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October 24, 2023

My experience with the South West Design + Digital Student Awards

Ella Harvey
Design Intern
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What is the SWDDSA experience like?

We run the South West Design + Digital Student Awards each year to offer final-year students a leg-up into the industry.

For 2020, our proceedings may have been different, but the results were just as astonishing as ever.
One of our 2020 finalists, and current P+S intern, Ella Harvey, describes her experience of the awards, and offers a few words of advice to next years’ entrants:

The South West Design and Digital Student Awards attracted my attention among other design competitions as it allows final year students to showcase their work and gain industry exposure on self-initiated projects.

And being in my final year of university, having the creative freedom to build a project from scratch, inspired by personal interest and experience, was an opportunity I wanted to take full advantage of, as it’s rare to not be confined to a brief or guidelines when presenting a new project.

One of the goals for my final project was to highlight current societal issues and design a proposal that advocates positive social change. The project I decided to enter, Aida, used UX-driven design and AI-powered support to transform the way we access first aid in emergency situations; creating an immediate, reliable service in teaching.

Systems such as Siri, Alexa etc. inspired my idea, where a virtual assistant could use voice control and a natural language user interface to answer first aid queries. I decided to enter this project as I felt there was social demand for it, and scope for a campaign to be taken further across multiple channels.

A few weeks on after entering the competition in March, Covid-19 meant that we were working from home, isolated away from the buzz of activity in the studio, and in many cases no longer working alongside other creatives.

The pandemic left many final-year students feeling nervous about graduation, not knowing which direction to go in or how jobs in the creative industries would be affected.

However, the awards maintained that excitement and encouragement in the creative industry: that it was still open to starting up new connections and welcoming new graduates. It really gave me something to look forward to.

I was really proud to make it into the top ten finalists in the competition. It was hugely encouraging to know industry creatives saw potential in me and were interested in my design work. Being in the finals meant I had the opportunity to spend time with the panel of expert judges, present my entry and discuss my wider portfolio for review.

I found it really insightful to discuss my work and process outside of the university bubble. The process helped me work on and build confidence in presenting and proposing ideas whilst gaining encouraging and valuable feedback.

Due to the open-ended brief, the variety of ideas and processes seen in the ten finalists meant for an engaging exhibition of design proposals. The awards not only provided the opportunity to meet designers and creatives in the industry but also brought together likeminded students at the same stage, making the same step from university into the design industry.

This created a positive environment to celebrate each other’s work through the awards ceremony as well as its social media presence, and it was great to (virtually) meet the other finalists.

Luckily, I was not only selected as a finalist in the 2020 awards, but I was also offered an internship with P+S, which is where I am now. To receive the call from the team at P+S offering an internship was hugely exciting and unexpected.

I am very grateful to be here now, working on creating digital content and animations for the P+S brand, socials and website, as well as getting the opportunity to get involved in working for some of the company’s clients, which include some huge brand names. I am finding working alongside the design team a huge learning experience, being able to learn from them as well as putting my own design process into practice.

Without the awards I would not have had the chance to connect with all the other young creatives involved, gain confidence in presenting my work in front of industry experts, and come out with an exciting internship opportunity.

My transition from university into the creative industry would have certainly been different without the awards. They gave me a direction to work towards and be excited about, so I am very grateful to the team at P+S for hosting the awards and the brilliant opportunities it brings to final year students.

Check out Ella’s and our other finalists’ work here, and be sure to spread the word to any final-year students who are looking for a break into the creative world.