Few art institutions can look back and ahead like Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) can. With beginnings that date back to 1845, the university’s forward-thinking outlook makes it just as progressive as it is historic. Here, students worldwide are learning from the past to shape the future — a competency heavily sought-after in the arts industry and respected by its finest professionals.
Little wonder why NUA students achieve more than most well before graduating. Where else will you find MA students serving as creative thinking consultants at the Nuffield Farming International Conference; designing book covers for international bestsellers; exhibiting their work at Tate Britain; or racking up more awards than their shelves can hold?
With a comprehensive education conceptualised by today’s designers for tomorrow’s visionaries, anything is possible.
Lucy Zini has come a long way since her days as an NUA student. Since graduating, she has won the 2020 Women in Games Student portfolio awards and worked as a freelance environment concept artist for ScruffyDog Creative Group. Recently, she was a finalist in the 2021 Rookies awards.
Today Zini works for Compulsion Games – an Xbox studio – as an environment concept artist. Since the company is based in Montreal, Canada, she works remotely from the UK. Her role entails working with briefs to create concepts whilst giving regular updates to her art director. She incorporates feedback as she goes.
Zini credits NUA for nurturing the skillsets she uses today as a professional. “Learning basic 3D as a concept artist has been a huge advantage, as well as knowledge of software such as Unreal engine,” she says. “Doing something I enjoyed pushed me to want to make my work better. It shouldn’t feel like a chore.”
Lucy Zini, BA (Hons) Games Art and Design
Jake Gilbert’s job at the world’s largest design agency, Pentagram, started with a bad portfolio – but not for long. After he photographed his portfolio and put everything together, he got in touch with Martin Schooley, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Design for Publishing, BA (Hons) Graphic Design, BA (Hons) Graphic Communication and BA (Hons) User Experience Design, for his opinion and critique.
“Martin, quite rightly, said my portfolio was absolutely not ready to be sent out to industry – he said it was a mess, and he was right” said Jake.
Top tips by Schooley fixed that. The portfolio was stripped back to three to four of the best projects, the layout made simple and was no more than 25 pages, keeping the file size under 5mb.
He interviewed with Atlas design consultancy, based in Mallorca and London, founded by now Pentagram partner, Astrid Stavro. Stavro was impressed enough by Gilbert that she took him with her when she moved to Pentagram.
“As Astrid was just joining Pentagram herself, we were basically building the studio from scratch as I was the first member of her team,” he says. “We were establishing the rules, setting up templates and guides on how to contact potential clients, it was a huge learning curve.” It’s been a wild ride for Gilbert since – and it wouldn’t have been possible without NUA.
Jake Gilbert, BA (Hons) Graphic Communication
In 2021, BA (Hons) Fashion graduate Emily Rose was the only winner from the UK to win at the Arts of Fashion International Competition Awards. The achievement came with a month-long studio apprenticeship with Maison Lemarié, one of the design studios at Les Métiers d’Art of CHANEL.
Her winning concept, “No Hope Without Circles” explores momentum through circular form; from the Earth on its axis, to orbiting the constant sun.
“The collection I submitted to this competition is parallel to my graduate collection,” she said. “The summer after graduating, NUA gave me extended access to the studios so I had time and the equipment to make these garments.”
In 2021, first-year NUA student Jess Edwards was one of 10 “inspiring” students across the UK to be selected for the ELLE Mentorship Scheme. The programme was designed to bridge the gap between students and the industry.
So far, Edwards has witnessed first-hand what exactly goes into creating a fashion magazine, contributed ideas for styling and creative direction to interviewing celebrities. She was even featured in the September 2021 issue of ELLE.
“The whole experience has been so enjoyable. I’ve done things I would have never imagined – all during a pandemic,” she says. “For example, I’ve interviewed Olympic boxer, Ramla Ali, and had a photoshoot with Borja Marting. I’ve had the most incredible time so far.”
Jess Edwards, BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion
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