This is the transcript for the video Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication

Aaron Seymour :

Hi. Thanks for joining us today. It’s very gratifying to have people here interested in our degree. My name is Aaron Seymour. I’m one of the staff in visual communications. And also here today we have Jacquie Lorber-Kasunic. She is the program director of visual communications. And one of our wonderful students, that is student Ruby Neagel, who will talk a little bit about the course later on.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation upon whose ancestral lands our city campus now stands. I’d like to pay respects to elders both past and present acknowledging them as the traditional custodians of knowledge for this land. I’m not going to read through this, but I would just point out and let you know that we are recording today’s session. None of you are on screen, so you won’t be recorded, but it’s just a legal requirement.

And just a little housekeeping before we get started, feel free to enter any questions by the question and answer widget at the bottom of your screen, we’ll do our best to answer the questions. Being an online event, do bear with us if there are any technical issues and we’ll work to resolve them quickly.

So what is visual communication design? We live in a world of visual communication, surrounded by images and texts. More than 100 years worth of footage is uploaded to YouTube every day, millions of photos are taken, apps clicked on, magazines printed, websites and blogs updated. We live in a world where people increasingly communicate with each other, access information and gain knowledge through visual media.

The visual communication designer is someone who navigates and shapes these complex information environments. We consider ways in which texts, image, motion, space, action, and interaction can be utilized to engage audiences, explore issues and facilitate change. We make visible the ideas of others and ourselves, provide clarity and structure of the critique, shape opinions, channel culture, and reflect society back to itself.

But perhaps the best way to get a sense of what visual communicators do is to take a look at the work of some of our students. Visual communicators design apps. This is Carmen Famularo’s project, Cut the Crap. It’s a very elegantly designed app that encourages people to reduce the amount of waste they produce. But it’s also a very thought-through system that incorporates social media and proposes local government initiatives to assist in this shift in people’s behavior. It’s a great example of the kind of work our students do. Yes, it looks gorgeous and it’s visually well-designed, but it also demonstrates a thoughtful understanding of people and their behavior, legislative and political contexts, and works towards developing solutions that work at a systemic level. It’s most definitely not designed as window dressing.

Visual communicators win awards. This was one of my students Viki’s design for an app called Cuppa. This was developed in a subject where students are tasked with designing apps that build social connection in the real world that connect people rather than pushing them further apart. Viki’s app works to connect people to their immediate neighbors, people who live in their building or street that perhaps they’d never spoken to, to borrow and share goods rather than just buying them. And through doing so, to reduce the waste and to develop community. The project won the digital product and experience category in the Adobe Awards and Viki won a place in the Adobe Top Talent Team for 2021 out of 1,000 entries globally. They also kindly flew Viki to LA for a four day workshop with 20 other design students from around the world. Obviously that’s not going to happen this year.

Visual communicators design publications, books, magazines, and other printed matter. We create typography. This project En Masse is a design for a fictional religion built around the 12 commandments of social media, thou shall not OMG, thou shall post thy love, thou shall not stalk. So it’s a key clever idea and very humorously done, but it’s also demonstrates exquisite typography and an incredible level of craft skill on the part of the designer, Thomas.

We develop branding and identity systems. This assignment is a proposal for a rebrand of the London Design Museum. Not only is it a new visual identity system, but he’s designed a very clever branding strategy, the how the museum might position itself in London’s very crowded marketplace of art galleries and museums. The best museum in London has never shown art, and it’s less umming, more ahhing.

Visual communicators also analyze and visually make sense of information and data. And as we increasingly live in a world of big data, these skills are becoming incredibly important. This is a project Tom did using the programming language Processing. It’s called Call Me, and it’s a visualization of the impact of September 11.

And I’ll read from his statement, “Using data from the Wikileaks is interception of pager messages as well as seismological data from the University of Columbia from the morning of September 11, this visualization was generated in order to better understand and reflect upon the emotional responses of those in conversation that day. Drawing data from 8:44 until 11:00 AM, every page and message sent from emergency personnel organizations and regular civilians is plotted at the correct time as a blue point, while every large blue spot is an instance of the phrase, call me. A selection of these messages are printed in their entirety next to the corresponding points in order to articulate the significance and the emotional resonance of that day in history.”

Visual communicators make images and graphics move. This motion graphics piece proposes a fictional and satirical app called Rule of Thumb.


