Art & Design Employability




Contextual Statement

As a generalisation, Fine Art could be defined as practising creativity for the sake of creativity, whereas Design might be thought of as creativity applied to functionality. To generalise again, fine artists usually work with curators and galleries, create their own briefs and work to commissions and designers tend to work with products or services and clients, respond to briefs and pitch for commissions. Given such distinctions, in order to negotiate a professional career, the skills required by fine art and design graduates vary considerably. This means that, although there are generic employability themes that can be taught across art and design programmes, other, more discipline-specific content has to be honed and delivered as appropriate to individual subject areas. So, for example, teaching how to generate a pitch for a client may be relevant to product design students, but the essence of such teaching would need to be radically adapted in order to make an effective session for fine artists on how to construct an exhibition proposal.

Exploratory Tool

Fine Art vs Design – The Differences Between Employability in Art and in Design

Year 3 students Lauren Hunter (Fine Art Painting) and Lili Eichinger (Painting and Printmaking) devised and led a forty-five minute workshop as follows:


To determine the differences between Fine Art and Design students with regard to employment/career readiness.

What happened:

A series of activities was undertaken, to encourage students and staff, from both Fine Art and Design backgrounds to talk about employability and whether or not they feel/felt prepared to enter the workforce.
Lauren and Lili prepared a Powerpoint presentation, via which they posed questions which were kept up on a screen so that participants could refer back to them.

The students endeavoured to hand over as much control as possible for the workshop’s format to their participants, taking their lead from staff and students’ readiness to discuss particular topics. They had biscuits and chocolate on a large tray in front of them, to give away as rewards to participants for their contributions.

The activities were interactive, and generally involved asking participants to come to the front of the group and write something down or share their thoughts. For example, participants were asked to put an ‘X’ on a diagonal line drawn from the top left to bottom right corner of a flip-chart sheet. This was intended as a continuum denoting how prepared students feel, and staff felt, to enter into the workforce.

Lauren and Lili also devised a competition; they asked people to form groups and think of as many career paths as they could in an allotted amount of time. The group that came up with the most career paths won (more) chocolate or biscuits. This encouraged people to be creative and work together.


The differences and similarities in career preparation between Fine Art and Design students were ascertained through an open dialogue that benefitted participants from each discipline.

Skills and/or insights gained:

Because design work is client-based, many Design students gain a great deal of insight into their career paths simply by working on projects assigned to them by tutors. Fine art can be more nuanced, with professional practice – such as gaining skills in communication through crits or from sharing studios – feeling more ‘hidden’.
Overall, the feedback from discussions between the students suggested that Bucks students felt more prepared for entry into the workforce than those from GSA. This impression emerged despite the fact that both Bucks and GSA students seemed to be gaining similar kinds of skills and experiences. GSA students did gain more experience of staging exhibitions, perhaps due to the fact that as the project developed, more Fine Artists at GSA were involved with this activity than Fine Artists at Bucks. Also, there seem to be more opportunities for GSA FA students to stage exhibitions than Bucks generally – this could be to do with the fact that the institution is in a metropolitan city centre, whereas Bucks is not.

Video Workshop

Workshop: The difference between art and design employability skills/How does your Fine Art or design course prepare you for life after art school?

Related Pages

Formal professional practice


Student collaboration

Live / external projects

External visits

Student exchange

External competitions


Artist / designer talk