Bachelor of Design graduation milestone

By Sophie Hill

2019 was a year of milestones for the faculty of architecture, building and planning. In addition to celebrating the 150-year anniversary of built environment education at the University of Melbourne through the BE—150 initiative, 2019 saw the first cohort of bachelor of design students officially graduating.

247 Bachelor of Design students joined our Bachelor of Environments students and our Masters students for the ceremony held at The Royal Exhibition Building on December 19th 2019.

Family and friends filled the venue in celebration of our graduating students, whilst Dean Julie Willis alongside Deputy Dean Andrew Hutson, Director of the Melbourne School of Design Alan Pert and the Faculty’s attending academic staff formed part of the procession through the venue.

A suite of Bachelor of Design-themed gifts were available to attendees as mementos of the occasion, with the croissant-theme proving particularly popular with students familiar with the croissant analysis exercise in the Foundations of Design: Representation first year undergraduate studio.

Guest speaker, the University of Melbourne’s Presiding Chancellor Ms Jane Hansen spoke of the significance of the ceremony in particular for our first cohort of graduating Bachelor of Design students and for the Faculty. She noted the Faculty’s history of providing a strong education which  rapidly responds to the needs of industry  in various forms, including the introduction  of graduate education, the establishment  of the Melbourne School of Design, the Bachelor of Environments introduced in  2008, and evolving into the Bachelor of Design launched in 2017, the first program to be taught alongside colleagues in the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Fine Arts and Music.

The Valedictory Address was given by Saran Kim, a Japanese international student and self-described “guinea pig of the Bachelor of Design”. Majoring in Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Saran reflected on her time studying the Bachelor of Design, highlighting the networks and relationships she formed during her studies as of paramount importance to her experiences, knowledge and career considerations, however that may change and evolve in the coming years. “After all, the university was an intersection of the lives of people with different backgrounds, that embodied a diverse range of chemical reactions” she said.

One of the key aspirations of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning is to provide outstanding education to activate the next generation of built environment leaders, professionals and thinkers able to create and influence this world.

Whilst 116 (47%) of our Bachelor of Design graduates have opted to move straight into one of the University of Melbourne's masters programmes, others have gone straight out into industry to start their careers and gain valuable employment experience.

One such student is Steph Lam, a Bachelor of Design student who majored in graphic design and is now working as a graphic designer for Accuratus.

Here, she reflects on her experiences as one of the first Bachelor of Design students to graduate.

Steph Lam
Bachelor of Design graduate Steph Lam

How would you describe your overall experience studying the Bachelor of Design?

I really enjoyed it. The balance of guidance and creative freedom in my classes was a big reason why I enjoyed studying so much.  Each student could develop and explore their own style and skillset. We were incredibly fortunate to have so many opportunities to share our work with our peers, including our end of year exhibitions which were also attended by industry professionals. I have met some incredibly talented people and have made some fantastic friends through the course. As a cohort, we were all very supportive of each other and our creative endeavours.

When did you decide what you wanted to major in?

I decided that I wanted to major in graphic design during my first year, because the classes were enjoyable and challenging at the same time. Graphic design brings visual art into the digital space, which makes it accessible to a wide range of people, and that’s what intrigued me about the major in the first place. The graphic design major gave me a multimedia experience as we were often encouraged to work with analogue materials, video, and sound.

For my electives, I minored in performance design which opened my mind up to the applications that graphic design and visual art could have.

What was your favourite subject in the course?

I enjoyed so many of my classes. I would have to say that Graphic Design Studio 3, our very last studio subject, was my favourite. We got to do a variety of projects which included branding, infographics, book design, animation, posters, videos, illustration and painting. The assignments were a jumping-off point for us to experiment and develop our skills. I also really appreciated the fact that the tutors gave short time frames for each project to mimic what it would be like in the workforce.

Cover of Steph Lam’s ‘Before & After’ book, created as part of her graphic design major.

What was the most valuable skill you learned throughout the Bachelor of Design?

Aside from the Adobe suite and other graphic design programs, a really valuable skill I’ve carried over into my work is learning to view things from different perspectives. Most people can make something look pretty, but making it look interesting is a very different challenge. I have also learnt that it is crucial to be open to other mediums and styles.

Though graphic design is mostly a digital medium, some things cannot be achieved using a computer. I found my love for illustration during my time undertaking

the Bachelor of Design. Through all of my subjects, I had time to learn and develop the skill to illustrate. Today, illustration is one of my favourite things to do, and I can incorporate it into my graphic design work.  I also taught myself how to animate, which has added another element that I was able to bring into my practice.

How did you find the transition from the Bachelor of Design  to working in industry?

I found the transition a little mentally tricky. Knowing that my work would be for a real client as opposed to a hypothetical client was a bit daunting. Having to trust my instincts and not being able to ask a tutor what they thought about my work was also scary. Despite this, I think I’ve adjusted to working in the industry quite well. I have definitely been using the skills and knowledge I gained from the Bachelor of Design in all of my work.

Excerpts from Steph Lam’s ‘Before & After’ book, created as part of her graphic design major
Images: excerpts from Steph Lam’s ‘Before & After’ book and her illustrated cookbook, created as part of her graphic design major.