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Student Designers

Hello! I'm here to introduce myself :)

I'm Alex Barton, based in Scotland and my background is in marketing. I'm here to learn more about design and meet brilliant and interesting people.

I work as a freelancer designer/developer specialising in direct-response marketing and in my spare time I help Student Designers a new social enterprise to help design students build their portfolio, gain experience and get paid.

I look forward to meeting with you and learning lots.


Alex Barton


Active Member
Hi Alex,

Welcome to DF, took a quick look at your Student Designers site, sounds like a good concept, but have no idea how you're going to tackle it in reality, have to say the video on your site just confused me more!

Hope you enjoy the forums :)
Thanks, Greg
Thanks Halequin :)

Yes it's getting a great reception so far. We are very young (started building the website 14 days ago or something).

We have great support from universities (in Scotland) and now we're working on developing advice content ranging from funny design anecdotes through to tips on tax implications. As I mentioned, I'm here to meet brilliant people that can really add value to design students. One of the ways to help is to create these advice articles.

Thanks again

Hi Greg,

That's brilliant feedback! I really appreciate it :)

You are right about the video! Did it with screen flow and illustrator. Really need to do it again! I mentioned that i'm a designer/developer well I tend to sit further on the developer side of things! We have had a lot of feedback on the video.

Although the video should have been enough to tell you what Student Designers is about, here it is in writing:
Student Designers increases the employability of design students (initially in Scotland) by helping them build their portfolio, gain experience and earn money through online crowdsourced design competitions. Businesses, looking for high value for money and on time design, post a design brief and a prize fund for the design students to compete for. When the competition is over, the business choses the winning design, and exchange for the prize fund the business receives the design from the student.

To complement the competitions, student-designers.com will be developing a comprehensive article section providing advice on topics such as design software hints right through to freelance tax implications. These articles are being donated by universities, national business support agencies, students, designers and many more.

Thanks again for the feeback!



Active Member
Ahh OK so it's crowdsourcing competitions aimed at student designers and businesses in Scotland? I'm still struggling to see how crowdsourced competition entries will enable them to become more employable? Sure it's going to help add to the portfolio, but will competition entries add quality to their portfolios? and will employers want to find their new designers off the back of a concept that takes design business away from their own companies?

Please don't think I'm being confrontational, genuinely interested to hear your thoughts :)

That's correct, we are using a crowsdsourced business model and initially the launch will be Scottish based (don't bite off more than you can chew).

In my experience a great well rounded student graduate is someone who has a great balance between experience, academic qualifications and good interpersonal skills.

We are helping them with their experience. As I'm sure you are aware, design students are often provided with only a handful of design projects during their time at university. Now these projects are often large, for high profile companies and provide a fantastic experience of working on large projects.

However where this falls down is it doesn't help students work with real clients, deadlines, rejection, random requests and ‘non designer’ feedback to name just a few.

I couldn't agree more with your statement about adding quantity but will it add quality. Surely by working on many briefs you would increase your competence, confidence and overall skill at creating design work.

One of the main parts of the concept is to provide students with great range of articles helping them with developing quality over quantity and hence why I'm here to meet people like yourself who have a huge range of experience and has the potential to really help design students.

You second point about a concept that takes work away from others is valid and one that I am very aware of. I have been speaking to lots of design agencies, freelancers, members of design organisations (design council etc) about how they feel about this.

Their biggest struggle is balancing their need to help design students against will this model reduce their business! But strangely, after talking with them the following three benefits occur:

1. They can free up their/ their designer's time to work on more profitable projects
2. They can support design students and add to their social corporate responsibility
3. They can keep an eye out for the best up and coming design students

Once they see this they are very excited because at the end of the day it's about helping design students become more employable not stepping on the toes of others.

Again, this is why I'm here to listen and act on the feedback of experienced designers.

Thanks Greg,



Active Member
studentdesigners said:
I couldn't agree more with your statement about adding quantity but will it add quality. Surely by working on many briefs you would increase your competence, confidence and overall skill at creating design work.
Hi Alex,

I would say that the traditional crowdsourcing model does not deliver quality, it encourages short term solutions to please the clients personal demands, rather than understanding the clients business and providing a well thought piece of communication. It may well be that the crowdsourcing model attracts the wrong type of clients, and as a result, the nature of no-spec and an end prize to just one designer encourages quick fixes and a lack fo research and development, again I'm basing this on what I have seen from other crowd source sites.
Hi Greg,

I agree that many crowd-sourcing websites suffer from this problem and this is why I'm taking the time to be here to find ways to mitigate against the negatives of this model. I will be spending on lot of time in universities talking to students and this will be one of my main points.

Nobody wins from bad design. The business doesn't, the student doesn't and the project doesn't.

