Fredrik Ost from Swedish design agency Snask shared a valuable idea with Torrens University’s final year design students at their 2020 graduate exhibition, INTRO. “Change is inevitable,” said Mr Ost, “the problem comes when change happens, and you don’t.”
It’s an idea embraced by Torrens University as an Australian education institution that’s ready for the future.
The COVID-19 pandemic created some extraordinary challenges for students entering and leaving university in 2020. It also opened up some unique opportunities to respond creatively to change. For future students, Torrens University has created the Career Crush online quiz that provides course and career advice in lieu of COVID-cancelled careers expos. For graduating design students, INTRO, the annual industry exhibition of their work became an international online event.
Both of these innovations aligned with Edward De Bono’s belief that creativity must add value. If creative thinking doesn’t add value, it’s just being different for the sake of being different.
“To innovate with a need in mind is the biggest challenge of any designer. You can sit in your living room and think creatively and innovate, but if you do nothing with it, what’s the point?” asks Mieke Leppens.
Dr Mieke Leppens is the Dean of the Design and Creative Technology faculty at Torrens University. This international hub of activity includes Billy Blue College of Design in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and Media Design School in New Zealand.
“We are really an innovation faculty. It’s about encouraging faculty, staff, and students to tackle those things that are new and progressive,” says Dr Leppens.
With strong foundations, this university of the future encourages innovation throughout the organisation. Here’s how two of the biggest innovations in 2020 have reinforced relationships with students to support their future careers and aspirations.
Career Crush is a deceptively simple website that appears to know students better than they know themselves. It also makes university course recommendations based on the personality strengths of the future generation.
“It’s really a very simple, very quick quiz. What you don’t see in the backend is how each of the different answers pulls the algorithm a little more towards what you end up being offered in terms of your personality type and your potential career,” explains Rion Shelley.
Rion Shelley is Head of Brand Segments and International at Torrens University. As part of this role she looks after advertising and marketing that inspires high school leavers to choose Torrens University for their studies. Social restrictions from the pandemic have put some major speed bumps in that pathway.
“Normally we’d be participating in national careers expos. We’d have a huge stand and we’d take our career and course advisors to meet students face-to-face and talk about what they’re planning to do next in terms of career education,” Shelley says.
In addition to social isolation, Career Crush was born out of a year of research to map the customer experience journey of students – from year 10 to the end of their gap year. The goal was to determine what Australia’s youth were thinking and feeling about their future.
“One of the really surprising things that came out of his whole process for me, was the revelation that 43 per cent of high school students in Australia don’t know what they’re going to do, when they’re in their final year,” Shelley says.
“This is coupled with the fact that it’s a really difficult time of your life – you’re just embracing adulthood and you’ve got all those decisions to make about what’s next. I think a lot of them are not equipped to make a decision and they’re kind of paralysed. That’s one of the things that we picked up. They don’t know who to turn to or where to get information or advice that feels objective.”
Career Crush is basically an effective and appealing website that asks a series of ‘this or that’ questions. The answers direct students to one of nine personality profiles.
“We predominantly used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators because it’s heavily researched and it’s proven. Then we overlaid that with what we knew – the data and research that we’d done for the mapping project,” Shelley explains.
After completing the quiz, which initially feels more like a dating app than a career planner, students receive instant results. Starting with a snapshot of their personality profile, Career Crush lays out six personalised job recommendations. Each profession has details on average salary and a link to the relevant course.
“We tried to align Career Crush with that concept of being strength-based. We believe that you will do well, when your education aspirations and your career align with your natural strengths and talents. That’s a core belief of the business really,” Shelley explains.
In addition to jobs and course recommendations, students also receive a Spotify Playlist and a recipe for success – both based on their personality profile.
So, what do the students think about Career Crush?
“They’ve said, universally, it’s really fun. It’s really engaging. And most people have said it’s really spot on,” Shelley says.
Indeed, the early response to the quiz says it all.
Career Crush was promoted through Torrens University’s first TikTok campaign, alongside more traditional marketing. In its first week, 12,000 students found their Career Crush and some insight into their future employment. Those who provided their email details (it’s not compulsory) will receive a follow-up email, including a podcast that’s customised to their personality profile.
Career Crush is live now and will continue to be available for high school and university students (and curious non-students) for the foreseeable future.
Billy Blue INTRO Exhibition 2020
Over the last three decades, Billy Blue College of Design has launched the careers of thousands of designers and built a strong reputation in the design industry. In 2015 the college became part of Torrens University, creating a connection with over 80 institutions around the world. This year’s isolating response to the COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for Billy Blue College of Design to extend its network even further.
Melanie Feddersen is the Creative Lead of a team of five at Billy Blue Creative. It’s a fully functioning design studio that sits within the Billy Blue College of Design.
“Graduate exhibitions are part of Billy Blue College of Design and Torrens University’s DNA. Billy Blue has 30 years of a rich legacy and it’s always been ‘by industry for industry’,” enthuses Feddersen.
INTRO is the annual exhibition that celebrates graduate’s work while bringing employers and students face-to-face. It’s an opportunity for industry to see the work of up-and-coming designers, while graduates get real and effective feedback from potential employers.
“For the last three years Billy Blue Creative has activated every touch point in terms of the design, identity, exhibition, communications strategy, and the event collateral on the night. This year, and rightly so, it’s gone back into the classroom,” Feddersen says.
In addition to taking the reins for INTRO 2020, this graduating class was given an opportunity to use design to solve a very real problem – to stage their annual exhibition in isolation.
“To actually design a website and land a whole new platform was a bit of an ambitious project. But we really wanted to have a browser-based experience where we could offer the live event, as well as hold a portfolio directory for our students for the whole year,” declares an impassioned Feddersen.
One of the biggest challenges for the exhibition was around how to create human connection. While it’s a big change from being in a physical space, Melanie Feddersen points out that we’re used to experiencing design on screens – whether we know it or not. Regardless, the goal of INTRO 2020 was to be more than a simple website of show and tell.
“There were lots of platforms for events and lots of websites for portfolios, but we couldn’t find one platform that actually delivered both for a cohesive and easy people journey on the night. It’s a celebration and we wanted that to be an easy one. So yes, we have designed a whole new website in collaboration with developers,” Feddersen says.
In addition to a portfolio, the browser-based INTRO exhibition featured several chatrooms where students, industry and academics could connect. There’s a chatroom for each field of study – branded fashion design, interior design, communication design, digital media design, photography and creative technology.
“Every student has their own profile page, and, on that page, it says I’m going to be available, live on the night. Also, on their profile is a connect button, so industry could indicate to students to get in touch,” Ms Feddersen explains.
One of the major silver linings in an online world is that it eliminates the tyranny of distance. So, when the team set out to find a guest speaker for the event, the world really was their oyster. Fredrik Ost from Swedish brand, design and film agency SNASK and Frankie Ratford from The Design Kids on the Gold Coast were virtually just a click away from each other.
The same can be said for the students spread across Australia and New Zealand, and their potential employers around the globe.
“This could be a platform where students have the possibility to present themselves or be seen on an international, global scale for internships. Internships are all online now, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t do that with a studio in Amsterdam.”
“We know that INTRO is no longer one night or over a weekend. This year this exhibition is actually up for a whole year,” Ms Feddersen says.
You can see all of the student’s portfolios and the inspiring industry presentations at Billy Blue INTRO Exhibition 2020.