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Iain is a graphic designer and photographer with over thirty years’ commercial experience.
He is currently the Stage 4 Coordinator for the BA (Hons) Communication Design course and an MA Specialist Subject Tutor at Gray’s School of Art.
Over the last five years, he has also coordinated the schools Personal Professional Development (PPD) programme for Design and Fine art students.
This year however he has now moved on to focus on developing professional practice for his current honours cohort and has been expanding his own skills with a focus on digital illustration as this has been an area that has steadily grown in the course over the last few years as new technologies have become more accessible for the students.
Duties and Responsibilities
Since taking on the role of Stage 4 Coordinator for the BA (Hons) Communication Design in 2018, Iain has introduced a new structure for honours year which focuses the students on developing a ‘Progression Plan’ where they investigate job roles and embed their understanding of the professional practice required for their future career paths.
This assists students to be better informed in their honours project selections for the year and allows them to be more confident in their decisions early on in their planning.
The development of their professional skills and knowledge is supported through the year with the following material Iain has created for the course:
Guest Talks - Hearing from experienced practitioners and Alumni of the course forms a very important aspect of the student learning experience in their honours year. We invite guests to talk about their experiences since graduation and their transition into employment and their chosen career.
Things to do… To ensure students feel more engaged in their studies and their use of the studio, they are invited to propose specialist workshops through the year to provide them with the knowledge and experience that will inform and prepare them for their future career paths. This has covered things such as bookbinding, talks on paper with GF Smith, introductions to VR, and Risograph printing at Peacock Visual Arts.
Coms Behance Site - During lockdown the course developed a Behance site to allow the students to present their work in an exhibition format when we could not exhibit their work in person.
The site now has just over 150 student and graduate pages and, although we are back to physical exhibitions, the course has kept the site running as we are now finding this is an extremely useful resource for current students to allow them to see how their work aligns with past graduates of the course and to continue the high standards expected of its students.
Commercial Experience Simulations - To underpin the school’s existing PPD programme in Stage 4, students participate in tasks in Semester 1 and 2 to prepare them for industry.
This covers mock interviews to gain experience of talking about this work in small groups and mini live projects where students cost the work and invoice on completion. The learning gained from costing a project and lining this up with the amount of time they take to produce a poster is critical in allowing them to understand how this will work in a professional context when they graduate.
This also ensures our students have confidence in the choices they make on the course as they can see the diverse range of career paths and the success our graduates achieve in their roles after completing their studies.
Degree Show - Iain also introduced a new format for the end of year Degree Show where the students are now focused on the development of a portfolio (physical and digital) for their final show with the content being informed by their findings from the Progression Plan and the skills they gain through honours year to inform the students long term career goals.
Prior to joining RGU, Iain worked as graphic designer in Glasgow and as a photographer in Aberdeen, and this grounding in professional practice allows him to provide an informed viewpoint on issues of communication design for the students, while embedding the need for a commercial focus in higher education setting.
He initially joined Gray’s as an Applications Supervisor in 1995, developing training material to assist staff and students with using the software and hardware available in the school.
Creating this learning material led to him gaining the role of ‘Learning Enhancement Coordinator’ where he used his commercial experience to develop a Personal Professional Development (PPD) programme for the school.
The PPD programme was designed to help students critically reflect on their learning and actively engage in their personal development. This school-wide approach to PPD at Gray's was developed in conjunction with 'Student Partners' and responded to feedback provided through SEQ and NSS surveys where students raised their concerns for the need for more support and structure within their studies, supporting career development from first year forwards.
During this time, he also applied to the Grays School of Art Master’s programme and studied part time over two years to gain a Master’s in Design with merit in 2011. Some of the information graphics created for his Masters won the National Trust for Scotland’s Emerging Artist Award in 2010.
He completed his teaching qualification for
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2014 through the Open University.
His first academic role for the school was as a Module Coordinator for the Professional Design Studies module where he redesigned the existing programme to reflect current methods of business practice and promotion for all Stage 3 Design students (about 120 students). The module ran over a ten-week programme with a wide range of professional speakers being invited to discuss their specific areas and students attended two lectures each week which covered the following areas: Relevant Professional Bodies, Guest Graduates, Support Departments from within Robert Gordon University (RGU) and Professional Design Practice.
In 2016 Iain gained the role of Stage 1 Coordinator in Communication Design. In this role he provided both academic and pastoral support to a diverse group of students. He also developed the curriculum, provided tutorials, carried out assessments and managed modules.
With the knowledge and skills gained from his academic role as a Stage 1 Coordinator he completed the Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy teaching qualification through the Robert Gordon University in 2018.
In 2018 he then became Stage 4 Coordinator in Communication Design and has been working over the last few years to develop the Honours year of the course to be more industry focused for the students, providing them with a broad range of opportunities to prepare them for commercial practice in their future careers paths.
Iain also teaches across the other three years of the Communication Design course on a weekly basis and, for the last three years, has also been an MA Specialist Subject Tutor.
During his time as an academic, Iain’s research interest has focused on Information Graphics which he specialised in for in his Master of Design in 2011. His knowledge in this area has informed his teaching practice and expanded the options provided to students for developing their research in their honour’s projects through the application of mind mapping and analyses of data for their projects.
He has also had information graphics exhibited at research conferences and published in commercial publications.
More recently the technologies for developing a career path in digital illustration have become much more accessible, with access to iPads and applications such as Pro Create making commercial level techniques easily accessible for students.
Iain has always been interested in concept illustration for tv and movie production, so over the last year he has started to research and develop illustrations techniques in this area to expand his practice and provide more informed feedback on digital illustration for his students.
Iain is not an active researcher in the school as his role over the last few years has focused his time on developing Teaching and Learning material for the school.
During this time however he has submitted a few papers to the following conferences noted below:
“Blending traditional & digital design skills to develop professional practice” at QAA 3rd International Enhancement in Higher Education Conference, Glasgow.
“Developing PPD within Gray’s with Student Partners” at RGU’s Teaching and Learning Conference.
“Developing and disseminating software skills whilst making it both accessible & stimulating” at RGU’s Teaching and Learning Conference. This paper also won the ‘Best Paper’ award.