Ray Barker - Digital Media

Name and job title

Ray Barker, Technical Specialist in Digital Media

What's your background?

I started life at art college, but ended up studying mathematics at university. Being at university was also an awakening into politics and social responsibility. I felt there was an opportunity to influence governmental decision making through statistical research in particularly in the emerging discipline of information design. 

After a postgraduate degree in social statistics I joined he Social Statistics Research Unit at City University researching into longitudinal census data and taught probability theory to economics and social science students.  

Eventually the research world proved frustrating and as I was also working as a freelance photographer and music promoter in my free time I took the plunge to freelance full-time eventually retraining with a Masters in Communication and Computing at Middlesex. I then worked in the multimedia industry before getting my first job at Central Saint Martins as a Graphic Design Technician in 1996. At CSM I finally found an environment where my disparate talents in design and technology were perfectly suited .

What do you love most about your job? 

I love working with the students. I can’t think of any other job where you get to hang out with so many young, talented, creative people and who haven’t read all those books or seen those movies I love to talk about - and haven’t heard your boring old stories yet.

This time of year when we are preparing for a new academic year I find that when the students arrive they replenish my energy levels. It’s a sort of symbiotic relationship where we’re propelled into a new orbit together. It’s a rare experience - every year seeing the fantastic stuff students create - and you’ve had a hand in it. Making hundreds of things with hundreds of people is incredibly rewarding. 

What is your favourite thing about Central Saint Martins?

It’s not only the students, I don’t know if other colleges are like this, but Central Saint Martins seems to be the place where interesting people who don’t fit anywhere else end up working. So many of my colleagues have had other careers - so it’s a unique environment where students can talk to people who are as happy to talk about philosophy or nuclear physics as magazine design or fashion. I’m continually amazed by all these interesting people I work with. 

Do you have a favourite part of your day?

Lunch. Because we’ve all got busy lives, I love going to lunch with my colleagues as it’s a great opportunity to chat, have a laugh and enjoy each others company. I have lunch with people from all around the building. That’s what’s great about the move to Kings Cross, everyone’s visible. Since we moved here, I know everyone so much better simply because I see them so much more often. 

Who are your favourite artists/designers?

As a young man, my biggest influences were probably film-makers and photographers - Robert Altman for his wry humour and humanity, Stanley Kubrick, Marcel Carné, Jean Vigo come to mind, photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and Gerda Taro and Don McCullin because he went to hell and showed us what it was like. Really too many to mention. Ask me tomorrow and the list will be different.

What advice would you give to new students?

Be fearless. Show your work to as many people as possible especially your fellow students - in 20 years time the people who you go to university with will be running the industry and their opinions will be the most important. It takes courage to show your work - you’re making yourself vunerable so you’ll need to develop a thick skin to accept criticism and learn from it, even if you think it’s unfair.

By talking to as many people as possible you’ll be also developing the language you’ll need to sell yourself. As well as an excellent body of work, being articulate is massively important and will help to develop a network of contacts. Lastly, everyone like to work with enthusiastic and generous people, so talk to your colleagues about their work as well.