Craig Oldham

BA(Hons) Graphic Design 2003 - 2006 (A good crop of us that year)

When first asked to write a profile about myself, post-Falmouth, I started with the usual kind of number:

Craig Oldham, designer, born and bred in Barnsley, South Yorkshire: educated in Falmouth, Cornwall. Born 1985; Height: a towering 5’12”; Weight: chubbier than he looks; Eyes: bluey-greeny-browny (depending on who you ask and when); Allergies: none yet, fingers crossed; Designer trait: choosing books based on their covers and criticising movie End Credits (tell me, why always centred type? Why?) Craig began his…

As you can imagine I soon came to my senses, gave up, and said to myself “Stop banging on about yourself and how great you are*. Write something that might actually help someone. Tell them honestly — in fact, go out on a limb, tell them brutally — why they should go.
That’ll do it. Yeah, that’s better.”

So here goes…

5 Honest Truths

By Craig Oldham

Any budding student setting out on furthering their design education will, without a doubt, be questioning their actions. It is inevitable as creative and questionable thinkers that we are we're plagued by the “Should I do it this way?” “What would happen if…” “I wonder…”, “I should’ve done it that way” state of being. We’re never at rest.

It does get like this when you’re choosing a degree course. It’s alright to be indecisive here.

You’re swamped in uncertainty. Wondering if this course is better than that, if option a). has a better lifestyle than option b). Does Door Number 1 lead to a great career, Door Number 2 to an alright career and Door Number 3 to certain death? I know how it is. I’ve done it, been there.

So, to help you in your quest for answers, I got my shoes and took a stroll down Memory Lane and compiled 5 Honest Truths as to why you (presuming you’re interested in Graphic Design: if not, then I’d suggest reading 1, skip past 2, 3 and 4, and read 5 and then click over to a course you’re interested in) should seriously consider University College Falmouth.

1. Location.

As a young ambitious design student mapping out the choice of courses held in highest regard in the industry, not only could Falmouth fight with the big boys, but it was also the furthest location away from a worrying mother infected with the 'my-little-boy’s-going-to-university' bug. Great start. And after the six-hour slog down the M1 and M42, Falmouth is a beautiful location to both live and learn.

2. Course.

When we (my fellow first-year students and I) turned up Monday morning, scared to death, knowing no one, the first project we were asked to produce was a personal book documenting our defining moment; a personal project about us. Those furtive fellows on the Falmouth Graphic Design course gave these solitary, unfamiliar, twitching, nervous wrecks of students a chance to show off a little bit about themselves in design work. All the while, unknowing to them, allowing the little group of their fellow learning team-ers watching, to get to know them. Killing two birds with one stone (or nicer words to that effect). Sneaky I know, but a good example of the understanding that Falmouth show their students.

Through my three years on the Falmouth course the work outlined provided an eclectic mix of personal, expressive design explored and executed with one eye firmly on the real design world. Ever supportive and catering for designers that strive for emotional input and wit within their work, paired up with the logic and clarity of high typographic standards set by the tutors, the Falmouth course really does set itself apart.

3. Professional Practice.

One thing I always bang on about when people ask me about ‘experience’ and ‘college’ within the same breath is the fact that the course at Falmouth is really keen on encouraging students to engage with the professional world that they’re entering.

In the second year of the course you’re told that you should really get up off that lazy student bottom sitting there in the hypothetical work chair, presenting work to the same-five-at-a-time audience, drinking the single tea round...and get well stuck into some studio experience. “It will really help you and will reassure you of your decision to work within the design world or not”. Valid point, although at the time all you could do was worry yourself into the world of bitten fingernails and grey hair with the solitary conversation going something like “Oh no. They’re serious. Seriously serious. But what if the studio doesn’t like me? Is my tea really up to scratch? What do I know about design, hell, am I even sure I want to be a designer? I’m not ready. IM NOT READY.”

How little we knew that teacher does know best. An apple well earned.

The gentle nudge into placements had a profound affect on my development as a designer. I came back from placements with Creative Leap, Design Bridge and The Partners in London, Navyblue in Edinburgh, and The Chase in Manchester, assured that I was developing well, could add to a team and a design project and ultimately work within the industry.

4. Personality.

Referring to number 2 (just a few paragraphs up there), as the course allows for personal input and an expressive slant on your undertakings, Falmouth releases not only competently skilled designers into the world, they release their chicks from the nest as fully rounded birdies with a sense of character and initial values of their stance on the subjective career of design. In other words, when you graduate from the Falmouth nest, although you still have a lot to learn professionally, you will have a good hold of what you value as good design - and which bird ladder you'll want to climb.

And finally…

5. Sausage Roll.

The canteen at Falmouth does a sausage roll to end them all (surprising when they’re supposed to be famous for Cornish Pasties and all) with the tea/coffee** to rinse it down, a close second.

So, after all that reading, if you’re still giving it the indecisive “erm, gee, uhh, ahh, I don’t know, I’m not sure, sounds really good but…” grumbles, here’s the hard sell to you keen and clever prospective chaps and chappettes out there.

After the countless hours, to-and-fro-ing in traffic, you made it to the lovely Cornish coast (see 1. location). Fast-forward three years (including generous student holidays curing hangovers, and repeating the answer to “how is Uni going?”) of dedicated, enjoyable work (see 2. course) with a sausage roll or two along the way (see 5. Sausage Roll) and you graduate in the black cap and gown number, parents proud as punch with a arsenal of creative knowledge at your disposal. You now know what kind of design you value, what kind of design you would like to do (see 4. Personality). Add to that basket the month or two you spent brewing up and ear-wigging at the top notch design studio and you will now know what you want to do, who does that type of work and the experience and knowledge to approach them (see 3. Professional Practice). You’re well on your way, and most likely in-front of the meandering competition.

So when you’re in your interviews and someone says “So where did you study?” you can puff out the chest, raise the head and say in your proudest and most epic voice “Falmouth”. Just see what reaction you get.

* Choose according to taste.

** Choose according to taste.

Title devised by Kieran Harris. Diamond.

By day, I work for credited design agency The Chase.  By night, and sometimes by day, at weekends, I moonlight on personal projects in the field of, well, anything really.

craig.oldham@thechase.co.uk or hello@craigoldham.co.uk