Creativity for life - How technology can help pupils develop future design skills

Nick Birch, head of educational licensing at Serif, which develops the Affinity creative software suite, explains why every student can benefit from learning design skills – and how their schools can support them with their confidence and future job prospects.

School is a pivotal time in any young creative person’s life. It’s a chance to learn the fundamentals of art and design, and get hands-on experience during practical projects. Under the guidance of their tutors, and with the freedom to experiment, it’s also when many young people hone their creative mindset, ready to take their next steps in higher education or industry.

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to break into the design industry, but with the right skills and drive, there are plenty of opportunities to carve out a rewarding career. And it all stems from developing those skills from a young age, and having access to the right technology or software from the beginning. 
School leaders are clear on the value of a creative education – which has been increasingly under threat in recent years due to ever-tighter budgets and funding challenges. But they are also aware of the pressures they face in meeting curriculum criteria and achieving results. 

In our report Democratising design: How to deliver a creative education when budgets are tight we heard from teachers first hand about the impact not learning creative skills had on their pupils and their mental health and confidence. 

Around a quarter of secondary state school teachers in England we surveyed believed their pupils’ enjoyment of school suffered most when they didn’t have opportunities to learn creative skills. Furthermore, just under a fifth (18 per cent) of teachers believed a child’s mental health was also negatively impacted as a result. 
The beauty of learning creative subjects is that they are inclusive in a way that other parts of the curriculum sometimes aren’t. Those who struggle with written or verbal communication, concentration and/or cognition, can discover new talents and ways to express themselves through learning creative skills, helping to support their wellbeing and enjoyment of school. It has many overarching benefits.

And it’s not just pupils who go on to study art and design subjects at university or college who need these skills either, it’s something that can help young people further their careers in many other fields too. 

Thinking about the future

Around 8% of the teachers we surveyed said it was the diversity within sectors that would suffer the most if pupils weren’t able to develop their creative skills early in their school life.

And when it comes to entering the workplace, there is a wide range of possibilities open to young people who can tap into their creativity. 
While graphic designers are highly sought-after by organisations in the private, public and charities sector – who all need professional websites, logos and marketing collateral. They’re also among the government’s ‘shortage occupations’ alongside others in STEM, social care and construction.
But many more jobs than you think include an element of design and creativity – including digital marketing (and particularly social media), journalism and teaching. Even those in STEM roles and academia, who wouldn’t consider themselves creative in the traditional sense, can benefit from design skills and creative thinking - much of which has been nurtured from a young age.

At Serif, we work closely with the education sector, and we’ve seen first-hand how difficult it is for schools to make creative software available to as many pupils as possible.

The good news is they don’t have to rely on expensive professional software, only available on a handful of computers, or outdated or free versions.
One of the reasons we offer affordable site-wide licences for our Affinity creative software to schools and colleges is because we believe all young people should have the opportunity to learn design skills using professional-grade tools. These skills can help pupils in further education and are highly-valued in non-design roles - but we have also seen that they can help pupils to secure these roles in the first place by creating strong personal branding on LinkedIn, professional websites or portfolios as they apply for positions. Of course, many young people today also have side hustles which require good branding and have channels like Instagram and Tik Tok to showcase their creative creations.

One thing to account for is that these younger generations have grown up with having digital technology at their fingertips from a young age. They aren’t afraid to experiment with creative software, especially if it can be accessed via an app on a tablet. Those who don’t consider themselves to be creative may be surprised by what they can produce and how it can elevate their work, whatever subject they are studying.