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Aaron Seymour:

It was made as a parody, but I have to say having spent 10 weeks in lockdown with my children seems more like a thing that I might actually download and use. Visual communicators and probably myself as well, I have to say, visual communicators also code. This is a beautiful project where a student, Natalie, developed a fully functional plugin for the Chrome web browser.

I’m sure many of you have heard of the concept of the filter bubble. An example, it’s the way that search engines and social media deliver content based on our previous search history. So an example might be if you typed COVID into Google, depending on who you are and the kind of websites you’ve looked at, you might be delivered by Google medical information or you might be delivered conspiracy theories. Has a huge impact on the way our society plays out as seen in the kind of US selections around Donald Trump. Without going into too much technical detail about how Natalie achieved this with her plugin, what they allow people to do is to see data and compare results of the kind of search results that Google would deliver them compared to what they would deliver to other people.

And visual communicators create illustrations. We do research. I ran a studio recently with our honors students examining the issue of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and how it’s played out politically and in the media. Part of this was using methods of digital texts analysis to analyze large bodies of texts for patterns of language and meaning. Here’s an example of some process work by Isabella Sansai. It addresses the Australian Migration Act and all the amendments that have been made to that since it came into law in 1958.

Isabella tracked and decoded all the amendments that’ve been made directly and also those which have been made implicitly through a network of other acts and legislation. Working at small scale through laborious hand generated methods, her process speaks to a frustration with the clarity of legal systems around the humanitarian issue of asylum seekers. And it aims to uncover the complexity and impenetrability of the legal system surrounding this issue.

We also experiment with materials and processes. This is a beautiful screen printing and project by Josh Roseburg of which he says, “Traces attempts to communicate the tenure’s relationship between my father’s recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the consequent writing of his autobiography, through material experiments that are raising the grading and altering screen prints of his manuscript and to reflect the fragility of memory and the ephemeral nature of the written word.”

For this project, students experimented with the UTS laser cutters and 3D printers to develop a range of design outcomes. This was Emily Goh’s meticulous production of a series of insects made from laser cut paper. And two pieces of work with students 3D model typographic objects, and they printed them out on our 3D printers.

These are some of the career paths to someone graduating from our degree today. 10 years ago, half of these jobs didn’t exist. And in another 10 years, this list will be completely different again. It’s important to note that doing this degree doesn’t provide you a job, what it provides you with are the design fundamentals, the critical thinking, the communication skills and the research methodologies to adapt to the changing requirements of the design profession and the world at large.

But will my child get a job? This is a question anxious parents always ask us, to which the only answer can be, “Well, how hard will your child work?” There are no guarantees in life, but our graduates are in high demand and this degree is very well respected. The value of design, not just as a discipline to make things look a certain way, but as a method of researching and thinking is increasingly been recognized. We have large number of graduates now being employed, for example, in financial institutions like Westpac and Deloitte, as well as technology companies like Google and Microsoft, as well as more conventional design studios. UTS is ranked third in Australia for graduate outcomes, and 97% of students are employed full-time three years after graduation.

What do we teach? We teach technical skills, computer software, how to use still and moving image cameras, how to set type on a page, to write code, to create websites. But there’s a lot more to design than this. We teach cross skills, typography, composition, color hierarchy, sequencing, juxtaposition movement, and how these things can be manipulated to communicate information in different ways to create interest and emotion. We teach communication skills, how to develop design rationales, how to articulate your ideas, not just for images and texts, but verbally and in writing.

But the most important thing we teach you is critical thinking and research methods. This is what university is really about, learning new ways to think. And this more than anything else is our area, I think, at UTS of excellence. What distinguishes us from some of the commercial colleges and I would also argue many of the other university design degrees available in Sydney and across Australia is our graduates capacity to critically analyze problems and needs, and to use research and analysis to understand the contemporary context in which we are working and living and historical forces that shape these contexts.

How we teach. The primary way we teach is through doing, what we call practice-based and problem-based learning. This isn’t a degree like law where you’ll sit passively through house of lectures, most of the teaching year happens in studios, workshops, computer labs, where you’ll work on practical design problems with your peers and industry under the guidance of staff. We have world-class labs, photography studios, fabrication workshops, and these are the places where most of your learning will happen, not in lecture halls.

This is our degree structure. We offer an undergraduate degree, a three years bachelor, which includes embedded internship program. You can go on to do a one year’s honors depending on your results, and of course, you can continue the post-graduate study doing a master’s degree or a doctorate.

