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To be competitive in Design schools.

In some highly competitive schools (Haward, UCLA, Yale, ACCD,…) a student starts his/her adventure understanding the difficulties to overcome learning how to be competitive.
When I started to attend Art Center College in Pasadena, I understood that in that student environment there was a different spirit: we were friends and at the same time we were all in competition! Sane competition, the positive one that mentally forces you to reach levels that in other realities could not be possible.
I admit that it has been very hard on me at the beginning because of my cultural background made of Italian Public school system (1983). Big effort within myself to accept that new way of living, but soon I got the point in trying always to make an « extra » step to get better day by day because others were a lot better than me! The final goal was to get a designer job, working hard to amplify my talent was the only way to reach my goal.
In Europe, specially in Design schools in Italy, France, Spain…, the story is a bit different. The notion of « competition » is often misunderstood, confused with being mean to others to be noticed or to get the attention by « the right people » or (worst) arrogance thanks to a recommendation that will open doors anyway and anyhow. The result is: a lack of real concentration with talent and qualities not really used and/or improved by students. In my career as design teacher (Italy and Switzerland 1991-2001) I had to fight always against the « long vacation week ends », I used to ask for a brainstorming sketching ideas and get few sketches in return at so on…To give you an idea in Art Center Pasadena, CCS Detroit, Royal College London, when a teacher asks for 50 sketches he gets usually 60/70 in return! So during these 10 years time me and other teachers tried to apply a « cultural change » in the approach to obtain good results thanks to the concept of « sane competition ». I want to be the best to demonstrate I deserve that job opportunity! My passion tells me to go on and sacrify a part of my private life to honor my engagement for my future development.
Today I am very happy to visit Design schools (Barcelona IED, Turin IAAD & IED, Milan SPD, Paris Strate College) and see the cultural change that finally took place. The competion is on and the quality is better even if a long way has still to be done.
Another thing is when I visit schools (or manage sponsored projects) in Romania (Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest) or Hungary (Budapest). In those countries the will “to make it” is very strong and the talent, too. It is a lot easier to work with them because of their determination to be part of a competitive Design world, I guess thanks to a wider Europe. They understood that there is an opportunity for them to stand out to show their cultural background that is strongly full of talent and also (suddenly) full of sacrifices for other reasons I am not here to list to you.

In conclusion an advice to all students of Design schools who read this post: if you really want to get yourself a chance to become a designer one day, you have be competitive. It will be the best way to respect your difficult task, the money involved (some of you pay a lot of money in education) and,mostly, to respect your role in this difficult wider society.

Photo Via: www.istockphoto.com

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