Designers Into Schools

Top designer Jenny Rhodes has been cutting through the mystique of creativity and getting back to basics this week running a design project for pupils at Wymondham College in Norfolk.

In a series of workshops for Designers Into Schools Week, a Design Council initiative, Jenny has been giving Year 12 students at the school an insight into the world of design.

Taking pupils from original idea through to the sketchbook stage and then on to the finished image, her aim has been to demystify her craft and show how design works in practice.

"Design may seem glamorous but it's hard work and kids need to realise that they can make a living as a designer, but it's a lifestyle not a job - everything you do feeds the imagination," says Jenny, whose designs have appeared on goods ranging from Jeff Banks' couture gowns to Royal Doulton china and furniture, but is best known for her Hedgerows design on kitchenware.

"I got involved in the Designers Into Schools scheme because it's good to give something back, but I think I'll probably end up learning as much from the kids as they do from me," she says. "The exam criteria say they have to write down what is going on in their heads during the design process, so it makes me think things through."

As a child Jenny was constantly drawing and a headteacher who spotted her talent persuaded Jenny's parents that she should go to art school at the age of 15. She later won a Design Council award and has since worked for international clients across a range of products.

"People don't realise the extent of design, so I've asked pupils to come up with ideas for a mini project to work on, anything from a door hinge or road sign to a fashion garment," explains Jenny. "Then I wanted to take them back to basics from the sketchbook right through a project brief."

Jenny will now go back into school and talk to the class about how each piece of work evolved.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what they create and I'm happy to be as helpful as they want me to be. I've taught art students, but never in a school, so I'm a little nervous as kids can have such strong views," she admits.

Simon Barnsley, head of design technology at Wymondham College, has been impressed by Jenny's enthusiasm, and hopes her visits will fire up pupils with renewed interest in the career potential of the subject.

"It is always good for the kids to get a new perspective and to see how their schoolwork can be the starting point of a career," he says. "There's so much pressure to pass exams, that kids tend to think of their skills in separate subject boxes and don't often get the chance to look outside the school environment.

"I would like to think this partnership with Jenny will continue as an ongoing link."

The Design Council has a list of more than 300 professional designers who have agreed to visit schools and it intends to maintain links established in its Designers In Schools Week (24-28 June).

For information about taking part in future Design Council events should, visit www.designcouncil.org.ukTel: contact Julia Thomas on 020 7420 5216Email: juliat@designcouncil.org.uk

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