Joining Plymouth College of Art as a mature student, BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate Shaun Williamson believes that if you want something badly enough you have to go out and get it, you can’t wait around hoping it just happens.
We believe that high-quality education for life in contemporary arts practice is the creative catalyst for personal, professional and cultural transformation, and our manifesto includes ten propositions, written by our Principal, Professor Andrew Brewerton, that added to the themes of CREATIVE LEARNING and SOCIAL JUSTICE, define our strategic plans for the future. For our new campaign, we invited thirteen current students, recent graduates and alumni to contribute their own propositions.
Shaun Williamson is a graphic designer driven by a passion for people and a desire to petition for change through his work. We caught up with him to find out more about his background and his proposition, 'Sink or Swim'.
Tell us a bit more about yourself as a person and your background?
I was a late starter due to an illness I had as a child, from the ages of 14 to 20 I was in and out of hospital with cancer and am now an amputee. As soon as I finished with that and got it out of the way, I wanted to work. I had no qualifications, but I went straight into work.
I went from job to job for a while and I was interested in everything and experimenting with everything. I was enjoying working with technology like drones and cameras, taking things apart and putting them back together.
Over the years I realised I needed to start something new, but I didn’t know what it was. That's why I decided to go to university and find my new adventure and passion. I was interested in design and production, making people smile and solving problems.
I’ve always been very much into helping people, that’s who I am. I have always put others first and that's where my passion for design grew, to create something that will make someone else happy. I think that is the best motivation. Now I live, breathe and eat design! I love typography and video, I am learning filmmaking now as well to complement the rest of my skills.
What does ‘sink or swim’ mean to you?
Sink or Swim is close to my heart because for so long anything I wanted, anything I needed, whatever I wanted to do, I always had to fight for it. I’m not the most educated person, I struggle with academia in many ways, from speaking to writing.
When I was in hospital I could have laid back and let it beat me or continue to fight and get past it. I fought through cancer and then going back to college after leaving education at age 14, I really felt the sense of sink or swim.
If you want something that badly you go and get it, nobody is going to just hand it to you. My parents always pushed me in the right way, if I wanted something I had to earn it and that has stuck with me.
How do you think you are going to apply that ethos as a graduate?
It’s easy to apply my ethos to this industry, there is always someone better than you and there is always someone right on your tail. So you have to keep going and you have to keep learning. I like learning because I am improving myself, I want to continue to grow and expand on what I know. I think I like learning as when I was a child I had the opportunity taken away from me, I like it because I am improving myself.
Your campaign, Silent Signs, can you tell us a little about that?
For my latest project Silent Signs I have designed an awareness campaign, with an objective to educate employers about invisible disabilities that their staff may need support with. I want to help employers create a safe space for their employees, so they can openly discuss their disabilities. This campaign is a voice for those who don’t have one, helping others understand the challenges they face.
People still experience stigma, whether you can see their disability or not. Many times I’ve parked in a disabled bay and because from the torso up I don’t look disabled there has been a confrontation with another member of the public. I then get out of the car and they see I’m an amputee. It’s one of those things that if you’ve never experienced it, you need to stop and think before you act.
We are only human and everyone makes mistakes but if people don’t talk about disabilities there’s no way of helping other people understand. I want to try and take people through it and help them talk about their disabilities, letting them know that they are not the problem. People with disabilities can still contribute to society and their community, as long as they have support and confidence.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge emerging creatives face?
The transition between studying and moving on to working professionally is difficult, creatives can find it hard to adjust. While studying, you may have three months to complete a project, you have a lot of freedom to fine-tune your project but then all of a sudden when you’re working professionally it's vacuum packed, you have three hours and the only assets you have are stock imagery. You also no longer have your fellow students to help you troubleshoot or bounce ideas off of.
Taking on live briefs while at the college and using The Agency allows you to develop these skills before you graduate, so this transition is much smoother and you can immediately impress your clients.
What are your goals?
I have goals, some more realistic than others! I want Silent Signs to become a registered charity. It’s storytelling, taking other people’s experience and encouraging them to make a difference in their own way and potentially help thousands of other people with their own struggles. To be part of that would be amazing. To give them a platform for them to tell their stories.
Speak up and create your proposition.
Draw or write yours at whatsyourproposition.com.