Digital Interaction students at Dundee University are well equipped to work in UX, UI and Service Design, which are areas where there are no dedicated undergraduate programmes in the UK. As such, we are working together to strengthen employability, enterprise and entrepreneurship skills in this area, to equip young designers with the skills to develop digital services in the financial services sector.
The School of Art & Design’s Social Digital programme work with Prudential Innovation Lab (in Stirling) to formalise a relationship and develop a structure, in which undergraduate students can work with industry specialists to experience cutting-edge practices in design and technology.
The structure allows for a mixture of student learning experiences – within the Art School environment and ‘on site’ at Prudential – that support annual projects, placements and paid-internships.
Development and Delivery
Staff and management level members of the Prudential Design team met with DJCAD staff to discuss and plan a program of specialist experiences, internship opportunities, projects, funding and awards. Throughout the process, the industry partners were very open to suggestions and prepared to fund all the activities discussed, including design sprints and sponsorship for professional prizes.
As the relationship grows, it’s managed through regular contact between design staff and Prudential management. In addition, students self-organise visits to Prudential headquarters and help plan and deliver design sprints and other related events.
The key challenges in this work include:
- Developing awareness of each other’s Culture – the culture of business and the culture of Art School education – creating meaningful experiences and managing expectations accordingly.
- Corporate approaches to design process can be significantly different to our Art School’s individualized student experience of design process.
- Financial Services sector is not instantly appealing to design students.
Communication is key to developing the work and overcoming the partnership issues as they emerge, with careful and consistent messaging and, feedback garnered from all parties at key touchpoints.
Both staff and students have been able to get a better understanding of industry methods – in particular, how Agile development affects design. Design Sprints and personal mentoring have given students insights into new ways of thinking about digital experiences – this is affecting how staff design and deliver learning experiences to make them more industry relevant.
Two of our graduates have already embarked on a 4-month internships – one has since found a full-time Interaction Design job in the FinTech industries. The other was offered a position in-house but has chosen to work as a Freelancer in London.
Prudential have a formal structure to collect and analyse the effectiveness of internships for both the student and their business. They are willing to share this data on request. As a School of Art and Design, we have undertaken feedback sessions with students after the delivery of design sprints and events. There is also the progression from placement to internship to employment which we monitor through regular communication with our graduates. In addition, our interns are invited to give a formal presentation of their experience to (academic and industry) staff which is followed by a Q&A session to ascertain where the value has been for them on a personal as well as a professional level, and a critical conversation as to how and where progress can continue to be made.
It is developing a more formalised relationship with industry is important. In the past, relationships between design education and industry have often broken down when an individual’s personal contacts were lost. It is important the relationship is structural.
Underpinning all activity across the School of Art and Design is an entrepreneurial mind set, and this work is discussed as an entrepreneurial approach to strategy development within our School’s Entrepreneurship, Enterprise and Employability Committee, which is the only School in the University to have its own EEE committee, dedicated to enhancing and improving why and how we become an internationally recognised entrepreneurial Art School.
As UX, UI and service design will provide opportunities for employment in the future, it’s important to continue designing and providing meaningful academic experiences. We hope to develop a new model for placements and internships built around existing Prudential Innovation Lab design sprints. This might mean large groups of students visiting at one time to work with as wide a range of specialist staff as possible.
Dr Louise Valentine
Ewan Steel, Christine Kingsley, Graham Pullin
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