Live projects are a great way of getting real-life learning experience in the industry by collaborating with an external client. Our BA (Hons) Design for Performance students had the exciting opportunity to work on a project with the V&A and design company Casson Mann.
Second year BA (Hons) Design for Performance student, Simin Ma, tells us more about the live project and how he responded to the brief.
What did the project involve?
We received a live brief from our client (the V&A) to redesign either a section of or the entire Theatre & Performance Gallery. It was one of the first projects that we did in the second year and it was intended for us step away from traditional theatre design and broaden our horizons in terms of the possibility of spatial and performance design.
Can you tell us more about what you created for the brief?
So for this project I went for a more ambitious route and redesigned the entire T&P Gallery. My final outcome was a series of perspective drawings (first hand-drawn and then polished in Photoshop) to fully communicate the concept and design.
How did it feel to pitch your ideas to curators from the V&A?
At the end of the project, if our work was up to a good standard, we had the opportunity to pitch it to Kate and Alice who are the curators from the V&A’s Theatre and Performance Gallery. They came down from London for half a day to listen to the presentations, which were conducted on a one-to-one basis and had a strict time limit of 10 minutes including a Q&A at the end (which is the usual procedure within the professional working environment). It was extremely nerve wrecking as I was presenting myself as an emerging designer to a potential employer, but I took it as an opportunity to show off my abilities. To make sure that the presentation went smoothly I practiced it out loud and timed myself many times beforehand. The whole experience was extremely beneficial as it helped me gain more confidence in pitching and I’m much more prepared for these scenarios (which are unavoidable) when I go into the industry after graduation.
What did you enjoy most about the project?
It was completely different to past projects and it allowed me to experiment with different approaches. Working with a live brief gave me a clear idea of what working in the professional industry would be like and it offered the opportunity to have direct contact with current practitioners. I felt that my understanding of designing was hugely improved due to this project.
What is the most important thing you learned?
The most valuable thing that I’ve gained from this project is the mind-set of working in an inter-disciplinary way (which is crucial in today’s creative industry landscape). When I first received the brief I wasn’t very keen because I though exhibition design was just arranging objects in a nice neat way. However, through doing the project I’ve learnt that designing an exhibition is no different than design a set for theatre. All the techniques and skills are interchangeable and you can apply them to whatever area you are designing for. This has broadened my horizons and viewpoint tremendously. Due to the project I’ve changed my aspiration from becoming a theatre designer to becoming a flexible designer who can and will work in all sort of areas, whether it is theatre, film, exhibition, festivals etc.
How did it feel to work with the V&A and Casson Mann?
It felt surreal and incredibly exciting that I got to meet and work with some of the leading figures in the industry. I’ve never thought that I would have this kind of opportunity considering that I’m only a second year university student. I’ve made important contacts and the curators even suggested that I apply to work in the V&A after graduation if I wished to! I’ve gained a lot more confidence because of this feedback and it reassured me that there is nothing stopping me from putting myself out there even though I’m still just a student.