Managing Director, The Draft, AUT
Bachelor of Design in Communication Design
She was always the creative kid at school, says communication design alumna Aimée Preston.
“Ever since I can remember, I was skipping past the toy aisles and going straight for the art supplies. Throughout high school, I naturally gravitated towards painting and photography but quickly found that design was the area I felt the most confident in.
“When it was time to apply for university, AUT was my first choice as I’d heard that it was more hands-on than other options, and was also ranked among the top art and design schools in the world — not a bad option! The communication design degree appealed to me because of its flexibility, more general first-year programme and the potential to break into pathways in the second year.”
Aimée feels confident that she made the right decision in choosing design.
“The degree allowed me to discover and explore other passions that developed along the way. I realised that I personally felt more drawn to projects that were focused around solving people-centric problems in local communities rather than projects in the commercial space. The students in my graduating year were so diverse and passionate and the staff that delivered our programme truly went above and beyond to support our learning.”
Bringing the graduate exhibition to life
For Aimée, volunteering to project manage the art and design graduate exhibition was one of the highlights of her time at AUT.
“Together with Michael Moore, a fellow third-year student, we oversaw a large team of students who designed and activated a brand which has since been nominated for three Best Design Awards. We successfully approached external companies for sponsorship, ran a social media campaign that attracted wide interest from the industry, and were responsible for a multitude of other jobs to make the exhibition happen.
“Running the Shift Exhibition was the best decision I made at AUT. I can certainly say it pushed me far out of my comfort zone but also allowed me to prove to myself that when I put my mind to a large job, I can juggle my time accordingly and get lots done.”
Aimée’s hard work on the graduate exhibition has certainly paid off – she received the Service Award; recognising her service to AUT’s communication design department, and the Gordon Harris Print Award for her final project; recognising confidence in print and paper choices. In the 2019 Best Design Awards, Shift Exhibition has been nominated in three categories and her own final-year design project, Aphant: Imagination on a spectrum, has also received a nomination.
Creating a richer university experience
After graduating at the end of 2018, Aimée was offered a position at AUT as the managing director of The Draft, a new student-led design studio and community that aims to give AUT design students a richer university experience.
“The Draft is a concept that Ramon O’Gorman, a current design student, and I ideated around during the break following my graduation. It has two main aspects – The Draft Studio, a student-led design studio that connects students with real-life briefs before they graduate, and The Draft Community; which has run some incredibly successful events where students can engage with industry and peers, and gain a sense of belonging and comfort amid stressful hand-ins periods.
“A highlight for me this year was being able to facilitate a workshop with Erik Brandt, a graphic designer and educator from the US. Being in Auckland for 2019’s Semi Permanent Conference, he was excited to come to The Draft and run a Letraset workshop with 70 lucky students from a wide range of design areas. Seeing the students not wanting to leave after the workshop was a great moment for me, as I realised that the community we had created was meeting its purpose.”
The people she works with are one of the things Aimée loves most about her work.
“Working with a great team of staff who were once my lecturers and who are still mentor figures to me means I’m constantly surrounded by support. A great network of people also makes sharing The Draft’s mission and ideas with others a rewarding experience. Industry and friends have jumped in and given their time towards making students connected to The Draft. I couldn’t be happier.”