4 min read

The differences between University and a Studio Environment

Kirsty 2
Updated on 15 Mar 2024

Going from studying at University to working on various projects here in Shape’s design studio has definitely been a huge learning curve for me. Since starting my degree in Illustration, I have been used to working on the same project for 4-6 weeks at a time, receiving constant feedback from tutors and peers, and my only responsibility being my own work.

I always knew I wanted to take the option of a placement year as a part of my study as I knew there were skills that I would develop by doing this that I would never learn being sat in the University studio. I wanted a placement that gave me the opportunity to not only work on my illustration but also to meet with clients and get to know the design industry on a professional level and Shape has given me the chance to develop skills in all of these areas and more.  

Throughout the past two years of my study at university my interest in digital illustration has just grown stronger & stronger. Before starting my study, I wasn’t quite sure what area of illustration I wanted to go into. There is such a wide range of different types and uses of illustration out there that I thought I’d never be able to find my niche. We were given a number of quite open briefs to work on and I always found myself steering towards digital techniques in every project I was doing. My skills in this area went from strength to strength and when the time came to start searching for a placement, I was certain this was the area I wanted to be working in.

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As the second year of my degree was coming to an end, I was still in search of the right placement. I came across MadeByShape on instagram one evening and immediately liked the look of their page, and so after some further research I sent Andy a quick email enquiring about any potential placement opportunities they might be willing to offer. I was pleasantly surprised when he got back to me almost immediately and we arranged a meeting for the following week. I started at Shape just a couple of weeks later, and I really have enjoyed every minute of being here since!

Under my new role as Shape’s Project Manager, my experience has been completely different to university. I have been given a number of illustration projects since starting that I’ve been working on with deadlines of 2-4 days and it seems crazy now to think that I used to work to deadlines of around two months while I was at uni! I do feel like I’m getting used to the shorter deadlines & working faster now, but I know I still have a lot to learn during this experience and I am really looking forward to developing new skills & constantly building on these as I go along.

The biggest difference between university & working under my new role has to be the responsibilities I have been given alongside my illustration work. Andy told me when I accepted this placement that I would not be sat doing illustration the whole time as he felt that would not benefit me in terms of learning new skills that will be essential for my career when I finish university and I agree with him. I have been communicating with clients, both in person & over email, creating content for Shape and coming up with ideas to develop the business further. These are all things I have never and would never have done if I was stuck in the university studio and I feel extremely lucky to be given the opportunity to do so.

Working in the studio full time has made me realise that when you love what you’re doing it doesn’t feel like work at all, and getting out of bed every morning to come to work doesn’t have to feel like a chore. It is different to what I have been used to the last two years, but the studio is a really easy environment to work in. Everybody has a great sense of humour and we have a lot of laughs, but we know when we need to get our heads down and get on with our work. I have already gained so much experience since being here and I am excited to see what the future holds for me whilst I am working at Shape.

Things to bear in mind when it comes to finding the right placement/job:

  • Don’t be afraid to get in touch. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t of enquired about the opportunity, and a big part of the job is contacting and communicating with clients, so this is essential.
  • Get used to managing your time effectively - deadlines in a real working environment are not as long or as lenient as when you are at uni.
  • Take the job seriously - but not too seriously. Have a laugh and enjoy the experience! But know when it is time to get your head down and get your work done.

Kirsty 1

Hi I'm Kirsty! If I'm not working, I'm travelling the world.