How one school is linking its graduates with online networks that accelerate their careers.
I learned a new word recently: artrepreneur.
Artrepreneur, as in, a business-minded creative individual. Or the self-employed designer who knows how to sell. In this market though, I’ve noticed that matching financial literacy and market savvy in creative fields is a requisite for survival.
If business-backed artrepreneurism determines whether we’ll survive in whatever creative field we pursue, then why don’t our degrees prepare us adequately? We may have studio workshops, theory classes, essays and group projects, but why don’t schools teach us about financing our work, or exposing our portfolio online? That’s why I was amazed when I saw what the Rhode Island School of Design is offering its graduates this year.
“A new kind of art+design-led leadership is needed to innovate in the current global economy,” said John Maeda, the president of the school. In a kind of we-practice-what-we-preach move, the RISD has bequeathed its freshly minted design graduates with premium access to Web 2.0 finest creative services and networks. This innovative “artrepreneur toolkit” is proof that schools can be intuitive about careers beyond campus.
The artrepreneur toolkit is stocked with a six-month account to Behance’s online portfolio site, Prosite, with limitless hosting and project space. Grads also get activation codes to Squares, a service for credit card payment processing via a small card reader plugged into a mobile phone. They’re offered accounts with YouSendIt, which handles massive files sizes, thus saving stress and last-minute shipping fees when submitting applications and portfolios. The toolkit is cushioned with support from Etsy, a mega-mall of small creative businesses’ online boutiques, and Kickstarter, the crowd-sourced fundraising platform that lifts ideas off the page.
“We are providing them with just a few of the tools and resources that can help launch their work into the public spectrum and help them make a living, in whatever way they choose,” Maeda continued.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m envious of these design students. Their school seems to have some grasp on the world beyond the humming brain of a university campus.
Not only is the market harder that it’s ever been, – or, well, so we’re told – our job ambitions have completely changed. Graduates today aren’t itching to jump right into ingrained menial careers. In fact, we’re faced with more options that ever. We’re also an online generation, who blog, tweet, network and showcase online. We may not know where we’re headed come graduation, but our values are more likely aligned with the features of artrepreneurism: be creative, solve problems through innovation, move seamlessly between offline and online networks, manage our own work, and add value.
I did not get a design degree. I attended a traditional university: staunchly academic, an engrained teacher-student paradigm, and an inbox of static career advice. For those of us who were interested in entrepreneurism, our career prep tended towards standardized grooming, rather that individually-enabling tools. Routine invitations appeared for workshops titled “Career Fair 101: Be Your Best,” or a cringe-worthy favourite, “Backpack to Briefcase.”
The way I see it, design schools may be the pioneers of matching web-based tools with creative thinkers, but all universities could link us up with the online networks that we twenty-somethings use anyways. What about a business account on LinkedIn, where we could actually network? Pro accounts to Dropbox or Ge.tt, two data -sharing and -sending sites? A Flavours.me account for your personal CV presence online? Our degrees may never wholly prepare us for that first year out of school, but they could take a page from RISD’s book and send us off with more than a cap and a bon-bon.