This is an EXTREMELY long post. Please facebook my note instead for better readability.
The Danger that is Advertising Design masked as Graphic Design. Enter the world where anyone can be fooled and shameless self promotion forces you to have your face plastered at the back of the name card.
In dedication to cenfad, Miss Ami, her literature classes and my long lost love of writing long-winded essays, I have got a couple of thoughts about PJCAD right here. Brace yourselves, folks!
Before I start this piece, I would like to remind you that I have come to the realisation that yes, I might have taken the wrong option, but I knew that it was going to be a possibility right from the start.
After leaving cenfad, I had written off Limkokwing and The One Academy due to inconvenience distance-wise. That on top of the circulating rumors of course. Instead, I had paid a visit to ALIF, Sri KBU and PJCAD amongst others.
ALIF seemed like a pretty crafty art school in a building with more passageways than any mole can dig up. The administration were well-trained to put focus on the word "concept". After assuring them that this one word is what's left of cenfad's pride... they told me that I'd have to retake a whole semester in order to achieve a diploma there. Why? Because I never took 3D Design. No hate to this college though, the graduates seem to be very well-equiped in that sense.
Sri KBU was probably the worse of the lot. Most design students would undergo the Foundation+3 years major = Diploma route. Those bordering to the extreme would make it 4 years in foundation alone, ala Mr Teh. Not in Sri KBU. With a face of pure disgust, they told me that I was stupid to take that route when there's another offering what.. 3 years to a degree (or something of the sort anyway). Why waste time eh? Pure business bullshit, straight from the bull's hole itself. Even my dad was half-convinced that the local degree was sufficient enough for my future. I, of course, refused to comment on the issue.
So this was how I landed in PJCAD. I'd signed up for Graphic Design but saw a small section on Advertising Design in the booklet. I enquired about the difference and the reply I got was "it's something like Graphic Design". This was probably the decisive point as to why my mistake could have been the fault of the college- or my carelessness. Mind you though, I was 100% positive that I had signed up for a Diploma in graphic Design. Anyway, my transcripts showed that the subjects synced, credits could be transferred and the head admin seemed to be pretty alright with my portfolio. A tour of the building showed that the facilities are of top notch quality and the air-cons work. There were a few sets of final projects displayed in the gallery and I thought they looked quite impressive. Aside from the overflowing number of hand-painted shoes, all was well.
One issue kept bugging me though - Flash. I was told that semester 5 students in PJCAD are required to compile their portfolio in Flash. He even showed me an example of a senior's work (which I came to realise, was probably done by a Multimedia Student) It wasn't just basic flash, but those fancy kind which I thought yelled pure Ah Beng. I mean, come on! Fire flies, empty bottles and a monotonous cheesy ballad? The truth of the matter is that we had very little experience with Flash in cenfad and in my case, close to nada. We focused on Director, a programme I was still struggling with and seem to be used nowhere else but in that little house at Jalan Kia Peng. Thus, in a typical kiasu move of mine, I decided to start my fifth semester three months late, in the time which I would spend taking Flash classes every week. I would also be completing what's left of my LAN subjects - Moral Studies.
How wrong I was to have mistaken PJCAD as a Graphic Design college. It's a pure shame to the posters of Paul Randt and Milton Glaser hung along the walls of the stairwell. As months passed by and classes came and go, I realised that PJCAD seems to be a lot different from cenfad in terms of attention paid to the design. I'd brushed off the fact that the word "IDEA" kept popping up more often than anything else, thinking that it's just the main lesson of the exercise. Unfortunately, that word never left and the word "DESIGN" seemed to play no other role than another six letters on a brief. The word is viewed as a process, an action, more than an art form or the main focus itself. They had made a gradual maneuver from graphic to advertising.
These were my subjects: Digital Design, Marketing, Professional Practice, Tutorials and Advertising Design. So one could write off Digital Design and Marketing as they focus more on Adobe Flash and brainstorming respectively. I'd expected a lot of design work from the other subjects. Unfortunately, I found myself stuck with an old man who turned out to be from the Advertising industry. He was more obsessed with shameless self-promotion than anything else. The man makes the lamest jokes, carries himself as an entertaining character- a queer old man not to be fooled for he is wise, or so he deems himself to be seen as. Nothing is wrong- but nothing is right either. One day it's this, the next day it's that. He's like that, one would think of him as wise but I think of him as stupid in terms of 1, absolutely-no-spoonfeeding methods like that has been used much effectively by my previous lecturers to great results. 2, my classmates never seem to get the point he's trying to make and neither can I and 3, he still provides loopholes for those who want to escape this mess he's made. He reeks of "let's just get this over with". No drilling, nothing. It's possibly a way of his to earn some sort of gratitude from students. Who knows? I fell for it a couple of times myself.
