Werkhouse Weekend

News Flash | Werkhouse Weekend

Creative Professionals bridge the gap between graduate expectations and industry needs

Many moons ago, six creative professionals* and design business owners found themselves all asking the same questions. Why is there such a gap between what graduates expect and what the industry needs? Why are we seeing an increasing number of graduates without a good understanding of design in the real world? Why is it assumed that industry will fill in all the gaps that students have?

And – being a proactive lot – those six quickly realised there was little worth in asking these questions if they weren’t going to attempt to answer them.

Werkhouse was born.

Six months in the planning, without a stone unturned or a scenario worked through. A 20 strong, multi-agency delivery team assembled comprising of managing directors, creative directors, design managers, creative producers, strategists, account managers, designers, a sector specialist, a content specialist, an illustrator, a film crew and two logistic superstars. Two eight hour days were meticulously planned, ensuring all the participants were able to work with all of the delivery team, so as to gain a breadth of knowledge and experience from everyone.

There was just one thing missing – the participants.

A one-page website was created, a Twitter feed set-up and a few tweets and emails tentatively sent out. With no understanding of whether there would be an appetite for a weekend like this, we sat back and waited. To say we were inundated would be, to put it mildly. Offering just 24 places, we received 149 applications. Overwhelmed with the response, we decided to increase capacity – giving 32 people the opportunity to attend.

Over a day and a half, five teams each worked through the same brief and on Sunday afternoon each group presented to everyone - a daunting task in itself. We got all the teams to the presentation level of a first ‘internal agency’ crit. Everything from patchworks of post-it notes to a myriad of masking tape arrows adorned the presentation areas and ideas were honed and articulated with exceptional skill. It was an intense ideas generation session, a close examination of a customer journey all mixed up with an opportunity to practice the interpersonal skills needed for team working, contributing and listening. And with the participants’ level of experience, perhaps the newest and hardest lesson of all was having to work hard on someone else’s idea, learn to love it and totally believe in it. Each team presented brilliant and, oddly enough, completely different approaches - it was almost like we had planned this bit too. (We hadn’t, honest!)

Saturday ended with a debate about the ‘gaps’ and differences in the participants’ pathways through design to date. We had a good mix of educational experiences from around the globe, including some participants that were self-taught and happily holding their own.

One of the highlights for the participants was the being able to work in a real studio setting, Taxi not only provided the venue but the involvement of five members of our team in the prep, planning and delivery of the weekend. Kate, Sam, Chloe, Lydia and myself all had first-hand knowledge of what happened in the studio over those two days, but for everyone else arriving back to their desks on Monday morning – other than the odd stray mouse, a couple of chairs in the wrong place and a severely depleted stash of post-its ­– it was like nothing had happened.

Everyone absolutely thrived. The participants loved it and couldn’t have been more complimentary – with a couple even saying they’d do it all again next weekend! So for the leadership team the conversations start here - what is the potential of this format? We are all keen to do more – though perhaps not next weekend - the Werkhouse is certainly set to open its doors again.

*Lynne Elvins, Design Strategist at Design Rally; Emma Blackburn, independent Creative Producer; Kate Lenton, Managing Director at Taxi; Mark Dearman, Design Director at TrueDigital; Jamie Gallagher, Creative Director at Hello and Bob Mytton, Creative Director at Mytton Williams. Supported by the West of England Design Forum.

Images courtesy of Mark Dearman.