containing my thoughts and musings on illustration, design, fashion, music, cakey-bakey goodness, culture and things that I generally find cool. There's also a good chance my own illustration work will pop up on here.

All work on this blog is copyright to me unless I state that it isn't. Obviously. Don't do stealing, kids.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Things I Have Learned In My (University) Life So Far.

This is a bit of a homage to Stefan Sagmeister, genuis-like legend that he is. Have a look at his site, he has an 'answers for students' section which has so many useful things to say.

His book, Things I have learned in my life so far, is equally amazing. Firstly, the design of it, slip case with each section bound separately and loose, and secondly, maybe more importantly, the content is perfect.

Being an illustration student with a bit of love for graphic design, I'm very much into illustrative/decorative type. And this book is full of 'em. Each thing he has learned has had it's word 'illustratively designed' (I guess that's how to describe it) to form the complete sentence. Just look:

I love it. So, I've decided to list the Things I Have Learned In My (University) Life So Far, not spectacularly designed though, I'll admit. Definitely a project for the future, though. (The Things I have learned site has the functionality of people being able to upload their own sentences, I may just do that one day.)

1. When deadlines approach, things will go wrong.
This is the law of being an art student, I think. And it'll be the little things that go wrong, the tiny disasters that don't ruin everything, but make completing projects about 100x more complicated. Like, your printer running out of ink the night before. Every Mac in the building freezing and not liking you. Photoshop crashes 8 times in a row. Somebody sits in your studio space. The University internet goes down. You lose your ID card and can't even get in the building. You somehow mess up the simple task of chopping mount board in a straight line. You stub your toe and there's so much blood. Or you scalpel your finger and there's so much
blood. You get the idea. What do I do to make sure I avoid these things before hand-in? Nothing. You can't. Just accept your fate, cry a bit, don't get blood on your badly cut mount board, and get the job done.

2. I am very lucky. I know exactly what job I want.
The thing that I forget, and shouldn't take for granted at all, is that to know what you want to do when you leave University is actually very rare, from my experience. I take it as a given; I want to be an illustrator. I'm sure most of the art building knows what they want to do - most of the ceramics kids want to be ceramicists, in some form, half the grapho designers want to be...well, graphic designers, or web designers, the textiles students, I'm sure a lot of them want to start their own accessories label. It's kind of like, yeah, duh, I'm an Illustrator, I Illustrate. But most of my friends aren't art kids. A lot of them do History, War Studies, Philosophy, "real" degrees, and most of them have no clue what job they're going to end up in. (Although in these times of recession, who does, eh.) And that must be quite scary, actually. We're lucky - we might be scared about our chosen career and where it's going to take us, but hey - we HAVE a chosen career.

3. University fundamentally changes you as a person.
90% of the time, I'm pretty sure it's for the best. Well, I've changed for the best, I hope. The thing about this is you can never really tell, unless people tell you. And people have told me. But this is cool. Also, it's kind of natural - you arrive 18 or 19, and you leave 21 or 22.... those years of your life are always a bit turbulent, without the added intensity of the Uni experience. Because intense is what it is. And awesome. I'm going to miss it so very much.

4. These 3 years have been the best and worst of my life.
In relation to number 3, I think this probably applies to quite a lot of people. University is NOT uneventful. In no order at all, I've met some brilliant people, actually developed complete independence (not a thing to be taken lightly), loved, lost, laughed, cried, been on sleeping tablets, been prescribed diazepam, been attacked, burgled twice, won an ipod, bought cheesecake at 3am, danced in a hot tub in Oceana, bikini and all, (cringe) run out of money completely and entirely, learned to cook properly, discovered I actually can stand/do like commercial r 'n' b (didn't see that one coming....), went to NY and Barcelona, spent 5 months depressed and sober, fell in love with the wrong guy, and I've got more friends than I've ever had in the rest of my life put together.

5. Photoshop is a genius, miracle invention, but it won't make a bad idea good.
It just won't. I know nothing about software programming, but I'm pretty sure Photoshop is made by wizards and it's a very, very clever piece of kit. But just 'cos it has lens flare, doesn't mean you have to use it. You get out of Photoshop what you put into it. If your original concept is a bit naff, and you just put Filters > Poster Edges, or my personal hated Plastic Wrap, it doesn't make it suddenly a brilliant piece of design. Oh, filters. How I hate thee. I used to use Cutout a lot in my first year. 'Cos it looks, 'like, totally collage effect, omg'. But first year is the place to do these things. Filters should be banned from second year onwards. But what HAS saved me, is Blending Options. How did I not know the wonders until 6 months ago. Again, these can be used badly, but the good solid standard Multiply and Screen are saviours. I've even been known to throw in some Colour Burn, I know, rebel. I used to sit there painstakingly cutting out all the white from pencil drawings. Multiply does that. In one second. When a classmate showed me that I literally nearly cried. Oh and holding down Alt when you drag a layer to duplicate it. I used to do Layer > Duplicate.... bla bla bla. These are things I learned in horror and now can't live without.

6. Changing your hair colour does not change your life.
Neither does buying lots of clothes and always wearing makeup and never going out in flats again. I've had every hair colour at uni, pretty much, except green. (Yeah, I had an orange fringe.) I never did any of these things consciously to be a 'better person', I just discovered I love shoes and clothes. But things still go wrong, things still go good, and I'm still not a model. Ha.