On top of that, all his assignments were tied to awards, awards and more awards. Well I found that weird for never in my life had I heard of design students so hungry for awards and designing only for the sake of winning them. And the funny thing was- there wasn't a single design element to it! That would have been the Kancil Awards. A ceremony created by the AAAA to celebrate the glorious minds of advertisers in the world. I said ADVERTISERS. Not advertising DESIGN students. The winner from the previous year was a student from Limkokwing who submitted an entry with 2 columns of badly kerned text and an image of a dog at the bottom. Reason for winning was tied to the importance of being able to research and its importance towards a good career of a copywriter. Now, what the fuck has that got to do with advertising design? Oh wait, there is- the idea part... which in my eyes, seems to fall into the hands of those advertising people anyway.
99% of my assignments are competition-based. In other words, they have stringent deadlines and in many cases, VERY frustrating. We had only 2 days to complete the Kancil Student Awards entries with the idea of squeezing out gold from a desperate situation. That risk even came with a hefty RM 50 bill to pay for each entry submitted. Needless to say, I was quite unhappy. The only consolation I thought I could have taken from the exercise was the discussion. Unfortunately, the discussion that followed the end of the project wasn't a very fruitful one as well. I'd only learned that I'd submitted an idea- not a concept. (Urm, okay, confusing much?) That did make me ponder for nights as to what I could have done to get it right. Well one may argue that I might have connected with my inner creative side and come up with something brilliant which combines both idea and design together as an entry but HECK, I had absofuckinglutely no clue as to what was happening and I'd only wanted it done, dusted with a 50 ringgit cheque and forgotten. In the end, I had selfishly come to the conclusion that perhaps, the lecturer could have started the project much earlier, have a discussion, make some changes, brief us on what to improve and what not before sending in the entries!
I am sure the advertising design students who had completed their internship would tell you "that's the way it works" but that's where they are right and my mistake came in. I am dumbfounded to find myself in the wrong major by accident.
Adding more fuel to the flames would be telling me to "forget the past". Yes I am now a PJCAD student but honestly, it was truly the staff at cenfad that taught me the chops. Did I feel like crediting PJCAD when I submitted the entries? Well, I knew that for the sake of formality, I really should. Given the option, I would have said no. They gave me the chance, but not the materials nor the skills. As a paying student (no longer on scholarship) I felt like I had the rights to not have the college name typed under my name. Especially when they have yet to earn my respect.. or possibly vice versa. Then again, people don't use the line "accepted into college" for no reason. Best leave this issue alone then.
Of all the assignments given, I only found one which seems decent enough to be deemed as a design project. Bank Negara's 3rd Circulative Coin Series competition. I tried my best in that, expressed what I thought should have been done and obviously, did not even make the cut. The looks I get when I presented my work to the class bordered on "what the fuck?" and "okaaay". Seriously, would you even be in the mood to listen to long-winded explanations when you don't even fully understand the language spoken or even hear the person speaking at the other end of the table? All this in a bloody cafe which serves set lunch for RM10. Oh, and there was no constructive feedback from this project. Maybe it's the attitude from the majority of the class. The collective attitude from those who can't be bothered, can't speak English and those filled with doubt and uncertainty only makes room for the lecturer to not conduct a discussion. In this, I am very disappointed.
Putting that aside, I won 600 bucks from the Initial Hygiene Comic Sketch competition. Not blowing my own trumpets here but that was bloody easy. It would be for any design student in cenfad. There were only about 10 people competing in this and half of them can't even make a proper joke. As for the AVIA Soul Shoe Design competition, it was all good until I found out that the top 8 finalists have to fork out 180 each to purchase a pair of shoes to be painted on. Now, any sensible student would tell you that it might not be a very good risk to take, especially when the consolation prize would see you walking away with RM200- just twenty bucks more than what you started with after all the time and materials spent painting the shoe. Half the number of finalists were PJCAD students. What a haul eh? No wonder the old man, filled with pride, referred to the class as a "winning class". Sorry man but I think you need to wipe that smile off your face as I don't think you were much help. The submissions for the shoe design competition were made in November 2008. It's already end of February 2009.
At the end of semester came another competition-based assignment. This was conducted in the Professional Practise classes that were held on Saturdays with the senior students. Not unlike our Marketing classes, a few of us found ourselves in the unfavorable position of single/double-handedly hauling the whole group through the competition. This is the way it works in the old man's classes. You can once again just smell the stench of gratitude from the delinquents.
There is so much more that I would like to vent about but I think this would suffice for the time being. The conclusion is that I had found myself in Advertising Design instead of Graphic Design. I was lied to. It was partially my fault for believing the the general name of the major and not its subjects but as the saying goes, "you learn from your mistakes". I truly did. I learned the line that separates the commercial from the true blues, saw the line that divides Advertising, Advertising Design and Graphic Design. I also realised how some people scheme their way through responsibilities and just how design in viewed in different industries- no matter how closely related they are.