Students & Alumni. Graphic Design.
Mardiya is a graduate of both our BA (Hons) Graphic Design and MA Graphic Design and Typography. She now works as a freelance Graphic Designer as well as teaching graphic design to FE students, and has previously worked for Penguin Random House’s marketing and publicity team.
What have you been doing since graduating from ARU?
I’m currently an Art and Design Lecturer and freelance Graphic Designer. Since graduating from ARU I have embraced opportunities including in-house Graphic Designer, Marketing and Publicity Assistant for Penguin Random House, to now teaching art and design to FE learners - who thrive to learn and develop within the creative industry.
Studying at ARU has been a fundamental part of my journey in providing guidance, support, and a well-rounded skill set that allows you to harness your talent to start a career doing what you love.
What were your experiences of education before ARU?
Before attending ARU I studied an Extended Diploma in Art and Design, covering a broad range of curriculum including contextual research in art and design and the developmental practice & process, which would be documented in sketchbooks or journals. Occasional trips to London, mainly to museums and libraries, gave me opportunities to explore the possibilities of culture and diversity within the world of visual communication. This provided a strong foundation to lead into applying for a graphic design degree. Regular workshops and tutorials were very helpful in understanding the options I had when considering a course at degree level.
I remember, for my final year in the course, I focused on preparing a professional portfolio and being interview-ready for universities - ARU being my first choice!
Is there one thing that inspired you to do what you do now?
I often found the most effective and easiest way to find inspiration was in books, concept boards and blogs. Keeping up with the latest in the world of design was important to me as a student. Additionally, I found being open to critical feedback is never bad but always helps to discover new ideas, especially from fellow peers and aspiring lecturers leading the course. In the very beginning of my first year at university, like any other student I remember being quite shy in my approach to design. But later this built into confidence when discovering all the possible resources available to me, such as books and connecting with others who shared the same creative passion.
One of the very first books recommended to me as a student was How to Become a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy. This book is a gem for beginners. Shaughnessy discusses helpful tips and attributes needed to become a successful designer and makes you realise that you are actually not alone in a big wide world of other graphic designers. There are also loads of helpful tips and advice from many different designers on different ways to approach briefs, finding work, self-initiated work and dealing with clients - which is always a bonus!
What’s the most valuable thing you took away from your education?
That as a designer you have to adapt to change, and accept critical feedback. There is always room for improvement and you could still be designing or working on a piece that has potential. Also it is always good to accept challenges that will direct you to search for inspiration, this way you can really start to open up your experience and skills within the subject. I feel this was a key part of my journey as a student, seeking advice from experienced lecturers and being open to feedback.
Which aspects of the course most helped your career development, and why?
The most exciting and challenging part of my postgraduate degree in Graphic Design and Typography was the ‘Master’s project’. I was most enthusiastic about it because this was a self-directed visual project and a personal one too. During the proposal stage, the freedom to explore a particular issue, challenge or topic came with various possibilities. The course structure advanced my visual practice in areas that are important for designers such as concept development, communication and typographic design. As part of this module I was also required to produce a research proposal which was then delivered to staff and peers, and this encouraged me to build on the previous modules to identify a complex area for investigation and enquiry.
Publishing and producing an impactful message was the aim for my final major project. So this led me into applying for an internship during summer break with a publishing company based in London. Penguin Random House considered my application and offered me work with their marketing and publicity team. I immediately committed to this. During the internship I often found myself amongst hundreds of great, published books! This was an exciting opportunity to discover an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience from book design to distribution. Later this helped my progress with the project as I was able to adapt and work with a diverse range of resources and individuals - which is a key skill in itself!
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
The one piece of advice I would give to my younger self would be to seek every opportunity as experience and never be too shy to ask lots of questions! Especially at a stage where you are still learning, processing feedback and making practical decisions based on your own designs. As graphic designer Paula Scher once said, ‘It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow’.
What was your favourite thing about studying in Cambridge?
One of my many favourite reasons for studying in Cambridge has to be the beautiful architecture amongst the Cambridge University colleges. Also the abundance of outdoor space and the unique blend of modern social spaces to shop, eat and of course punt!