Art and Design
Introduction to Art and Design
Art and design training can lead to a very wide range of work. There is work for designers and artists in industry, advertising and the media, as well as in being a fine artist or an art historian. You can start a course straight after your GCSEs and the range of courses available includes many degrees in art and design. In this article we take a look at the kind of work open to artists and designers. In addition, you will find sections on careers where you work with works of art or careers where you are just trying to make the world a slightly more attractive place.
Artists and designers need similar skills, but there are also important differences in the way they work. Whether a painting is good or not, is a matter for discussion. A design has a function; if it looks good but doesn’t work, it is bad design. Artists and designers are both creating something that is new. They may both be influenced by what went before, but the good painting will convey some vision, some idea that no one thought of before. A good designer will think about a problem, design a chair, a car or a dress and come up with a solution that is new and, at the same time, practical.
Artists are involved with the world of imagination, and the greatest of them can give us ideas which change the way we look at the world. Fine artists usually work on their own. They produce work which they hope to sell through art dealers, galleries and exhibitions. The more successful may get commissions to produce work for particular situations. Artists who make their living in this way are comparatively few; talent, persistence and luck are important. Most supplement their income by teaching. A few, like Picasso and Henry Moore, become legends in their lifetime, rich and famous. Many others have died in poverty and obscurity, like Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, and only after their death have their paintings soared in price.
Designers are imaginative, but practical as well, designing the environment in which we live. Almost everything we use in our daily life has been designed by someone. Designers may work for a firm of manufacturers, or for a group of design consultants, and some are freelance, working on their own. Design is often a team activity. Having good ideas is important, but so is being analytical, practical and able to communicate ideas to other people. Designers must often make compromises in the way that an artist does not need to do. Price, cost, materials, demand and time are all factors which a designer or design team must take into account.
Designers work in four main areas:
- Clothing and textiles - includes clothing, handbags and footwear; textile design; carpets and wall coverings.
- Graphics - includes packaging and publicity materials; design for television, radio and film; advertisements in books, magazines and on posters; illustrations; photography.
- Interior design - includes building interiors; displays and exhibitions; set design for television and the theatre.
- Product design - includes silverware, jewellery, ceramics, glassware and furniture; industrial design for household products.
Design is not as risky a profession as being a fine artist, but it is a competitive and crowded business. Talent alone may not be enough. Many designers work on their own or in small workshops, so a good head for business is important.
Art/ design historian
Art or design historians use their skills and knowledge in many different areas, including architecture, bookselling, conservation, cultural studies, film and media, museums and galleries, publishing, research and teaching. They need to be familiar with the techniques and various media used by artists and designers. Entry qualification for this kind of work is usually a degree in art history, which is often combined with another subject.
Education and Training
There are many art and design courses at different levels of entry in the UK, including:
These introduce students to a wide range of artistic and design techniques and prepare them for the more specialized courses mentioned below. Minimum entry qualifications for such courses are usually five GCSEs at grade C. Many students have at least one A level. There are also some courses which offer the opportunity to improve your GCSE grades in other subjects, alongside studying art and design. Courses are available at colleges of further education as well as at specialist art colleges. It is usual for students to enroll at the course closest to home.
These are courses validated by the Business and Technology Education Council. The basic course is the two-year National Diploma, for which the usual minimum entry requirement is four GCSEs at grade C, including art. A wide range of subjects is available, mainly in practical design subjects like display and interior design. Many students hope to follow a National Diploma with a Higher National Diploma or degree. Students may also be considered for an HND course after a foundation course or A levels. Higher Diplomas are what are called designated courses for which students receive a mandatory award or grant.
Art and design was one of the first subject areas to offer General I National Vocational Qualification courses, and they are now widely available, and acceptable as an entry to higher edu- : cation. They have replaced some of the BTEC art and design ~ courses at colleges. An Advanced GNVQ is equivalent to two A I levels.
College Diploma courses
Some colleges still offer courses outside the BTEC structure. Entry requirements vary but are usually around four or five GCSEs at grade C. Intending students should check whether, their particular course choice is an acceptable entry to higher education.
A wide range of art and design degree courses is offered at universities and colleges throughout the country. A foundation course, or a college-based equivalent course, a BTEC National Diploma/ Advanced GNVQ, or a recognised Access qualification are all equally acceptable for entry. Acceptance of candidates with A levels alone is very rare. A very few institutions are offering a foundation year as an integral part of a degree, so that mandatory awards are available for the whole four years. Courses involve a mixture of academic work and practical training. There are also modular or combined studies degrees on offer, where you can study art alongside other subjects, and there are courses which can include periods of study abroad.
Industrial or product design courses will include study of engineering principles and computing. Entry requirements and procedures vary; but the vast majority of art and design courses are applied for through UCAS. Some courses require direct application to the college: check individual prospectuses for details. There are two different routes for applications to UCAS: the UCAS Handbook will explain.
There are teacher training courses which include art as a major subject. Minimum requirements are two A levels, with five GCSEs at grade C, including both English and mathematics. However, most secondary school art teachers qualify by gaining a degree in an art or design subject, followed by a postgraduate teaching course.
Open College of the Arts
This college offers a growing number of courses for those who want to study at home, with tutorial support. The OCA is affiliated to the Open University and has courses including art history, creative writing, drawing, garden and interior design, music, opera, photography, sculpture, singing, textiles and video production. These courses could be a way to build up a portfolio of work if you wish to apply for one of the full-time courses described above.
Careers with design & technology
Design and technology is an important subject in schools today. If you particularly enjoy D&T, this section may give you some ideas of how you might use it in a career.
- D&T can be useful in getting you started on a wide range of careers.
- There are opportunities for people with all levels of qualifications.
Depending on the type of work or course, employers and colleges may ask for GCSEs in general education subjects such as English and maths, and perhaps science, besides design and technology. Some designers work in technical areas, like engineering or industrial design, where they are involved with technology. Others, like graphic designers, work at the artistic end of the spectrum. Some designers make the object which they have designed.’ Others, such as architects, stop at the design stage, when the plans are handed over to the construction firm to do the actual building work.
Designing jobs usually require quite high qualifications - often A levels/Advanced GNVQ plus a degree or diploma, though there are some opportunities at technician level, where around. Four GCSEs at grade C / intermediate GNVQ is the usual requirement.
Design based job suggestions covered in this article include:
- Designer craftwork
- Desktop publishing
- Fashion design
- Graphic design
- Industrial design
- Sign writing
- Textile and surface design
- Three-dimensional design (Display, Exhibition and Interior)
- Window dressing and display
It may be making things that particularly appeals to you, rather than designing. ‘Making’ jobs need an aptitude for using your hands and using machinery. There are also ‘mending and maintenance’ jobs, where a problem-solving approach is required.