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Are you a design Unicorn or Mermaid?

 Are you a design Unicorn or Mermaid?

Are you considering a career in the design or art industries? Do you really have what it takes to survive the rigors of design school, let alone the career that follows?

Nicole Mason, lecturer for Interior Design at the Design School of Southern Africa (DSSA), a division of The Independent Institute of Education  (the IIE), describes the kind of student she is looking for in her design classes – students who will be able to cope with the hectic stress of studying and working in the creative field. She knows there aren’t many out there, which is why she calls them ‘unicorns and mermaids’. Is it possible that you could be one of them? Read on to find out.

There’s a difference between being an artist and being a creative. In art you can be a little vague and eccentric as you follow your inner muse making interesting and evocative pieces. Creatives need to be able to design and make something that is functional, but also spectacularly beautiful – within a time limit! This is why unicorns and mermaids will have a very balanced set of mental, emotional and personal skills, making them a hybrid of an artist and a mathematician.

The whole left-brain right-brain thinking concept is a bit old. Today, it is understood that your strengths and talents have more to do with the link between the two halves, and your ability to move from free-flowing imagination to more linear practicality.

As a designer, your mind will need to come up with a creative idea, figure out how to implement it, then test it, analyse it, test it again and rework it to be better, more original and more beautiful, while still performing the function for which it is to be created – and it all has to be done in a limited space of time. This means a constant flow between logical and abstract thought; a challenging feat for those who are focused only on artistic imaginings or figures and percentages.

Another thing about unicorns and mermaids is that they need to have a wide set of experiences and memories to use for their ideas. Let’s call all your memories and experiences the mental materials of the creative mind; everything you thought was just a silly old memory or experience is just lying in wait to be used for something amazing. This means that you need to really live; you need to explore your world, visit galleries, attend shows, hike mountains and stick your fingers in the flames of life (not literally, of course).

Unicorns and mermaids are not the shy and retiring type. They’re strong and independent, unafraid of criticism but able to stand up and fight for their ideas. They are not after just the glory or the financial rewards, but are rather driven towards goals with one eye on the prize and the other on what they need to achieve and earn to get where they want to be.

Talent alone is not enough to make it in the creative industry. Often, it’s the student who is prepared to work hard to make up for shortcomings in talent who will succeed. The ability to keep track of time and manage several projects and deadlines at once is non-negotiable. Time management is usually strongest in those who have trained in mathematics, so if you have a career in design in mind, don’t skip maths!

If you are reading this and thinking: ‘Yes! This is me!’ then you need to find the right place to grow and that will push you to be more than you ever thought possible. DSSA, where Nicole Mason is currently lecturing, is owned by the Institute of Independent Education (IIE), which is geared towards preparing young unicorns and mermaids for the demands of the working world, giving them theoretical knowledge, technical ability and real-world experiences.

DSSA has small classes, allowing lecturers like Ms Mason to find and expand each person’s special skills and to help them get past their weaknesses. The lecturers have all worked in the industry and have the experience and accolades that budding designers hope to achieve, which they can, because students even get to submit work to international contests and awards, giving them the opportunity to catch the attention of the industry movers and shakers. The whole process gives graduating magical beings the confidence and experience become leaders in this exciting and challenging career.

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