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Perth designer-educator Brendan Hibbert has been lecturing in Graphic Design and Web Development at North Metropolitan TAFE (formerly Central Institute of Technology) Perth since 2006, and is reveling in his role as a design educator. And why wouldn’t he? You should see the exciting stuff he’s been up to.
“It [lecturing] does seem to dominate a lot more of my practice. The other half of my workload is a lot of government work at the moment — art exhibition catalogues, a large phonics toolkit and Artist in Residence Grants Program guides,” begins Brendan.
“So, it’s all related and connected to design education in a broader sense. I’ve been sitting on the state AGDA council for ten years, had two great years on the national council during the days of the legendary Rita Siow, and am proud to have helped develop the 2010 AGDA education policy along with past president Fiona Brine and Nicki Wragg from Swinburne,” says Brendan.
Much of Brendan’s energy is currently focused on making a go of the design biz in Perth, which is, as Brendan says, “kind of the home of the backyard studio, and is a lot different to Melbourne, based on the studio work I’ve done in the past. There are not many medium-sized agencies here like you’d expect to see in Sydney and Melbourne, and only four or five really big advertising agencies, and then hundreds of little guys.”
“The Department of Education over here have been great clients, particularly the Young Originals exhibition of public school art and that sort of standard fare, so the private side of things is very much just maintaining the existing cash flow and then giving students that insight and ‘this is how you service a client through to invoicing, right through to setting up your professional practice, and paying your Quarterly BAS on time, so that’s why the education side of things is so addictive.”
“We’ve got a really heavy lean toward students on the AGDA WA council this year. Alby [Albert Furfaro] is a past student of mine and now he’s the current chair of AGDA in WA. It reflects the nature of the environment of what’s happening in WA that the older people and the veterans of this design scene are not sitting on councils.”
In WA, there’s a current push toward events targeting design students, and getting those students to network with each other and with professionals outside of their current social/professional bubble.
“Now that the mining boom is over and everyone’s sort of tight with their money, so all small businesses in town are suffering,” begins Brendan. “All the small people [studios] that we regularly catch up with and that I know of are doing ok, it’s the bigger agencies that are hurting. That’s the state of play in WA from my perspective,” says Brendan.
The design education community in Perth seems to still be healthy and robust, though. But what’s the moral of the students and the grads like at the minute? Are they hopeful?
“It’s quite overwhelming for them, in terms of what’s expected of them, and there’s a sense that, particularly with the third years, there’s a sense that it’s up to them to really show their passion and go that extra mile if they want to get a job,” says Brendan.
“That’s no secret. They know we’re graduating about 42 students, currently, and of those I think I can easily say there’s only one handful of them that will probably get jobs after they graduate in November, but they’re very aware of that.”
“And that’s kind of where my interest lies: to make sure that we develop a dynamic course. So, students might not find that dream job of stepping into an agency, but we concentrate a lot more on UI and UX, Google AdWords, and Wordpress as well, so it’s a more rounded designer that’s being graduated out of TAFE.”
Brendan has also taught design abroad, lecturing in China to North Metro TAFE's sister college, Zhejiang Vocational College of Commerce (ZVCC) in Hangzhou PRC in 2017.
“I was able to take six students over there and lecture over a two week period,” says Brendan.
“We send a staff member over each year, and we have done for the last 6-7 years. This is the year that I went, and I was able to take some students with me. ZVCC purchased our full CERT IV and Diploma course and part of the arrangement was that we send a lecturer each year to help deliver a few units and make sure they’re staying on track.”
“My passion’s starting to focus more and more on education practice and policy evolution. Last year I was nominated as what’s called ‘the graphic design expert’ [kind of a mentor role for the competitors in a competition called Worldskills - ed.] for Australia for Worldskills. If you’re yet to hear of Worldskills: their mission is to actively engage in the development of the policy and the practice of skills-excellence in Australia through competitions, international benchmarking, and applied research. This year’s international competition will be held in Dubai in October.”
“It’s like the trade Olympics,” adds Brendan. “It’s massive. It’s something like 3+ million euros just spent on the opening ceremony.” [Learn more at Worldskills.org — ed.]
“Worldskills covers every trade you can think of, from graphic design, hairdressing, carpentry, tiling, to bricklaying, butchery, floristry and game design. Every second year we hold a national competition, and in every other year is held a regional competition. 2017 is a regional competition year, so all the states in Australia will have a regional competition.”
“No one knows that graphic design is a thing that you can compete in on the world stage. It’s federally funded, so the Australian Government chucks money at Worldskills Australia to take these young people over, but that funding’s drying up too. I think it’s something that AGDA could certainly look at a little bit more. So that’s my little mission this year: to help spread that word about Worldskills and hopefully get more competitors.”
“There will be a Global Skills challenge in Newcastle from the 5–7 July. This event is an important stage in the preparation and selection of Team Australia and the Skillaroos. Smaller in scale, it’s a mock competition with our Asian neighbours before Dubai in October. People in NSW should have a look.”
“Some people might reject the idea of competition in the creative industries — ‘it’s not something you can measure like that,’” says Brendan. “But it is. The briefs are robust, and they ask competitors to move really quickly — and so does industry. The idea of a time trial sucks when you’re a student, and even when you’re a professional, but these briefs are specifically designed to test the mettle of our young graphic designers. TAFEs are all over it, but with AGDA, it’s literally a blind spot on our radar. We could be sponsoring or showcasing our national medal winners.”
If this sounds like and interesting idea to you — be it as a competitor, a support team-member, or a supporter of any kind — get in contact with Worldskills and get involved.