Lauren McCluskey - BA (Hons) Communication Design

Lauren McCluskey
A talented Baillie Gifford Access scholar awarded financial support throughout her studies, Lauren is graduating in Communication Design and has ambitions to work in the third sector to support under-represented groups in society.

23-year-old Lauren McCluskey from Viewpark, North Lanarkshire, is graduating with a BA (Hons) in Communication Design at Gray's School of Art.

As the first in her family to go to University, Lauren says she’d always been motivated to pursue higher education. With a supportive family and the encouragement of teachers whilst a sixth former at Uddingston Grammar School, Lauren received an unconditional place to study at Gray’s School of Art.

“I’d always been encouraged to consider University as an option as a teenager, by both my family and teaching staff at my High School. However, I was unsure of what I wanted to study until my first sitting of exams when I realised my strengths were in the creative arts and English.

“I was drawn towards design rather than the traditional arts, and my passion for Graphic Communication and Art and Design classes pointed me towards studying Communication Design at University, where I could build on my creative strengths in the studio as well as utilise my passion for English through essays and eventually my dissertation in the more literary-based module of the course.”

As part of RGU’s commitment to widen access to support students from all backgrounds, Lauren was awarded the Baillie Gifford Access Scholarship. Lauren says she was impressed by RGU’s commitment to widen access and the variety of Funding & Scholarships available at RGU, which made it possible for her to go to University.

“I was lucky enough to receive the Baillie Gifford Access Scholarship during my time at University. This was beneficial to me as a student from a low-income background as it enabled me to purchase equipment and materials that may have been out of reach for me. The easing of any financial burdens thanks to this scholarship allowed me to strengthen my creative practice through a variety of workshops and software.”

Gray’s School of Art appealed to Lauren because of the range of specialisms on offer and because RGU had a such a strong reputation for graduate employability.

“The variety and scope of the course at Gray’s intrigued me. I felt there was a lot more variety than the experiences I'd been offered at high school. I'd dabbled a little in photography in my final year at school but knew nothing about cameras or even the basics of photography. Everything I’ve learned about analogue and digital photography has been from my time at Gray’s.

“The emphasis on information regarding employment post-graduation also attracted me to Gray's compared to similar courses at other universities, as career prospects were of great importance to myself and my family as I was the first person from my family to go to University."

Looking back on her time at Gray's, Lauren says a particular highlight was the close-knit and supportive community around her. She also attributes much of her success to the high-quality teaching at Gray’s and the opportunities to network with industry professionals in the creative sector.

“The hands-on approach of teaching staff and their teaching methods were the best part of my time at Gray's. Our tutors were always happy to help with any queries and made themselves available in person or by email/zoom as much as possible. One of the best highlights was the London trip in our second year, where we were given the opportunity to speak to some established designers and view their design studios such as Pentagram, as well as visit some smaller collectives and artist residences.

“We also benefitted from regular presentations from graphic designers, illustrators, and photographers who gave us an insight into their work and shared their personal experiences of navigating their careers. The tutors always made sure to give us a variety of external contacts so that everyone on the course, regardless of their future aspirations, had something to take from it.”

Looking ahead to the future, Lauren says she feels Gray's has prepared her well for a life beyond art school.

“The emphasis on being digitally present as a designer in the modern world was a huge part of our learning. From the beginning, digital etiquette and the portrayal of an artist's persona online were discussed, as well as many workshops discussing professional CV’s. On top of the more practical skills taught in our course, these are extremely relevant and necessary to learn and be aware of, and further job opportunities for graduates. I am grateful for RGU’s emphasis on employability, as I feel more secure and confident in my ability to progress into the design industry.”

With a bright future ahead, Lauren says she’s keen to work in the third sector and has mixed feelings about graduating.

“A lot of my practice is focused on helping underrepresented groups in society, so I have been searching for graphic design and photography roles in charity organisations and non-profits where I hope my work can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

“Beyond this, I am considering returning to University to become a valuable academic in my field. My time at Gray’s has helped me to discover my passion for research, and I would love to build upon my knowledge through further education to become a design researcher, or potentially even a lecturer or tutor in the future.”

“It’s a little bittersweet knowing that my time at University is over. Despite it being an intense course workload and having many stressful moments, I've learnt so much about what kind of designer I want to be. I've also built many valuable friendships that will last long beyond my time at Gray’s.

“It’s a little scary knowing my tutors won't be overseeing my future projects in the working world, but I know they’d be happy for me to reach out to them if I ever needed advice after my degree. Graduating is a very important milestone for me, and I know the skills and networking opportunities I have gained whilst at Gray’s, will prepare me well for my future career in the creative sector.

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