"Graphic design? That’s for students who are thick!"

Monday, January 14th, 2008

According to The Guardian:

Schools will be ordered to offer impartial careers guidance to pupils amid concerns that teachers’ ‘sexist’ attitudes are promoting hairdressing courses to girls and construction apprenticeships to boys.
The education bill due to be debated in parliament today will also force schools to promote all qualifications to pupils equally – including the new diplomas which ministers hope will eventually replace A-levels.

The moves are part of a drive to improve careers advice before the school leaving age is raised to 18 in 2015 under the central proposal of the education bill.

The children’s secretary, Ed Balls, said: ‘I’d like to see all young people considering a range of options before they decide what career path to go down. I want more young women being encouraged and supported to have a career in engineering and more young men being encouraged to have a career in childcare.’

I wonder if this will have an impact on design? Does it need to?
At the moment I guess product and graphic design have a 50/50 split between male and female students (at my last university there were more female students studying graphics than male IIRC). But more craft-based subjects are still dominated by women.
I’d be interested to know if this is a result of careers advice at school, peer pressure, or selection procedures at colleges.

Yet in the graphic design industry, it does seem that despite the even split at university, the ‘girls’ disappear so maybe it’s not school careers advice that’s the problem?

Having said that, gender issues aside, it would be nice just to get careers advisors to understand design a little better – but that’s not their fault, it’s the industry’s.

Attitudes can be changed quite easily. A few years ago I gave a talk to an open day audience of potential students for a graphic design degree. Most of the questions, of course, came from the parents who weren’t entirely convinced their kids were making a wise choice.
In my talk I bigged up the intellectual aspects of studying design, to make it sound less ‘dumbed down’.

At the end, as everyone was leaving, a woman stayed behind. She introduced herself as being from the local schools career service. “Thank you for that talk, it was really interesting” she said. “Up until now I’d assumed graphic design was for students who were thick!”.


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