1. Side projects
Is it enough just to turn up to class and get a good grade? In these hyper competitive times it helps to set yourself apart.
Perhaps a friend of a friend is running a club night for which you could design some flyers, or perhaps you could design something for a local cafe, there are lots of opportunities to take advantage of while helping others.
While I was studying I started working for a record label, the money was a joke but it gave me valuable experience that played a major part in landing my first job as a designer in London.
2. Start with a pencil not Google
Computers have a tendency to suck out creativity plus its very easy to get distracted by the internet. It's much quicker to jot down rough ideas on paper than to endlessly wander the internet looking for inspiration among the 20 browser tabs you have open. What was that thing that... oh look, that video of a man crashing his motorbike at 97mph looks like a laugh...
3. Share your work with other students and get critical feedback
Don't ask things like, "do you like it?" to which the answer will probably be "yeah sure man, now do you wanna grab a beer?". It's far better to ask "what would you improve or change?" (And then grab a beer)
4. Simplify your concepts. No one is there to explain things to the viewer
Can you explain your idea in one line? One problem I had at university was that I tried to cram every idea I had and into one project which in turn diluted the end result. James Cameron famously summed up Aliens in one line, he described it as Jaws in space.
5. Experiment, make mistakes, learn
University is a great time to experiment without the burden of clients, budgets or a hovering art director.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes but when you do listen to the feedback and learn. It took my slightly arrogant 19 year old self a while to realise this. I still feel a bit of inner rage when someone criticises my work but after a few minutes I realise that sometimes they are actually right. The trick is knowing when to progress with something that you believe in, even though you're being told it's a bad idea.
6. Give a shit
Put your own personal twist on your work, turn up on time, ask questions and be positive. I've interviewed quite a few recent graduates for design jobs and without fail I have always employed the most enthusiastic over the ones that are technically good but who thinks they are doing you a favour by turning up.
More tips from other industry professionals
Jonathan Bowen, Jones & Bowen, London
"Being creative is hard work. There are no shortcuts. Do your ten thousand hours of practice. Inspiration is the product of hard work searching and learning. It's not magical. It's a solution to a problem that you have been thinking hard about."
Jonathan is the co-founder of Jones & Bowen whose clients include Hyundai, Jaguar and Maitres du Temps. www.jonesbowen.com
Victoria Weill, Click Clap, Buenos Aires
"Seek alternative references and immerse yourself in the world outside of design. Go beyond reading design blogs. Build a greater in-depth knowledge of typography, look further than the obvious fonts like Helvetica, even though they have their merits.”
Victoria is a partner at Click Clap and has worked for Coca Cola, EMI Music, Sony, MTV and VH1. www.clickclap.tv