Zoe Patterson profile picture

Job title:

Programme Director, BA (Hons) Graphic Design


After ten years working in the design industry both in Britain and the United States Zoe Patterson entered Edinburgh College of Art as Graphic Design Programme Director. Since that time she has maintained her professional practice and developed her research in the field of education. This has manifest itself in a number of design and teaching projects.

Zoe has worked with a varied client base on publications, publicity and installation work. These have included exhibitions at; the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh; The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; the Royal Museum of Scotland; The Royal Highland Fusiliers headquarters, Glasgow; and design work for Rank, WHSmith, AT Cross, Nestor, Swarovski, Marks and Spencer, National Libraries and Edinburgh District Council.

In 2016 Zoe began a two year secondment with the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Academic Development (IAD) in order to explore careers guidance at secondary school level and the transition between school and Higher Education. This passion informs Zoe's teaching and research.


Nine years since inception, 'Design Agency' project is the flagship means by which students on the Graphic Design Degree Programme at Edinburgh College of Art graduate from four years of full-time education with an honours degree and, simultaneously, 3-4 years of work experience. Winner of the Guardian University Awards 2013 prize for Employability Initiative, it was the first project of its kind in the UK and boasts students are 100% employable. 

From day one, fledgling students secure ‘employment’ as interns within student-led design agencies along with peers from all levels of the programme. This scheme has addressed government and industries concern over graduate readiness of the professional world and has allowed students to experience work-like scenarios within the safety of the academic environment. Developing rounded, ‘real world’ skill sets, such as pitching, delegating and networking, students are on a meteoric learning curve. 

Zoe has been invited to present the pedagogical principles of the Design Agency project and related subjects at the 12th annual International Technology, Education and Development Conference INTED, Valencia; Design Learning for Tomorrow – Design Education from Kindergarten to PhD at DRS//Cumulus, Oslo; Teaching in Practice, HEA Conference at the V&A Museum, London.


Zoe approaches her research through practical projects that explore the gap between schools and university and between university and industry. 

‘Graphic Design in a Box’ brought final year Graphic Design students together with University careers advisers, experts in widening participation, and recent graduates, for an intensive, three-week sprint, taking ECA out of the college and into the classroom to introduce high school learners to creative careers pathways.

'Designer in Residence' was created whereby final year undergraduate students, otherwise known as Creative Directors, from each student agency, have been challenged on a weekly basis to embed themselves within a local primary or secondary school as resident designers. This initiative responds to Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy to improve young people’s ability to make informed decisions about future pathways and specifically for our design staff, helping young people understand the wealth of study and career opportunities within the (graphic) design sector. 

With both projects the benefits to students on our own Graphic Design Course have been immeasurable. Surprising outcomes have been the reflections of the students re-imagining their own learning journeys and the obstacles overcome since deciding on a design career, and specifically the confidence gained. These projects have placed students in varied conditions coping with a mixture of outward facing deliverables whilst supporting an array of peers, young learners and partners. University staff have helped students harness their reflection with workshops and discussion, all of which is captured in summative assessment submissions through individual video diaries and personalised data.

Results of these projects are shared within the sector, most recently as a keynote at By Definition: Exploring the Articulation of Contemporary Graphic Design Courses in Higher Education, Graphic Design Education Network GDEN, UK, 2019.

Zoe is currently working with colleagues from across Scottish Institutions to support the Daydream Believers scheme. Daydream Believers is a partnership between employers, teachers, lecturers and student ambassadors collaborating to create free online resources for teachers which we believe will help shape and inform the curriculum in our secondary schools.

Related programmes