Textile designer Coral Fowley gives advice for maximising productivity, and shares two FREE downloadable planning schedules. If you’re a university student in the last few weeks of your Final Major Project, or just looking to get on top of your never-ending to do list, find out how a professional designer manages her time.
Hello! My name is Coral and I am a printed textile designer. I graduated from the Winchester School of Art in 2013 and since have completed my Masters Degree at the University for the Creative Arts. Outside of these academic achievements, I am an exhibiting artist and heavily involved in the research and practice of digital print.
It is no secret that your Final Major Project is important and full of self-set high expectations. It is the largest self directed brief yet and the work you produce may be your first introduction to the art and design world outside of university. Here are my top tips to ensure you are fully prepared for the last few months of your degree.
PLAN PLAN PLAN
With printing deadlines, essays to complete and the entire world of self-promotion to figure out, planning is your best friend. 10 weeks seems almost luxurious at first and it is, use it well. From my experience, planning your project should not be super structured, over committing yourself is just as damaging as procrastination. Look after yourself. Review your plans, adapt them. Make your planning work for you.
I have a monthly overview plan and every Sunday sit down to plan my week ahead, keeping in mind of deadlines I have previously set myself. I approach my plans as if they are guidelines and not rules. The monthly overview plan is where you can be idealistic, write your hopes and goals for the following month. The weekly plan is where you get smart; outline the ways in which you will achieve your ambitions and goals. Use your weekly planners in real time, carry them around with you. Do not be afraid of changing the order of your priorities and days in which you have set them. My weekly plans are messy, full of crossing out and rescheduling.
Below you will find my downloadable planner templates, print them off, scribble on them, make them your own.
Set yourself bite-size goals, small victories to celebrate, and deadlines to meet. Allow yourself the time to enjoy doing well. This is your degree and your portfolio.
I tend to start planning by writing down the absolute definite dates, for example, hand in. I then write a to do list of what I would like to have by the end of the project and then work backwards. Now in no way am I saying you should have it all figured out, absolutely not. But have a real think, what will you need: business cards, artist statement, website, photography of work, etc.
Today, self promotion is essential, there is no running from it. Do not leave it to the last minute, give yourself time to explore, research and play with it. Keep in mind, the way you promote and present your work will change the way it is seen.
Sadly all of these necessities cost. Good planning naturally provides a solid foundation for budgeting your project. Budgeting is an activity which strikes fears in most creatives, I tend to approach my budgeting in the same way I plan. It is a to do/buy list with costings attached, nothing else. No secret formula or fancy excel chart. Noting down the costs of items you need and the best place to order from will save you money, time and a lot of stress.
By planning in this fluid manor, none of the spontaneity is lost within the design process. I do not set myself creative deadlines, more like creative windows to experiment within. You may not have an extensive to do list right now as this type of planning is ongoing.
TIME IS AS VALUABLE AS YOUR MONEY
Dramatic but true. Do not let poor planning or budgeting inhibit your creativity. Acknowledging and setting your own deadlines ensures your money and time will be utilised. Creativity is one of those annoyingly satisfying attributes which does not grow unless pushed. Constraints enhance creativity.
Time and money are your main constraints. Use them, acceptance is key. Accept that researching for material quality, paper weights and costings will take up the majority of your ‘free’ time. By free time, I mean time you are not allowed in the studio and anywhere you have internet connection. If you have access to the studio, be in there. Surrounding yourself with like minded creatives is the greatest gift a university can provide. You are paying to be there, make it home.
SAMPLE SAMPLE SAMPLE
Whether it is business cards or fabric printing, always order samples first. Sampling may add some cost to your printing, it may even take longer. However sampling is an essential part of the design process, do not forget about it.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
If you are not confident in one area, do not stress yourself out trying to master it in the next 10 weeks. It’s not that you couldn’t, it’s just why add extra to your already very full plate? Be smart, use what you know and who you know. I personally hate using the fabric steamers so I outsource my fabric printing, there is no shame in that.
I am a textile designer, not a photographer, so again I used the skills of professionals around me to create images I would not have been able to alone. Small scale networking that actually works. That being said, surround yourself with the right people, gravitate towards the calming yet motivating personalities. Be kind to those around you, even in the most stressful of situations. Tutors and classmates, you never know who you may need in the near future or the contacts they may provide.
I hope my words have inspired some planning drive in you. More than anything, just have fun. Print allows you to be creative and experimental, enjoy what you do and what is produced will be perfect.