Why I chose to study Design and Digital Media - MSc
I received my BSc in Web programming and Design in 2006 in Riga (Latvia), then moved to Edinburgh in 2010 where I obtained a BA in Photography and Film in 2014. After developing my freelance practice as a photographer and graphic designer for several years I noticed that there were a lot of new things happening in the creative world, such as 3D Modelling, AR/VR, UX/UI design, and I did not want to be left behind. I started to wonder - how can I tap into my IT knowledge and combine it with my ongoing practice? MSc Digital Media and Design programme appeared to be a perfect playfield to explore this fusion. Moreover, I was lucky to receive an Andrew Grant PG Scholarship that covered my tuition fees, so the course was set.
My time at ECA
As a freelancer, I got used to working with commercial briefs and on my own, so during the Digital Media and Design programme, it was beneficial to shake things up and gain experience working in groups and towards creative briefs. The programme was very flexible so you can truly make it your own and adapt it to your goals and interests. For example, I knew that after graduation I wanted to work either in the cultural heritage or educational sectors. I also wanted to explore the possibilities of photography in the age of new media and how I can push my designing skills to the next level. So, for the Digital Playgrounds for Online Public course, I explored the possibilities of 360° cameras and have developed a virtual tour around the gardens of Edinburgh.
For my master’s project, I have been working with the Lothian Health Services Archive, remediating the historical data, and designing an educational touchscreen experience. Working on this project has also allowed me to explore photogrammetry (a set of tools to make a 3D model out of a series of photographs of the object made from various angles). I also got to refresh my web-design knowledge (during Digital Design and Dynamic Web Design modules) and was not afraid of code after an Interactive Visual Design module.
We did have a few visits and workshops with people from the industry. It was very uplifting and inspirational to chat with a creative duo from www.moreyum.com about their agency.
If I could start this course again, I would probably choose one less group project and go for a personal project instead, as I found them to be more beneficial for my personal learning processes.
My experiences since graduating
During my year at ECA, I have been pushing my photography skills in various directions, as well as updating my web design skills, and gaining confidence as a digital designer. A lot of those newly gained skills were directly transferable back to my commercial practice - since I’ve graduated, I did several virtual tours for clients and a few websites, among the usual graphic design and photography jobs. I didn’t need to find a job straight after graduating as I still had my freelance clients, so I could wait and apply only for the vacancies that really suited me and my career goals.
In May 2021 I landed my dream job – I now work as a photographer in the National Museum of Scotland and am part of the Collection Services team. I currently explore techniques such as focus stacking and RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) and I am learning to work with a robot arm tripod and programmable turntable to create 360°-spins. I love working with the high-end professional equipment and I learn something new every day, be it an unusual lighting set-up or a new editing technique. This is a temporary contract until the beginning of 2022, and after that I am planning to set-up my own product photography studio for commercial clients.
I have to say that the overall journey was not quite as I have envisioned initially – my first idea was to pivot my career and become a UX/UI and Interaction designer, but instead I have found a new passion for photography.
My advice to new and current students
If you are just starting your course, use the available resources to the maximum – don’t be shy. This is a perfect time to experiment and let your creativity flow. Tap into your interests but think of your next step. What skills are required for your dream job, and how can you bridge that gap? Attend exhibitions, conferences, workshops – anything related to your fields of interests, and start forming a network. Find a group of like-minded people, and form a study group.
If you just graduated - all the best with whatever you decide to do!