Tomas Clarkson is an alumni of BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design. Tomas tells us about his experiences of the Diploma in Professional Studies year – living in Berlin and working for design studios Edenspiekermann and Bureau Mario Lombardo.
Which course did you study at LCC?
I studied both a foundation course as well as BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design.
Tell us about your current role and what you're currently working on.
My creative partner Armel and I currently work as designers and art directors, having started our own studio in our final year of our bachelor course. We are currently working on some projects for Klarna (a large payment service) in collaboration with an agency we both worked at throughout our Diploma in Professional Studies year, as well as some personal projects and an exhibition that will take place in London in September.
What made you choose the Diploma in Professional Studies (DPS) opportunity?
My reason for joining the Graphic and Media Design course at LCC was the opportunity to take part in DPS. I felt that in the current graduate market simply having a degree wasn’t going to cut it and practical experience was essential.
Once on DPS I also realised that having a year to work professionally allowed me to enter my final year with a host of things I wanted to improve on, as well as a different approach to concept and general thinking.
Where did you go for your DPS year? Tell us a little bit about your experience:
I opted to spend my entire year in Berlin. Knowing I wanted to move here after university, I built connections and worked at a few studios. I started out interning at Edenspiekermann, and although in the three months I was there I didn’t get to see the end of any of the projects I was working on, it gave me the opportunity to meet Erik and eventually collaborate with him on a publication he produces. I then went on to work for Bureau Mario Lombardo, eventually moving on to being a Junior in the studio.
The size of the studio (8 people) meant I was able to have my own clients, often having to communicate with printing houses (in German) and make some amazing connections. My German is now at a good professional level thanks to the time spent there which has gone on to prove useful now that I am living here full time.
What's the most important thing you learned from doing the DPS year?
Probably the connections I built up and the structure around freelancing. On my return to London we started to build up our studio, maintaining a lot of the connections we'd made throughout the year. My approach to projects changed massively too, as Mario was often asking me to re-think my process throughout projects. I took this back with me and tried to implement in my final year.
How did DPS alter your future ambitions?
It solidified the desire to go my own way. Working for studios was an amazing opportunity and I learned a lot, however I wanted to push my own practice further.
Would you recommend a DPS year to other students and if so, why?
100%. It will help form your thinking and work process for your final year and prepare you for the reality of being a graduate.
What advice would you give to students applying for the DPS year?
Don’t sit back. Start looking for places before you’ve been accepted to DPS. Amongst to my peers there seemed to be a consensus that DPS would give you places and internships, and although they help with that at the end of the day you are the one that should be responsible.
Think of it this way, if someone gives you a placement based only on the fact that you are a DPS student and not the quality of your portfolio, will they really use you to your full potential?
Spam people, improve your portfolio. For every 100 internship requests, you might get one useful one, but that might just be the one you need!
What was the best thing about your time at LCC and why?
I really loved my final year of GMD. The things I learned on my DPS and the hunger it fuelled meant that I fully utilised the workspaces and tutor feedback. I took the year to learn all the things I wanted to know: type design, 3d modelling and rendering, book-binding. Once you're in full-time employment you might not have the time to learn all these things so I was happy to make the most of it.
Is there a particular person who shaped your university experience or creative outlook?
Craig Burston was always willing to have a long chin-wag on just about anything, while also being able to get in depth with me about obscure designs for electronic music.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Anywhere I can. I try to look outside of the field of graphic design for inspiration, as often graphic responses to things outside the field are more novel than variations on existing designs found on pinterest. A lot of conceptual art has a lot of 'thinking take-aways' that can be applied to both process and concept within design.
What does your workspace look like? Do you have a studio?
We have a small studio in Neukolln here in Berlin where we host exhibitions and parties sometimes. We're constantly trying to make it seem a bit more home-y but at the moment it’s a couch, a desk and some posters. In summer it’s great though, as we’re on ground level with a huge window facing the street, we often sit out after work and have some beers while watching the people walk by.
View the BA (Hons) Graphic and Media Design course page
Find out more about the Diploma in Professional Studies