Bill Strohacker, of Strohacker Design School
"My background is in design and branding. I started out designing Smash Hits magazine, then worked for Richard Branson at Virgin. I also taught on graphics and illustration courses, whilst running my own design studio, but there were 35 students in a group with only 2.5 hours a day to teach them.
"I kept thinking there had to be a better way, so I contacted 100 agencies in the UK and asked them ‘what do you want from a student?’ Not one of them said qualifications. They said things like enthusiasm, a good creative portfolio but a practical portfolio, and having an interest in the subject.
"I realised if I could get a small group of students in a room for seven hours a day, for five days a week, I could really teach them a lot. And if I brought in high-end industry people to devise and deliver the design briefs, they were going to learn so much more. I asked my industry connections to come on board and without fail they all said yes, because they understood the concept. Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl/Gorillaz) has been our patron from the start and Glyn Dillon (Lucas film/Disney) asked to get involved.
"We teach nine modules over three months: Advertising, Branding & identity, Apparel & packaging, Portfolio & book design, Editorial & magazine design, Packaging design, Website design, UX [user experience] design, and understanding the design business - including how to promote yourself to the industry. Our Apparel & packaging module was designed by Nick Williams, who was creative lead at Levi’s and the worldwide graphics director for Puma. I got him to write the brief based on what he’d want a student to show him.
"There are five or six students in each cohort and they tend to fall into three categories: career changers, people seeking an alternative to a degree who don’t want to spend three years or all that money, and people who are working in a creative role but who’ve never been trained (I run a part-time course for people who can’t commit to attending full time).
"It’s an intensive thing. At the end of the course students have a physical portfolio that they can take to interview and a personal website. I also offer a year of support for their job search. Our focus is on employability and we’ve had a 90% success rate so far.
"I ask them to read ‘The Fundamentals of Typography’ before they start. Other than that, there are no prerequisites. If you complete these projects, you’ll be equipped to get a job in design. As long as you bring enthusiasm, an interest in the subject and total commitment to the course.
"It costs just under £7,000 but there are more contact hours in the three months than there are in a year at art college. By the time they’ve finished, students have presented their work seven or eight times to leading industry people, so no one is going to scare them."