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David James (BA Fine Art 1972)


After graduating, I was a postgraduate at the Slade School. Half way through the course, I took the opportunity to enter television as a designer and illustrator. My Fine Art degree was an asset in this venture. I became supervising designer, news and current affairs, at Thames Television and, finally, head of the design group at ITV West, designing motion graphics for feature films and international wildlife productions. During this time, I took a Masters. I then changed direction, becoming Principal Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of Wolverhampton and now head Digital Arts at the University of Worcester.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

I wanted to study art but also wanted the breadth of a university experience. At the time, there were only two university degree courses in fine art. Reading was the natural choice: the academic staff included famous names and the department was modeled on the Slade School. Competition was stiff!

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

The intellectual and creative challenge of a course that required one to be self-directed from the second year. Innovation, depth, inquiry, research, curiosity, responsibility and, of course, stimulating social interaction: all of these factors contributed to a rich formative experience. This is Reading’s life-enriching legacy to me.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Always do what you love so that you love what you do: the choice of course is an important one in this respect. If your subject inspires you, you will find success and fulfillment. Remember to allow time to enjoy the social life; this is an equally important formative experience!

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

Having had a challenging and stimulating 30 year career, mainly in ITV, as a studio head, and art director and designer, I wanted to pass the torch of experience to those who follow. I now head Digital Arts at the University of Worcester, a rewarding second career – and a privilege.

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

There are common factors for success in both the media and education sectors in which I work: commitment, enthusiasm, flexibility, innovation, and a capacity for hard work. Intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness and a foundation of excellent general knowledge are essential. Don’t be motivated by fashion. Be original. Be yourself.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

The Careers Centre predates my time at Reading but I do know it offers valuable support. The University helped by giving me the creative, intellectual and social attributes with which I could engage with the challenges of life and career.

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You have to make the opportunities happen. My career started by a chance encounter with a job small ad in a library! Be prepared to be flexible, open to new directions. When applying, personal, literacy and presentation skills are important. Enthusiasm and commitment are essential too.

Why did you decide to give to the University of Reading?

It is a way of saying thank you for the intellectual and personal gifts Reading gave me and to help those who follow so that they might share the legacy offered by one of the world’s top universities. Reading was founded on generosity and vision. We can continue that tradition.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

It was the happiest time of my adult life. It was an awakening that gave me freedom, stimulation, inspiration and friendship. It helped me to grow up. Favourite memory? Floating down the Thames in a rowing boat on a sunny afternoon, with hamper, chilled wine and dear friends (who were rowing). But then there was also Jantaculum, editing the newspaper, designing the opera, drawing expeditions with my tutor, the summer balls, rag week pranks. So many cherished memories. As an alumnus, I have a sense of still belonging, a sharing, a bridging of a sunlit past and a bright future.

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