Why study at UTS? Our greatest asset, I think, is our students. You’ll be studying with the cohort of the brightest and most talented. And while we try to teach you everything we can, the huge amount of your learning will come from your peers, the ideas you develop together, the projects you work on. The people you met at university will become your peers in your professional life, the people you connect and share knowledge with and mention jobs to. You’ll all stand on each other’s shoulders. And on this note, I’d like to hand over to Ruby, one of our third year students, to talk a little about her experience of studying at UTS. Over to you Ruby.

Ruby Neagle:

Thank you. Beautifully explained, by the way.

Aaron Seymour:

Well, thank you.

Ruby Neagle:

Yeah, well done. Thank you. So yeah, hi everyone. I’m Ruby and I’m a third year studying visual communication and creative intelligence and innovation. And as Aaron explained, this is such a multi-disciplinary degree itself. You have this broad range of skills which are so flexible in the workforce, so I can go down, as explained, an artistic route or a more corporate route and focused on like brand strategy and work for Deloitte or Westpac or one of those amazing, well, companies of sorts.

Yeah, in terms of just my university experience, I was the same as you. I read this site description of VisCom and was so overwhelmed and confused about just what this course was all about. But I went for it mainly because I have a passion for the arts and filmmaking and animation. I just love that whole world, and I wanted to get involved and I felt that this was the most appropriate course for that. So that’s how I welcomed myself in here.

But in terms of just the first year of this course, I was so intimidated by the kind of broad range of skills and design practices that a lot of my colleagues were able to do. And I personally come from a background of no Adobe software awareness, After Effects, InDesign, Photoshop, could not do that. Procreate was a myth. I still can’t draw, but I’m here. So I think that in itself is a great way to just judge that this is not just a creative focused course, this is actually, as Aaron explained, it’s critical thinking, it’s conceptualizing. There’s this whole other world which exists in this course.

And I guess, yeah, for me, I was so overwhelmed the first year. I did not have those practical skills, but the beauty of uni is that it is a journey. And I got to explore all these different fields through my electives and talking to my tutors. And I was able to build a platform for myself in terms of the things that I was really interested in and the things which don’t really work for me, which is coding. I figured that out last year, not touching it, but gave it a go at least.

And yeah, I think the best, I know this is so cliche, but visual communicators, we do bring ideas to life and we just think about it in such like everything has a purpose in this practice. And I just think this was one of the best decisions I made for my career, not only in terms of flexibility, but I have so many skills that I can use in different contexts. So I’m always valuable in the workforce, which is something really reassuring to have as a student. And yeah, I’m really proud to be here and say that to you guys today. But yeah, that would probably be my experience. Thank you.

Aaron Seymour:

Thank you, Ruby. I think you may have touched on a really important point that there are many different pathways through the degree and people come with different skills, different interests, different expectations, and those skills, expectations change over the course of the degree as well. But it’s not a one size fits all, there’s enough diversity for people to really figure out the kind of designer they want to become.

So we have fantastic students and staff, but we also have significant industry links, an embedded internship program, potential further study, honors, masters, doctorate, amazing facilities. But we really focus on research here, that’s a really crucial thing, I think, at UTS. And we have a really strong global orientation.

We have 12 permanent staff, the other 100 plus people who teach into the degree are industry professionals. This one here shows our teaching is relevant and current and create some links with industry. You’ll be learning with the people who may one day end up working with. And a lot of projects that you work on, particularly in the later parts of the degree, are collaborations with industry or working for real world clients. The school of design also runs global studios where you can study on location in various places around the world to gain experience of other cultures and other design cultures. Obviously this program is somewhat curtailed at the moment and actually even Kiama is now off the menu. But hopefully, hopefully we all pray that it will be coming back to us all soon.

We’re going to move to questions in a moment, or perhaps people have been typing questions into the chat box. But maybe I just want to point out a couple of things. The program has an Instagram that you can go and follow if you’re interested in the course, you can find more information about the website. And a couple of questions that always come up is like, what happens if I apply and I don’t get in? And I think that’s a really important question. I think it’s super important to not feel derailed if that experience happens. We have people who’ve taken a number of years to get into the course and go on to be hugely successful. Getting a good mark in your HSCs is not the only way to succeed in life.

So we have a non-recent school leaver entry by portfolio avenues. So if you don’t get in, you can take a year off. And after a year you’re now considered the non-recent school leaver, and at that point we assess you on a portfolio of work, not on your ATAR. So I think if you don’t get in, it gives you 12 months to build a portfolio of work, perhaps to build on stuff you’ve done in the past or to learn design yourself in various ways. There’s definitely more than one route to be a designer. And I think that’s a super important thing to be aware of.