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Paul Jenkins UAL Awards Body Annual Conference

Learning to fail

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Published date 12 December 2017

Paul Jenkins is the Founder and Creative Director at Triple Double. He’ll be speaking at the upcoming UAL Awards Body Annual Conference on 2 February 2018. As a taster of what’s to come, he’s shared his thoughts on the importance of teaching and mentoring within the design industry…

Paul Jenkins UAL Awards Body Annual Conference

I’ve always learned skills and taken experiences away from others; my friends, previous colleagues, bosses, and now as the Founder and Creative Director of Triple Double, my team and our clients. I always say that when you stop learning, it’s time to move on and that’s essentially what I did by starting my own business – after holding several full-time design positions throughout studios, agencies and in-house roles.

Triple Double helps to educate everyone we work with by teaching and mentoring – helping people to gain new skills and empower their approach to problems. Within the education sector specifically, we work across traditional institutions such as primary and secondary schools, universities and adult learning, as well as with museums, charities, cultural organisations and community initiatives to deliver projects outside of the curriculum.

I’m also a huge basketball fan, and player, and so perhaps the idea of helping others is just embedded in me, working with four other players on the court to come up with the best solution to score points for every possession, but that’s another blog post.

So as a designer, what do you do with these experiences and skills you learn along the way? A lot of designers are good at keeping things to themselves, I mean they are specialists at what they do, and they help clients with their problems in a way that no one else could. But I’m a big believer that as designers, we should be helping everyone to learn and gain the knowledge and skills we also have – at every step of the way.

This is the reason why education is the first thing as a business I tell people about. Sure, we can make things for you, solve the problems you face, but if we can help you to become better at what you do, in your every day, then you learn from that, and so do we. It’s win-win. Educating others to become better really is one of the most rewarding parts of my job, I just happen to be a designer.

So where did this interest and passion come from? Well you guessed it, my own education experience. I left school at 16 to do a BTEC at college in Design, as my teachers at school told me I’d ‘fail’ if I didn’t do A levels – even though I knew graphic design wasn’t an option at school. I then went on to study graphic design at degree level at the London College of Communication and purposely took this specific course for its optional structured year-in-industry, supported by the excellent Sarah Temple. That year out truly changed my approach to design as well as what design meant to myself – still to this day do I receive enquiries from students asking about my internships in Berlin and Tokyo.

Spending two months in Tokyo collaborating with the best boss I have ever worked under, Eric Cruz at Wieden+Kennedy, was the cherry on the top of the year (although that was experience was so much more).

After returning to London, I came to the realisation that if I wanted to progress in my design career and eventually start my own design studio (which I think will always be the biggest ongoing learning I have), then it had to be centred around helping others through design. It couldn’t be inward looking, it had to be open, honest, collaborative, empathetic to others’ needs and definitely full of opportunities to learn from. I had to seek out people and clients who also wanted to work in that exact way.

Since then myself and Triple Double have helped deliver education projects, courses, workshops and talks for the likes of The CASS, Design Museum, General Assembly, London College of Communication, National Citizen Service, Ravensbourne, Regent’s University, Saturday Club Trust, School of Communication Arts and Wellcome Collection.

We also work with the likes of Airbnb, BBC, Mercari Europe, Goodlord and Unilever on design projects, and the education simply continues here as well. What I explain to everyone is that you have to ‘learn to fail’ and what I mean by this is to try things out, get things wrong, do things quickly, iterate, experiment and most importantly, play. Design should be all of the above, but if done well, it can help others to understand and learn the true value and power that it can bring. That’s when the exciting stuff, and true learning starts to happen…

So, why am I writing all of this? Well I’ll be speaking at the UAL Awarding Body conference in February 2018 so firstly, I’d love to find out why you help others – that’s one of the most inspiring things you can take away from someone I think. I’ll be (spoiler alert) talking about some specific projects that really have been prime win-win examples of everything I’ve explained here, including one about emojis with students in Sheffield and a project I’ve been involved with the Design Museum since its early beginnings.

For now, remember to learn to fail…

Image courtesy of Paul Jenkins