Lifestyle Not Education; My Quick Guide To Central St. Martins

September 23, 2013
Have you ever, within four years of graduating, had students from your alma matter write about your work in their dissertations?
I have. Twice. (Or maybe thrice, I forget) 

My final year project My Art Uni Is Better At Yours
Detailed 'fresher packs' describing the stereotypes of University Of The Arts London's universities.

So I get an email from a CSM student asking very nicely if I could answer some questions about my days at uni and talk a little about my final year project My Art Uni Is Better At Yours. Finding the answers to the student (we'll call her A)'s questions inspired this blog post and brought me (and Sroop) hours of hysterical laughter. Thanks for the LOLs! 

Anyway, A really enjoyed my answers and graciously allowed me to mention our emails on my blog. Seeing as I get a lot of people asking me about art university, Central St. Martins, etc. I thought I'd publish both her questions and my answers on here (with A's permission).

This is A Quick Guide To Central St. Martin's (BA Graphic Design)
Art School, & University. 
To be taken with a pinch of salt. Not to be read by the anal-retentive.
1. Briefly describe your time at CSM, what were the other students like and would you say there is a certain type of person that attends?  
I was at CSM from 2006-2009. My year had 200 students, more of half were international, and all of them were from polar opposite walks of life; from social strata to economic status to the more literal 'other ends of the earth'. It's quite hard to define a 'certain' type of person who attends CSM because they are so varied. One thing they all had in common is that they are very much aware of the brand name and the 'prestige' that comes with having CSM on the bottom of their resume/CV (which eventually led to the branding of Lifestyle Not Education and Pretentious Little Shits).  
If I had to pigeonhole them into convenient, easy-to-identify 'labels' it would be easier to define them by their major.  
The advertising majors were especially ambitious, 'on it', and felt the 'realness' of the working world much more than some of us.  
The graphic design majors (the largest number) had a few angry pixel-pushers, some exceptional minds, some who wanted to change the world but upon graduation got jobs unrelated to their degrees (ie. work at Kinko's and and felt great shame for it. Mostly I came to regard the entire graphic design class as a different species altogether.  
I was in the illustration major, of which there were few of, maybe 20 or less. My personal clique within the illustration major (6 of us, 1 of which remains my best friend and the other 5 I've lost touch with since graduation) ranged from the working-class genius to the millionaire's children whose conservative parents were unaware (or wilfully ignorant) of their scandalous lifestyles. Outside of my clique we had a student determined to be a fine artist, placing themselves above all of us but ultimately they failed to get into the fine art course at the Royal College of Art so they spent the rest of the entire course reminding us of how simple-minded we were. I'd say the illustrators were a bit of an odd bunch. I certainly lived in a bubble and was determined to ignore the realities of the world, all I lived for was to draw and be praised. 

2. When did you notice the different identities in the UAL colleges which led to your piece?  

When I started sneaking around, covertly, in all the different campuses to see how the other half (or rather, the other 5/6) lived. My 'research' led to two things; the idea for this project and reassurance that I picked the right university for my personality. 
3. What did you mean by 'lifestyle not education'?A lot of CSM students, whether they admit it or not, go to CSM for the name and prestige of the university. 
Some of them are upper-middle class who were raised by conservative parents with lots of money and take their time at art university as an opportunity to have their 'roll in the mud', as it were. I mention some of this in my blog post about why I lived in the parts of London that I did. The girl in Common People is the perfect example. 
Exhibit A: A 'roll in the mud'. I had a shaved sidecut bahahahaha. 
Others, upon becoming a CSM student feel that they have to appropriate the right lifestyle, image, and affectations befitting of one who walks the hallowed halls of learning that produced many great and unusual artists. They 'become' CSM. 

4. What did you do to observe/collect research about the different colleges? 
I went to all the different art unis and spoke to as many students as I could to decide if my pre-conceived stereotypes had any truth to them. Of course they did, because I have exceptional intuition and judgement. Or maybe I 'tweaked' the results to suit my own agenda, you'll never know. Few of those interviewed or photographed were entirely aware of the nature of the project I was doing; I told some it was for a blog post, others I said it was for a website, some I said it was for a newsletter. In hindsight I was being a d*ck.I could get sued for this because I didn't make any of them sign a release form for their photographs (don't get any ideas!) which is why I've never commercialised the fresher packs. Unless I ditch the photos and just do there's an idea... 
5. How did other students react to your project, did they agree with you?  
The ones who were aware of what exactly I was doing generally thought it was very funny and accurate on a superficial basis. The CSM students thought it was hilarious (that year itself, a student from another year copied my project) as did the staff who paid for the rights to use one of my slogans to print on thousands of canvas bags to be distributed at the UCAS fair. My slogan posters also made it into the UAL collection so they can't be that annoyed with me. 
As I expected, a lot of Chelsea and LCF peeps did not think it was very amusing.   
 The Chelsea stereotype; Posh, Not-Broke, and Bored.
6. Do you feel like a product of CSM and part of the reputation you made clear in your project?  
Oh definitely. I shaved a side of my head, wore only vintage clothes, moved to the dodgiest parts of London I could find, splattered my flat walls with existential quotes in red paint, and had Common People on repeat. I experimented with the 'bohemian art-school rebel' thing for more than 2 years. 
That has less to do with CSM and more of my desire to define myself, me buying into the 'hype' of going to art school and again, the affliction of bourgeoisie boredom. I recommend you watch Art School Confidential, it's very relevant to this topic. 
I wore kooky clothes to mask a bland personality. 
7. Is there anywhere I can purchase or get a copy of the freshers packs you created?
I don't have any copies of the fresher packs available for sale, only photos of it on my website that I'm sure you've already seen. 
 However posters of CSM Pretentious Little Sh*ts and CSM Lifestyle Not Education are still available to buy on my online shop. 

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