Making a decision to study at Postgraduate Diploma is always a difficult one. Not only can it be financially draining, but it also requires a lot of work, so it is important that you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for.
We spoke to Tony Pritchard, course director for London College of Communication’s Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Communication to find out what exactly it is that admissions tutors are looking for ...
Please could you describe the PGDip application process?
The PGCert and PGDip Design for Visual Communication courses are comprised of part-time and full-time study options for UK and overseas students. We do try to interview and review the portfolio in person, but where this isn't practical we can view digital portfolios online or via memory sticks. The selection criteria are published so applicants can prepare in advance. The application process is not only about ensuring the applicant is a good fit to the course, but that we are also a good fit to the applicant. We don't expect perfection at this stage, but we are keen to hear about the applicant’s motivation to undertake the course and see the potential within their portfolio.
How is the Design for Visual Communication Course structured?
The PgDip consists of three core units that are also studied on the PGCert course: Research and Development, Design Resolutions (finished work) and Professional and Academic Contexts (projects with a personal and professional focus), as well as a Workshop Unit, Project Exploration & Analysis and the Project Realisation and Report unit. This final unit sees the student completing a project that has been developed throughout the course and reflecting critically upon this through an illustrated and written report. The PgCert version of the course is run part-time over a year and the PgDip is run full-time over the year.
What is it that you look for in an applicant's portfolio?
We look for practical ability and their potential to develop. This will be how the applicant has considered colour, form, image and typography. Applicants come from very diverse academic and cultural backgrounds so we take a broad definition of what a portfolio can be. It may include photography, models, illustrations, presentations, illustrated reports, textiles, and typography. It helps the applicant if they are conversant with Adobe Creative Suite and that there is an attempt to combine type and image digitally. We also look for ideas and conceptual ability. We are interested in nurturing people's individual talent and perspectives on the world.
How many new students do you take each year, and what percentage of total applicants a year make it on to the course?
The full-time PGDip normally comprises just over 30 places, but the numbers do vary. In 2012 there were a lot of applicants and unfortunately not everyone could be taken on the course. Some applicants, however, waited a year to come onto the 2013 courses. We offer places on a first-come, first-served basis. As long as applicants meet the selection criteria we are normally in a position to offer a place.
What qualities/skills do you look for in a Postgraduate Diploma applicant?
Any potential student must be highly motivated and passionate about their subject. They must be able to manage time and responsibility and be independent thinkers that can also work collaboratively within a group. The design profession is a very competitive industry to get into and therefore we must operate a highly critical study environment from the start. All students must have the confidence to present their ideas and negotiate with a wide range of people - including other professionals - often requiring tact and diplomacy under pressure.
This is highly rewarding for students to experience, but they must engage with the idea that design is a process and not just an end product. They must be open to the notion that ideas will change and develop through constructive criticism; this is how they will improve. Students will embrace both analogue and digital methods. It does help if they have experience of Adobe Creative Suite before starting as postgraduate courses don’t tend to teach technical skill.
What advice would you give to candidates looking to study on the Postgraduate Diploma as a gateway to changing their career?
Think through the commitment to study. The course can be life-changing but it does require sacrifice. There will be highs and lows and therefore a deep love for the subject is needed as this will get you through the long hours of researching, developing, testing, prototyping, and realising your ideas.
What advice would you give to new graduates looking to study on your course in the future?
Our student cohort is made up of people from different academic and cultural backgrounds. They will have some life experience and be motivated people with confidence. You need to bring your ideas, motivations, interests and previous experiences to the course with equal conviction. Be prepared for the commitment and sacrifice. You have to work hard to become good and succeed in a competitive profession.
How much work experience should the ideal candidate have?
We don't state a period of work experience as one of our criteria, but clearly some of the attributes listed above are derived from professional experience in the workplace environment.
Why should prospective PGDip students choose to study at London College of Communication?
Anyone doing their research on the place will become aware of the college's reputation and history. It's why I work here. The college took a far-sighted view when it maintained its traditional analogue facilities and developed its digital provision. Students at the college have access to unique facilities, staff, and its network of famous alumni. There's always something going on that you can take part in be it an exhibition, lecture, competition or event. The college location is fantastic for accessing London as a unique resource in its own right.
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