Students & Alumni. Graphic Design.
Tell us a little bit about who you are, and what you’ve been doing since graduating from ARU?
I’m Blessing Raimi, and I’m a Digital Designer at DTV Group, direct marketing fundraisers specialising in DRTV, digital video and film to inspire people to action for wonderful causes around the world. I develop creative concepts and advertisements for NGOs and iNGOs.
I have been a mentor in the ARU Mentorship programme, a guest speaker at the AHSS Seeing Yourself lecture series, I volunteered at the London Design Festival and I spoke to AHSS first year students about my student experiences during freshers week. I currently volunteer as a Career Coach with the My Big Career charity organisation, inspiring young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and connecting them with opportunities to help them achieve their career goals and dreams.
What did you study before going to ARU?
Before I went to ARU I studied an Extended Diploma in Art and Design: Graphic Design. That went on for two years, so it covered a really broad curriculum, a wide range of topics within art and design, and then it provided a really good foundation for graphic design.
We looked into art history, design history; we went to different art galleries and museums. I think it also helped my essay writing skills as we had to pick some design movements, and write about a few pieces that inspired us, and also look at design styles that we liked, and we did a final project at the end of those two years.
We also had a really good careers department that helped us with applying for universities, and it was also part of one of our modules to make sure we researched universities that we wanted to apply to. We got a lot of support when we were preparing for the interviews, because we had to do an interview for most of our university applications, including ARU as well.
What was it that made you want to come to ARU?
I visited a few times, I think I attended two open days, and then I also came with my family to stay for a weekend. I just really liked the atmosphere of Cambridge, especially coming from London. It feels like a calmer city, and also the design department was really nice. I liked that there was an art and design department where you can be around other creatives, and also still meet people who are on completely different courses to you. I think that, even when I was studying there, it was nice that I was able to learn a lot from people that were studying a variety of courses, like law, or English Literature etc, even though that might not be directly related to my own course. I also made friends with people from different countries, different cultures. I think that’s a really unique and special experience, being in Cambridge, because there are lots of students that come from around the world just to be here.
I moved to Cambridge, but the transport connections are so good I was able to visit London quite a bit. You can get a train quite easily into London, and come back as well. My family were able to visit and said they really liked the city as well.
What was your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge, and what did you discover about it that you didn’t know before?
One of my favourite things is the amount of green spaces and the scenery, especially in spring and summer. It’s so nice to have a walk, even on your own, or with your friends. There’s so many paths to walk down, and it’s so calm, and sometimes it can be quite quiet, and it’s really nice. I feel like there's so much culture, so much architecture, so much history.
I realised there’s a lot of design history here as well. One of the projects I did on my typography module was that we had to go on a walk around Cambridge and look at the different text designs, like signage. There’s a lot of things that have been kept in place for decades, and it’s really nice to see that history. You can even see a sign carved into a building, which isn’t something that’s done too often these days. It’s nice to research that, and look into the history of how Cambridge used to be in the past. The mix of the old and the modern in Cambridge is really interesting, I think. Even when you walk into certain parts and notice the way the paths are, like walking to the Fitzwilliam you can really see the history there. Even inside, they have a mixture of modern and older art – it’s really nice to learn about that as well.
What one thing inspired you to do what you do now?
The moment I realised graphic design is literally everywhere; even if you find a hobby that you’re really passionate about, like if you really like a film, there is graphic design in there as well. I was doing a product design module before uni, and we went to the Harry Potter studios, and I saw there was this whole section about graphic design in film, and I realised ‘Oh – there is something for this as well.’ Before that I did know that it was in tv shows and maybe in movies, but I didn’t realise that actually there was a whole section of graphic design, even for productions on fictional content.
Everything is so interlinked. One of my favourite designers, Massimo Vignelli said that “if you can design one thing, you can design everything”. It’s really nice to see how graphic design feeds into everything, and how important it is. Just being able to display information in a way that brings a message across to people that can be really beneficial – that’s so important, and that inspires me to keep going. Even if I feel burnt out in one area, there’s always another area that I can focus on. It’s such a broad area of study. Sometimes just for fun I produce designs for movies, tv shows, music, and if it was possible one day to be able to work on projects like that, that would be really interesting.
What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your education?
I think knowing that graphic design is always evolving and developing. There’s always room to adapt and you can still discover more passions within the subject, and branching from it as well. It’s good to have a balance of gaining skills and also learning how to express your identity through your skills as well. You can really show your experiences, your identity, through your work, and sometimes, if you might feel stuck, you can look back on things that have inspired you, even if it’s not directly related to graphic design.
I think that was a key part of what my lecturers were talking about as well, because sometimes you feel like you have to just be inspired by these well known graphic designers, but actually you can be inspired by something that doesn’t seem like it’s design, but it still brings you inspiration and helps you to design. One funny example is, I was doing a packaging project at uni and I felt a bit stuck on the style. I took a break and went for a walk – I went to Tesco, and when I was just looking at the shelves, I realised ‘Oh, I really like that pattern that’s on one of the packaging’. I think it was so random, but it’s nice to know that even if you’re just walking about outside you can spot something that can spark inspiration. You probably wouldn’t think you can get inspiration going grocery shopping!
Which aspects of the course most helped your career development, and why?
I think the obvious one is the professional studies module we did. We had to develop our CV, a business card, work on our social media presence, interview someone in industry and write about it, develop our portfolio and get that checked over.
There was also a work placement module. We went through the whole application process which we documented and spent a few months doing the placement – that’s when I did my placement with Drench Design. I kept a log and wrote an evaluation of the experience, and this halved the word count on my dissertation, and also counted as work experience on my CV. I think that was really helpful for me to develop my applications, to get experience working in different agencies, and also to keep my CV up to date as well. I sought out the Employability department a lot more – I was able to complete the Employability programme, and that also fed into my course as well.
We were also able to work on live briefs with design agencies, and projects that we could actually see reflected what was going on in the industry. For example, one of our projects was Penguin Books - and you could also submit that for a competition if you wanted to. We were also able to work with design studios in Cambridge, who issued us with a brief. One was more of a traditional style of branding, and another one was where we had to brand something, but not in a conventional way, so that really helped us think out of the box as well.
So everything we made at university was really, really useful for our portfolios, because even if it wasn’t something we submitted to be graded, we could still include that, and employers really like to see your process, and see the kind of styles that you can work in. I think it’s one thing to be really good at one style, but to be able to adapt and work with different clients, it’s a really key skill, so I was really grateful to have such a diverse course.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I think I would say don’t give up, and follow your passions. Even if you’re the only one that knows how hard you work sometimes, it’s still worth it, and it will reap good results. Especially with design because the more you keep practising, the more you keep working on things, the more it becomes muscle memory, and it makes the process a lot smoother. There’s some designs now that I could do within an hour that would have taken me days before. I think all of that practice did lead up to me being more efficient. Everything that you develop as a strong foundation, makes you stronger along the way. I think it will really help you to have a structured career if you have a strong foundation.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on creative fundraising concepts for charities specialising in conservation, animal welfare and the environment, as well as adapting television fundraising adverts for digital. A key part of my role is looking at innovative ways to showcase creative concepts in digital formats, to best engage with the target audience, to encourage giving.