Personal statement advice: art and design

Art and design admissions tutors explain how your personal statement can serve as a taster of your creative potential (and your interview).

What art and design tutors are looking for

The underlying message is that tutors want to know about you, your practice, your inspirations, and your aspirations, and for your personal statement to act as written accompaniment to your portfolio and performance at interview.

‘Stay on task, focus it, and try to get across your personality and your commitment and enthusiasm for the subject. I love to see some notion that you’ve done something off your own back, like relevant books you’ve read or exhibitions you’ve visited, and how this has informed your own practice. I’m especially impressed when applicants make reference to items they’ll be bringing in their portfolio and write about their approach to a project and what their influences are. I find this very insightful and it makes us feel we really want to meet you. Giving us a sense of where you see yourself going in the future is great too.’ David Mcgravie | School Of Creative Arts Associate Dean – University Of Hertfordshire

How to make your art and design statement stand out

Admissions tutors prefer to read personal statements that don't stick to a predictable formula – here are a few tactics to ensure yours packs a punch.

  • Focus on the course: Martin Conreen, design admissions tutor at Goldsmiths, University of London, urges applicants for design courses 'not to over mention art' but to stay focused on design. He also feels some applicants waste too much space on non-relevant factors like their sporting achievements.
  • Your influences: Martin adds he wants to hear who your influences are, why they inspire you, and 'how their work has resonance with your own, or with your own ideas'.
  • Examples of what inspires you: David Baldry, fine art course leader at University Campus Suffolk, echoes this: 'Tell us what inspires you. We want to know what contemporary art interests you, so talk about key artists or an exhibition that made an impression on you. We want to know how you respond to the world creatively, so talk about your experiences or projects you’ve developed independently. Also, edit it so it sounds punchy'.
  • Demonstrate your artistic ambitions: Alison Jones, fine art admissions tutor at Goldsmiths, is looking for 'interesting individuals who have a passion for art and a commitment to developing themselves as artists. Therefore, your personal statement should demonstrate an understanding of your own work, focusing on what is unique about your practice'.
  • Be original: starting your statement with a well-known quote – such as 'fashion is not something that exists in dresses only' – is inadvisable. 189 applicants quoted that exact Coco Chanel snippet last year, so it really won't make you stand out from the crowd.

It's all summed up nicely by Arts University Bournemouth whose advice is:

'Be focused on the field you're applying for (no scattergun approach), name artists or designers you admire, think contemporary, reflect on exhibitions or galleries or events you've visited, and don't think "I'll tell them at the interview" – put it in the statement!'

Find out more about studying art and design, including entry requirements, why you should study it, and possible careers it could lead on to.