3 intense months later and the class of ShilloBri ’16 have graduated. After a well-earned lie in and nursing a mildly sore head post-Grad Exhibition, I decided to document everything we experienced during the infamous 14 days of Folio before life after Shillington begins.

After months of hard study, it’s time to look at the work you have produced with a critical eye. Sitting down with the teachers, you start to select which briefs have made the cut. Suddenly, after weeks of build-up and warnings of sleepless nights, potential tears but a worthwhile result, you find yourselves in the midst of the rollercoaster of Folio week emotion.

 

First comes denial: Despite signing up with the sole aim of producing a portfolio, the entire experience has become a product in itself. Waking up on a Monday morning and looking forward to going to class. Seeing your own work improve, but also being inspired by your classmates as they produce truly incredible things. The start of Folio is the beginning of the end. You find yourself wishing you were back at Week 6. You don’t feel ready. You look at past students’ work and you tell yourself you couldn’t possibly produce something that professional in a fortnight. Sitting down with your teachers to select your final briefs and the natural feelings of self-doubt creep in. That project isn’t good enough. How am I going to contact printers? How am I going to sound like I know what I’m doing? Choose paper? There’s different types of PAPER?! I’m not a multi-tasker. I can’t do this. The stress of Folio threatens to appear, but on the first day it doesn’t seem real, so you continue to work at normal pace. Maybe if you treat it like a normal day in class, it’s not really happening.

All of a sudden other students are starting to hand things in for feedback. The pace is increasing and you’re starting to get onboard. You’ve got this, you’re on top of things and keeping to your schedule. By day 2 you’re in full Folio mode, on a roll, you’ve been fine-tuning one of your simpler briefs. You’ve tweaked a few things and it’s looking pretty good. Time for a check-in with teachers. Wait a second, they’re calling you over. They have suggestions. Changes, BIG changes.

 

Ah, here is anger: Wait, you want me to do WHAT with my idea?! But when we did the brief in week 6, you loved it! You lied! The list of amends adds to your already extensive To Do list. You huff. You go back and make the changes, your classmate leans over and checks out your screen – ‘That looks bloody amazing.’. You look back at your first attempt and you remember you had just had 2 hours of training on the program. The work isn’t bad, it was just that – a first attempt. What the teachers liked back then wasn’t the design – it was the potential, which the feedback and folio process helps you realise. Through the week you go back and forth with the same work. It feels like they’re never satisfied, they always have one more small amend, the frustration through the classroom is palpable. Then it happens. Someone gets a brief signed off. There’s a cheer. You have a quick spy at their screen and it looks phenomenal –  everything they’ve learned since the first attempt is shining through. It’s their initial idea, but it’s slick. It’s legit. Maybe we’ve got this after all.

Somehow the days have flown past, it’s the end of the first week and the brief sign off deadline has arrived. You’re not done.

 

Crap. It’s time for bargaining: How much can I feasibly get done, what gets cut? How do I settle my inner-perfectionist and accept when something is complete and it’s time to move on? I’ll stay up until 3am tonight, because after this 2 weeks I have nothing but time to sleep. I don’t need to leave my chair. I’ll get it done. You find yourself at college on a Saturday with fellow delirious students as the mocking up part of the process begins. Trawling the internet for the right context shot to make your work look real. A small black market develops as you try to help each other out. I have a great billboard, do you have a decent leaflet mock-up? At least that’s what you think you ask for, everything becomes a bit of a blur. Routine, diet and common decency goes out of the window, you know that it’s just a sacrifice for these last few days. It’s the home stretch.

Print deadline arrives out of nowhere. The final layouts, mock ups and finessed work, somehow your final artwork is ready to send off.

 

Inexplicably the adrenaline high you’ve been functioning on gives way to a flutter of depression: You’re looking at the file you’re about to send. It isn’t good enough. Did I do enough? I could have done more. Maybe I should have chosen better paper. Sleep-deprivation has well and truly caught up with everyone and things feel a little bit crazy. Then the last person submits their work and the countdown to graduation and picking up your portfolio from the printer begins. It’s a bitter-sweet moment, there’s a flurry of excitement to see everyone’s work and the beginning of the next step, but sadness it’s nearly over and soon you’ll be released in to the big wide world.

The morning of graduation feels surreal. You arrive in class holding this book of paper that you crafted. No-one wants to sit still. You circulate and start to look through other people’s folios. In the madness of the last fortnight, you’ve only seen flashes of everyone’s work. You begin to flick through each book and you are floored. The designs you saw each week have been utterly transformed. There’s roll outs. There’s clever little paper flaps with messages. There’s funky paper covers. Awesome logos which totally reflect that person’s personality. You can’t quite believe how far everyone has come. It’s time for the graduate exhibition and all of a sudden you’re in a room with everyone, their families, their support networks and a whole load of new people who are looking at your work.

 

Finally it hits you, acceptance: We did it. No, scrap that. We didn’t just do it, we smashed it. You look at your own work, seeing it on paper, you’re finally proud. You did this; it wasn’t easy, it was beyond challenging. There were moments you thought you couldn’t do it, that you would never get to the end. Then you realise that was never an option, because for the 3 months you had been surrounded by the best people who were going to make sure you didn’t stop – you were never working alone. You pushed yourself and you pushed each other and the final product was something you would never have predicted.

It’s official, you’re a bona fide graphic designer.