Sam Johnson on Pre-Degree successes & incredible career opportunities
Pre-Degree study at Plymouth College of Art offers excellent opportunities to further your education and learn valuable creative skills instead of staying at school and following the traditional A-Level route, regardless of whether you’re planning to go to university or go straight onto pursuing professional opportunities.
19-year-old Sam Johnson, from Saltash, Plymouth, earned a Distinction when he completed his UAL Level 3 Extended Diploma in Graphics, Illustration & Game Arts and graduated from the International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme (IBCP) at our Pre-Degree campus in summer 2021. Six months later, he’s loving his work with Braincup Media, a video production and social media company based in West London.
We chatted to Sam about his decision to attend Plymouth College of Art instead of staying at school, how he managed to give something back to his local community, and the excitement of working on social media for a major national boxing event at Crystal Palace.
Why did you choose to come to Plymouth College of Art instead of staying on at school to study A-Levels?
After my GCSEs, I wasn’t keen on the prospect of taking A-Levels and was certain that I didn’t want to continue studying in a traditional way. But then I found out about theExtended Diploma in Graphics, Illustration and Game Arts at Plymouth College of Art, which was a really good fit for me.
Did you ever expect that you’d be working with brands like Hennessy Sports so soon after finishing your studies?
My initial plan was to complete a degree at university after my Extended Diploma. Completing the course at Plymouth College of Art, however, opened me up to thinking about other possibilities. My studies and the support that I received helped me to realise that I could become self-employed and make a living for myself.
Part of the reason for this realisation was the way the course was run. The work we did as part of the Extended Diploma was very practical, with a lot of focus on finding clients and getting external work, thinking about how to make a living with the skills that we were developing. The tutors gave us a lot of opportunities to work on live briefs with businesses and real clients. In fact, I earned money from the majority of work I completed as part of my studies, which really shows how grounded in the needs of industry our modules were.
How well prepared did you feel to enter the creative industries after completing your Extended Diploma?
During my time on the course, I received a lot of valuable guidance on how to launch a new venture and how to gain clients. For example, one of the tutors, David Hassell, helped me to understand the government forms needed for self-employment. Another teacher in Palace Court, Jack Bishop, helped me refine my portfolio. This kind of one-to-one guidance gave me the confidence I needed to create my own business.
A great example of this was our last project, the final major project, which had a brief that was so open, you could pick exactly what you wanted to focus on. I chose to develop my own business, which led to lots of valuable projects.
The one that I enjoyed the most was rebranding Saltash Boxing Club. Coming from Saltash myself, it gave me the opportunity to give something back to my local community. The process also set me in good stead for what was to come.
What kind of projects have you worked on since leaving Plymouth College of Art?
Soon after finishing my course, I joined Braincup Media. One of the first projects that I assisted on was their contract for Hennessy Boxing. I handled the majority of social media graphics, ran the social media accounts and designed the television graphics that were displayed during bouts. It was a great experience.
The day of the fight was incredible. I was working long hours in a hotel in Crystal Palace. It was seriously fast-paced and I had to think on my feet, overcoming all kinds of problems that crop up in a live environment. Although it was hard work, it was addictive and I can’t wait to do it again. We are looking at taking on more clients and more contracts, which means that hopefully, it won’t be too long before I get the chance to work on a project like that again! I can’t wait to take on more high profile work.
Do you have any advice for students just starting out at our Pre-Degree campus?
Set up a portfolio on Instagram, one for your personal stuff and another for your professional work. Post on it regularly; your sketches, your ideas, your finished work. Put it all up - Instagram will act as your portfolio and is such an accessible way to market yourself. Every art student should have at least one account. It really worked for me, and it was how I attracted clients and got work.
I’m so glad that I decided to come to Plymouth College of Art to pursue the Extended Degree route, rather than A-Levels. If you are a more practical person, like me, I would really recommend it. The open nature of the course means that you can pick briefs that appeal to you personally and work on projects that get you on the path you want to go on with your career.
Follow Sam on Instagram: @samjohnson_03