7. My life is sometimes worse than a soap opera.

Seriously, I don't know whether it's every uni, or just mine, but everyone knows everyone, everyone gossips about everyone, people you just met are connected to that girl you hate for no reason (there's a little list of these between me and my girlfriends, 4 or 5 girls we HATE and we don't know why, it's just amusing and immature) crazy not-even-neighbours-would-have-this-storyline things happen and sometimes it's so tragic and horrible that it makes me laugh in a sad way. It's so weird. It's worse than school, uni life. It's like a big playground where the picking on is much more subtle, the boy you fancy isn't just not playing kiss chase with you, he's making you die inside, there's either no popularity hierarchy, or, it's so detailed that you can't see it, and there's alcohol and 24 hour Asda for cheesecake and hair dye.

8. Your friends become your family.

That sounds sooo cheesey. I'm sorry. But they really do. When you move out, you have the initial, 'ohjesusi'mallalone', then you have the euphoric 'hell yeah, i'm all alone!!', then you realise that you need people when things go completely tits up and your mum isn't here. And you can tell them things you wouldn't tell your mum. And they throw up in your shower and that's ok. Your mum wouldn't do that. (...Right?)

9. Get involved in everything.
There are some people at Uni who live at home and commute. Who never come out. Who don't really ever turn up for lectures or crits, who don't use the studio spaces, who don't vote in the student elections, who don't go on the bar crawls, who don't throw halls parties or attend them, who don't do any of that stuff. It baffles me. a) you're paying over £3000 a year to be here, milk it, it's bloody expensive. b) University is about way more than the course you do. Way, way more. c) There will never be a time in your life again when you are surrounded by so many like-minded people of the same age. Mingle with them. I know there are good reasons why people live at home, I'm not saying they're wrong and I'm right, but I feel that I've had the whole experience. I'm student rep on my course, I talk to my tutors, I not only frequented the Union but worked at it (before they closed it down, we woz robbed), I campaigned for my mates in the student elections, I go out twice a week and I'm getting pretty decent grades, I lived on the bread line for many months, I maxed out my overdraft, I don't have a job in third year (why I'm getting good grades, heh) and I live with my friends. Pretty cool. You can't have it any other way.

I'm just going to punctuate this list with the fact that I am watching High Fidelity on BBC1 right now. I'm semi paying attention, it's quite a good film, and it seems to be entirely constructed around lists. Interesting, and a bit coincidental.

10. Tutors are not always right.

They know a lot, and are better at the subject than you are, but sometimes, you need to go with what you want to do and not what they say. That's how you develop. Choosing which bits of criticism/advice to absorb. You have to absorb most of it, that's just being arrogant if you don't. But you know you and what you want better than they do. Everyone needs criticism, and you need to learn how to give yourself some. Constructively. 'I'm rubbish and I'm going to be a waitress all my life' isn't constructive. 'I should focus more on my line weight' is.

11. Being on your own is ok.
After 'the bad time', (break up, cheated on, attack, bla boring, this was ages ago now) which I now call it, I couldn't be on my own. I cried continuously and slept with the light on. I went to councilling and sorted all that out, and I don't dismiss it as unimportant but I'm not going to expand on it. I did in a post at the time.
Anyway, I learned to be on my own. In the physical, 'I can watch tv alone in the house' sense, and also in the relationship sense. (I still hate being single, though. Anyone who ever says they like it, is lying. Or weird in the head.) And not only that, I learned the importance of being on your own. I recognise that I'm a really social person and prefer being around people, (I'm a leo, center of attention), but sometimes you need time to chill out and eat asda brand doritos and post on your blog at 1am and watch a random film (this is what I am doing now). This is actually one of the most important points on this list. I can be on my own. All day. For 4 days, actually, as I did last weekend. It wasn't a hoot but it didn't bother me. I got stuff done. And when I finally saw my friends I appreciate them. Aw. Isn't that nice.

12. It's worth it.
I'm going to be in at least £19,000 of debt when I graduate. I don't even have a car or a credit card. I don't even know what £19k looks like. But it's so worth it. You can't buy experiences like these. If I could I'd be a student forever. That sounds lazy, but it's bloody hard work, actually. I love learning. One of the reasons why I wanted to do my MA. But I didn't get accepted to either RCA or St Martin's so I won't be going for at least another year. I'm going to miss studying. I don't want to graduate, if someone rocked up and said 'there's been a terrible mistake, you'll have to resit 3rd year' I'd probably go OKAY :D What a shame! Oh no! Ha. But, this does bring up an issue, actually. How high are they going to go, with tuition fees? I think next year it's going to be £3,225... they keep putting it up every year. That's not good for my brothers ,or anyone else who's at uni next year. I heard they want to take the limit off so any uni can charge what they like. If they suddenly go, er, £10k a year, then I might have to reconsider if it is worth it... the debt would be horrific. Can you imagine? It's all a bit wrong, in my opinion. Even £3k a year is a bit steep, but acceptable.

I have learned other things, like..... I dunno, what copyright is, but that's boring and uninteresting. I hope people enjoy and some relate to my list. I can't believe I've completed my degree. I'll post as soon as I find out my scary.

What have you learned?


Karen Marzo said...

31 DBBB - Wow! It shows you've put a lot of energy and care into this post! It is inspiring! Keep up the good work!


Karen Marzo said...

31DBBB Wow! Loved you list post! You can see you put a lot of energy and thought into this! Way to go!!!

Keep up the good work!


Winnie said...

My debt will be pretty much on parr with yours after I've finished my masters...which I hope to start in September!

So scary!

RacheL said...

Thanks for both your comments!

Winnie, what masters are you doing? Good luck with it! Yeah, debt this huge is pretty scary ^.^ but at least we're getting something worthwhile out of it! I just try not to think about it :P

white chocolate mocha said...

I love this! I still have 2 years more of college and this really reminds me to enjoy every seconds of it. I was too stressed out from having to full mark two of my finals I just forgot how fun it is to just learn things.

Rachel said...

Yeah... definitely just enjoy it while you can! I've been graduated for a few months now and it sucks. :(