I recently travelled to Denmark where I was invited by the Brecht House Foundation. I also travelled to Copenhagen to study the Danish approach to preparing students for a career in the creative industries.
In a country that is as famous for design (just think of all the Arne Jacobsen chairs in South African homes, restaurants and advertising agencies) as it is for Carlsberg Beer, an emphasis on the training of designers is to be expected. One only has to visit the Danish Museum of Design and Art in Copenhagen and spend some time in Danish Homes to realise that in Denmark, design is a way of life. However, when it comes to the applied creativity educational offering – the available courses go far beyond design.
I was surprised to learn that many of the disciplines most South African students only encounter after leaving school are taught at high school level in Denmark. Should they wish, high school learners can explore options like animation, digital design, packaging, TV production and print production. These skills are rarely taught at secondary level in South Africa.
A selection of marketing and advertising specialisations
All subjects are taught in a hands-on fashion using approaches that prepare the learner for a flying start in the tertiary educational or even workspace.
This specialisation continues at tertiary level with institutions like the Danish School of Media and Journalism, the Copenhagen School of Design and Technology and the Copenhagen School of Business all offering a selection of marketing and advertising specialisations.
At tertiary level, a strong focus is placed on skills acquisition and creative disciplines such as Brand Creation, Communications Theory, Creative Thinking and soft skills such as teamwork.
In modules like multi-media design and E-Concept Development course material is developed in close relationship with business and industry to ensure that students gain insight into real-life situations and the needs of the creative industries they will enter once their studies are complete.
At the end of a course, a student is also required to complete an internship. Only then are they considered to be ready for the job market. Employers want creative individuals that are able to create and design campaigns that emotionally connect to their audience in a way that is both elegant and convincing.
SA is getting it right
In a world where ad-blocking is growing exponentially, where 90% of TV viewers skip ads whenever they can, and an over-populated digital space, this is the type of creativity that delivers results.
But after getting used to the abundance of resources and the high level of technology, I realised that in SA we’re actually getting it right in terms of preparing students to enter the agency world, armed and work ready!
Like our Danish counterparts, we appreciate the importance of interaction with our industry and importance of work-based learning. Like them, we also focus on “big ideas” and consumer insights. Our approach to education is very much in line with the, dare I say it, best in class Danish methodologies and philosophy.
Harry Kalmer is the Faculty Head of Creative Brand Communication at the AAA School of Advertising Johannesburg Campus. In 2018 Harry was named the recipient of the Barry Ronge Fiction Prize for his book, A Thousand Tales of Johannesburg.
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Hi Harry, I have actually been a lecturer at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in the Kreativ Kommunikation Department for the last 5 years (full-time for three years, and part-time for the last two) Yes, a South African is a part of this 'Danish' model you speak of! :-) I introduced the Brand Creation course and still teach it every year. It is a 5 week module that covers everything, including entrepreneurial thinking. I also teach Art Direction, Creative Strategy and Portfolio presentation. They key to success at this university is multi-faceted. Firstly, education is free in Denmark, (students actually get paid to study!) so this keeps entry possibilities democratic and diverse. The selection process is stringent. Over 500 people apply and only 24 are selected. The length of time is important. It is a 3-year programme that allows students to cover all aspects of 'communication; they have time to acquire real skills such as film-making, editing, Photoshop etc., as well as practice (and fail!) with broad campaigns and concepting. They get a high level of individual feedback (exactly like a CD / team relationship in an agency) and they enter awards as part of the ciriculum which gets them great local and international exposure. The result is that they get hired quickly and are fully functional and ready to take-on proper work once they graduate. (Of course, they still have a lot to learn IRL in terms of clients, relationships, discipline etc., but they have all the mental and creative tools to do big campaigns across all media) Many students also start winning the grown-up awards pretty quickly as they are used to a high level and entering competitions. Personally it has been incredibly rewarding to work in a system that is so thorough and successful. There are many shorter educations that touch on various individual or introductory aspects of advertising and design, and many that rely on industry guest speakers instead of a combination with full-time staff ... but, in my experience, time, innovative, dedicated teachers and access for all are vital to send out great talent that will boost the industry to the next level. Do get in touch if ever in Copenhagen again, and great that SA is still producing great creative talent! Clare :)