In January, the Design Department at Goldsmiths welcomed back a few of its graduates for a series of talks on career paths post-graduation. One of the speakers was Kirsty Minns, currently a Creative Director for The Future Laboratory.
Kirsty, who first came to Goldsmiths ten years ago, did not have in mind a clear trajectory from the beginning: “The third year on the course was a reality check: I need to earn money from being a designer, how am I actually going to do this?” She reminisced about learning to make ceramics for her graduation project: “I spent a lot of time in a small hut at the back of the Lockwood Building, trying to learn a process that normally takes years to learn.
And I think that was what really exciting about Goldsmiths, it gives you these opportunities where you have to be quite proactive in learning new skills, and the support of the tutors was phenomenal.”
Kirsty talked to current students about the different opportunities and challenges she encountered from her beginnings as a designer, starting from the first work placements with fashion magazines, an experience that made her realise the fashion industry was not the right environment for her. After graduation, she spent six months in New York, on an internship with Boym Partners, a studio which appealed to Kirsty with its deeply thought conceptual approach to projects, whether they involved commercial clients or art galleries.
Kirsty’s next career landmark was the furniture design company Established &Sons, where, by making herself indispensable, she worked her way up from a temporary notice cover job to Head of Product Development: “I used a ‘can do’ approach for being there at the right time when they were trying to expand their design and product development team”, she explained. This position allowed her to work with world-famous designers such as Matali Crasset and Jasper Morrison, and to gain valuable insight into the mechanisms of the furniture design industry. While employed at Established &Sons, Kirsty also developed a personal project, “Vera Chapter”, evolving around its fictional title character, which was inspired by photographs found in Brighton. The fictional biography of “Vera” resulted in a London Design Festival exhibition and a number of interesting design collaborations.
This project helped Kirsty figure out that she wanted to return to designing her own work. She spent a year in Treviso at Fabrica, a research laboratory for multidisciplinary designers, owned by Benetton, where she was able to develop self-initiated ideas as well as commercial projects with clients including Benetton themselves, in a variety of different materials: “I think it was a really great moment to get back into the roots of being clear about my path and wanting to be a designer and being focused on that, rather than wanting to focus on the product development side.” She also worked as a freelance designer in varied fields: “There isn’t a set path. You can see from my last ten years, there hasn’t been one set way to becoming a creative director”. Kirsty’s current employer, The Future Laboratory, is a trend forecasting, consumer insight, and brand strategy agency; their field is researching shifts in consumer behaviour, helping brands navigate the future for their consumers, as well as showing them how the future might look.
Kirsty advised current students to make the most of their time at Goldsmiths, and not to worry about being lost:
“Even now, I don’t think I know exactly what I want to be when I grow up. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.
I think design, by its nature, is a process. I don’t think you should be scared of that. A lot of the things I learned, and which you are learning now, have actually only become relevant now. Think about how you’re going use some of the stuff from now in the future. Recently, on some of the projects I’ve been working on, I’ve pulled out old books from when I was studying here.” She also encouraged young graduates to find creative ways of engaging with the design industry and finding opportunities: “Most of these people are so busy in their day to day life, that you’ve got to get yourself in their heads as to what they need, or what their business needs, or what their brand needs. And I think it’s really important to just be patient. It’s about that patience and that drive, and that confidence that you’re really going to get there.”