Jonathan Baker is the Course Leader for the Postgraduate Certificate in Fashion Visual Merchandising. He is also a freelance industry consultant, writer and blogger and former Chief world Expert in Visual Merchandising for Worldskills.org.
Jonathan previously worked within the retail and visual merchandising industry across 18 high street brands, including Topman, Topshop, Burtons, and has taught for 17 years. He studied MA’s in Design at CSM and Art in Architecture at UEL.
This is a new course. What do you think is unique about it? And what does it offer students, which other courses might not?
This is a unique Postgraduate Certificate course in which students will learn to apply design and management skills to create innovative solutions for the visual merchandising industry with a curriculum future focused on creativity, innovation and new technologies. The curriculum has been developed in collaboration and with the support of industry partners including Selfridges, Elemental Design, and Proportion>London, and clearly focused on the future needs of the industry and employment opportunities. The Fashion Visual Merchandising department at London College of Fashion is a recognised centre of Excellence by The British Display Society and has an established history of employability and industry networks.
Current undergraduates in the department have secured permanent employment at brands including Tom Ford, Louis Vuitton, DZD, John Lewis and Dolce and Gabbana. The course also offers collaborative working to replicate commercial practice in conjunction with industry partnerships through live / simulated projects. The department is recognised by global and UK brands, and industry collaborations and competitions are already embedded at undergraduate level with recent partners of the Visual Merchandising courses including Liberty, Anthropologie, ASOS, Warehouse, John Lewis, Fortnum and Mason, Amnesty International, Hyundai, Sue Ryder, Moshi Monsters, Fenwick of Bond Street, Nicole Farhi, Canadian High Commission and Cofrad Paris.
Additionally the course Units are supported by LCF hubs and centres, including The Digital Anthropology Lab, The Centre of Fashion Enterprise, The Centre for Fashion Curation and The Centre for Sustainable Fashion.
What do you learn from your students?
Having a deeper understanding of my students is invaluable to me as a lecturer to deepen and refine my practice. Sometimes these insights arise from unplanned interactions or observations but also other times through activities which are structured so that students are able to think deeply and share their thoughts about their own learning. Opportunities for feedback and reflection are strategically integrated into taught sessions and these can be very helpful for both students and tutors.
What inspires and excites you in terms of your area of practice?
The sense of journey from private spaces to public places and on to private / public retail spaces has always held a fascination for me. Where do people meet before they go shopping? Why do we go to a particular store and not another? What makes things sell? What first attracts us to a brand?
Of course a whole plethora of research, theories, theories of the theories, and research of the theories exists to answer these questions and indeed many more. When designing, producing commercial spaces or installing a visual merchandising concept it can be particularly easy to apply motifs or plagiarise by lifting from already established and published imagery, however the way that I work is to encourage my students to look beyond these and apply a much deeper level of critical research and thinking through their initial ideas, before applying them into the commercial spaces that they design. Fashion Visual Merchandising plays a vital role in many fields including retail sales, film, television and exhibitions and a part of my approach is to provide practical hands-on experience of the creative design process, which I explore through a variety of workshops and studio practice in tandem with academic rigour.
My personal objectives are to identify and address problems, finding appropriate solutions through interpretation, construction and installation. As with everything we do, there is no single answer or just one solution to a problem, however I encourage my students to maintain currency of information, understand that other disciplines are potential collaborators and develop their imaginations and skills to communicate inspiration that makes sense to others.
And briefly, how would you sum up the LCF experience to prospective students?
- Putting curiosity, making, critical questioning and rigour at the heart of the Fashion Visual Merchandising curriculum.
- Using teaching methods based on best creative practices, and expanding the use of work-based and research-informed learning to ensure that our students are thoroughly equipped for their future careers within the Visual Merchandising industry.
- Engaging with students to develop flexible modes of teaching delivery, taking into account the particular characteristics of a London-based education and advances in digital technologies for Fashion Visual Merchandising.
- Placing diversity and inclusivity at the core of our recruitment and education for staff and students.