Live projects and collaborations

In the School of Creative Arts, we are always striving to create valuable opportunities for our students to grow and build professional connections.

Live projects are one of the key ways we do this. They are fundamental to the success and delivery of all our programmes, as they are based on industry-led professional briefs, placing our students in the real world of work and challenging thinking, testing skills and encouraging risk taking.

Worldwide impact and collaboration

Our students have the opportunity to visit our partners on site all around the world, whether it’s just around the corner in Hatfield, a short train ride to London, or even a plane to New York, Berlin or Hong Kong. This approach has led to successful national and international competition wins, industry placements and employment with companies that include Ted Baker, Sony, Tesco, Walt Disney Animation, Norman Foster and partners, Warner Brothers. Monster Audio, and many others.

One of the fantastic ways the School embeds live projects is through our innovative in-house design agency, Propeller Creative, which combines student and staff expertise to produce professional projects in real-time with real companies.

This design consultancy scheme works with professional clients, allowing students to experience the challenges and rewards of commercial world before graduation, whilst building up an impressive portfolio of work and connections to impress potential employers with.

Rather than having students work on fictional commercial projects, real-world clients contact the university and, following negotiation, work is either set as a project to students with the winning idea rewarded with a prize, or distributed to excelling students with monetary incentive. On occasion, staff are commissioned to do the work themselves, which allows them to maintain their professional expertise and explore new ideas and projects.

Building a professional portfolio and an industry network before graduation

A recent example of this would be that of our Graphic Design students developing branding for a luxury dog food brand. The client lived locally and had a business proposition to sell luxury cured meat for dogs in shops including Harrods. The start-up business owner was unhappy with his current branding and required design feedback about how to make the product appear more deluxe.

As well designing the packaging, students helped to build the brand and strategy for going forward, before pitching their proposal to the client as part of their assessed work. The client then chose the option that best suited him, and our students gained valuable insight into a realistic and exciting example of real-world work, which can’t be delivered simply through classroom assignments.

The scheme has also been beneficial to graduates. Despite being relatively new, paid freelance work has been distributed to graduates, which proves extremely beneficial, allowing graduates to gain the experience and networking with real clients they require to enhance their employability.

Nick Lovegrove, Programme Leader for Graphic Design and Illustration, said the scheme has proved an “overwhelming success”, with students fully engaged and “the clients really impressed.”

Influencing clients and students for years to come

All project work will be collated into an archive of past projects, so students can access previous briefs and design developmental work. Nick stressed the reasoning behind the scheme’s launch: “Prospective employers, such as design studios, respect genuine commercial work in students’ portfolios.”

Propeller Creative is open to students of all disciplines in the School, and provides a fantastic opportunity to gain real-world experience, connections, and confidence whilst studying. Find out more about Propeller Creative and take the next steps towards a pioneering, successful, and industry-focussed degree today.