Developing a reflective practice (graduate case study)

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Image courtesy of UAL

Developing a reflective practice is vital for success in the creative industries, according to service designer Obie Campbell.

For Obie, everything leading up to the position she now holds had to have a practical aspect. "I didn’t like the idea of not having a brief," she says, "I didn’t want to be too conceptual. I’ve always wanted to be relevant to the real world. And the London College of Communication course was really practical and industry focused."

University gave me the chance to explore what my strengths and weaknesses are. It’s all about knowing your skills and playing to them. I feel like I’m a better mentor than a designer – I’ve always been interested in helping other people out.

Obie Campbell

After she left UAL, Obie went on to work as a communication and social designer and as an associate lecturer at University of the Arts London before finding her current position at Participle.

"I'm really glad I have had experience in different areas, to know what I don’t want to do, for example, being a magazine designer," she says.

Building in time for reflection

"I've developed the practice of reflecting back on what I did and why I did it," she says, "...in work you have to know what you’re doing, why you're doing it, when to stop and when to start. And in everyday life, it’s good to think about your next steps and how they relate to one another and lateral moves... If you’re not doing what you want to be doing, you have to know that in order to know how to improve the situation. It really helps you map out your future."

In her current role, Obie is making the most of her love of education and mentoring as she works with a wide range of people in other disciplines, going through the design process and coming up with an idea that’s going to be useful to solving a particular problem.

Make yourself visible

Obie says she still regularly gets involved with 'service design jams' where she mixes with people from different backgrounds and builds up her contacts. She stresses the importance of building a wide network, especially in an environment where more people are working with others outside their disciplines and where interesting connections can make all the difference.

"Making friends on your course isn’t enough," she says, "You need to be doing internships, getting out to networking events, late night art shows, so you’re always meeting new people. University can be a bit of a bubble – you always need to keep an ear open for opportunities."

Discover companies as early as possible. Find out about the different roles, as there are all sorts of new roles coming about at the moment, as people work across disciplines, for example design and anthropology... Make it easy for employers to see how your work is relevant to the industry. I wouldn’t have got half the opportunities I've had if I hadn’t gone to events and explored wider opportunities.

Obie Campbell