I appreciate that with this and your other projects but perhaps you would be willing to contribute, and stress the importance of this? We are putting together a resource section and are looking for people like yourself to provide advice/tips/articles on ways to improve the employability of design students.

Thanks Greg,



Senior Member
I think the issue here is balancing the allure of winning a competition with the aspect of learning.

We (as a forum) experienced a very profitable, talented (with software at least) young person who won alot on competitions. Asking for our opinions of the pieces usually ended badly, with very few good points and alot of critique... He hadn't supplied a viable solution to most requests, yet the "pretty art" meant he was able to win alot of them.

While we gave him advice on what we would do, change and edit (some of which are considered basic design principles that had no reason to be changed), he didn't take on board the advice. Producing the same work over and over. While this is fine as he kept winning and continued to "prove us wrong", there were many flaws with his work and he wasn't learning (or didn't appear to be)

Most competitions will pay for bad work that looks "good"...

You want people to create good work, whether it wins or not... This is the aspect you need to concentrate on.
Hi Renniks,

Thanks for that.

You want people to create good work, whether it wins or not... This is the aspect you need to concentrate on.
Yes, exactly! This is why the educational side is as important as the monetary prize funds.

One of the ways of doing this would be to have a monthly competition with no prize fund but rather an accolade. This competition would be judged by designers and the winner would be designer of the month and they would receive an awareness boost.

Although the details haven't been worked out, it would be rewarded in a way so that students are encouraged to create great designs rather than just something that wil do!

How does that sound to you?

Thanks again,



Senior Member
The difficulty is convincing a student that the educational side is as important ;)

That monthly comp seems a good idea. Especially with the awareness... many people would benefit from that.

How is this being funded (if you don't mind me asking) or are you charging for the site?
Hi Renniks,

Haha. Yep! A lot of my time will be spent in the colleges and universities talking to designers about this and again a big reason why we need to build up the resource section!

I'm glad you like the monthly comp idea :). Be good press for all involved.

I don't mind at all.

We are being (initially) funded in the following ways:

1. By me and my freelance work
2. Because we are a company limited by guarantee / social enterprise there are quite a few grants available
3. We will take a percentage of each competition (from the customer not the designer)
4. Affiliate links such as printers (moo cards) and books (amazon)

Some are further down the line than others. But generally funded by blood,sweat and tears ;)

Thanks Renniks


Duncan Y.

Senior Member
first of all, welcome to DF Alex! Nice to have you here!

Secondly, i really dislike the idea of 'spec' work. (DF self-held competition is different) We learn along the way in our own competition and i received so many good response and critiques to help us improve and excel. That's what i call REAL experience and learning process through positive spirit competition. Spec work do not have a heart, only the one who runs it have that, and majority of the participant just want to make quick bucks, who have better skills wins. That of course depends. It give me a bad taste on my mouth in 99designs, crowdsprings and some other as well. (before i have serious advice from the pros in this field, i really thought it helps, but it can only sharpen some techniques in performing beautiful works not meaningful works(though i would like it to be but the customers just don't get it)that's what i call the real world as well, they pay for what they want, not what they need)

I understand your motive of helping those fresh graduates and want them to gain a portfolio. i can even have some portfolio up if i want to from my previous work done but obviously i can't as those are customers' request oriented and you can guess how it looks in the final work. In the real world, things don't work out like that and we all know why right?

[i need to learn how to organize things in writing and some basic writing skill as well...] [sigh]
Hi Duncan Y,

Thanks for the welcome! It's nice to meet you :)

As I mentioned to Greg before, crowd-sourcing does leave a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth of many designers. Some are annoyed because they feel it is undercutting them and some are annoyed because the work is void of feeling.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell you the differences between us and them and position ourselves apart from these companies.

These models provide customers with great value design and a market place for designers to find work. Simple and effective business model and some of them are growing at 10% a month.

In our case, the above is a side effect of our VISION. Our vision is to help design students become more employable. One of the ways we are doing this is through online competitions, another is through my and guest designers presence in universities, another is through the interaction between designers and another is through the articles mentioned above.

We are clear on our VISION and this is why we have such great support from universities, businesses, student designers.

As I mentioned, I'm hear to learn about how to add even more value to the design students and already I have some brilliant ideas.

So thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it :)



Senior Member
One "odd" idea, would be competitions in things such as research and planning.

End results can be tested and shown in so many ways. Decent pitches or research and planning once a pitch has been completed are a skill that many competitions just don't give.

Being able to research on key demographics, usability and accessibility issues that could be encountered, current competition, ideas etc... joining this with teachings about research techniques that you (and others) find useful would be cool.

Why not!

We have a brilliant opportunity to help develop design students! To pun it: a blank canvas on which to play.

These ideas are brilliant!

We will be working on offline competitions as well and this would work well there!

Great stuff.