Diana Tsaneva: Student placement story

Can you tell us about the placement opportunity you were involved in?SACI placement student Diana Tsaneva

It took place in a shop where artists and designers from different backgrounds can sell their own creations at the Scottish Design Exchange (SDE), Edinburgh. The place itself was so inspiring and the creative spirit was all around. I was provided with the chance to make my own product which I could sell alongside other artists’ works, it was an honour and also a big responsibility! SDE was very supportive and kind, and their experience and advice were extremely helpful throughout the whole journey.

Can you tell us more about what your role entailed?

The placement was about bringing your own idea of a product to life and displaying it on a shelf in the shop, but there was so much more behind this! There were weekly meetings with SDE and the other students doing this placement, where we would be given tasks to complete. These included: defining our goals, target markets, and approach; exploring shops, brands, and products similar to our ideas; deciding on shapes, materials, processes and what was most important - moving fast from each stage to the next.

Thanks to SDE’s constant advice this was easier to achieve and avoided me being stuck in one place. SDE would tell us so many things from their personal experience to boost our productivity and motivation.

What key skills did your placement teach you?

Being able to work in a real-life environment, managing time, communicating with co-workers and staff, being confident, but also accepting advice and criticism to improve. It was a great way to experience what it is to create your own brand and be able to "protect" and take good care of it.

What were your highlights and key successes of your time on placement?

On the day of finally displaying my creations on the shelf, it felt very satisfying but also a sign that this was in no way the final destination, just the beginning of a new step in my creative development. Sales didn't come until a month or more later, and during that time I kept on reorganising my shelf, updating and checking it every week. For me, it was already a success to see my business cards being taken and people stopping at my shelf to have a look. It meant that something had grabbed their attention and they wanted to know more about it, even if they didn't buy anything. Of course, the feeling of being contacted by the staff about one of my dolls being sold cannot be described. The happiness I found from someone who recognised my hard work and decided to support it was a true achievement.

Did you face any challenges during your time on placement?

Of course, without challenges and hard times, there is no success. Sometimes it felt a bit lonely and overwhelming to work on so many things all at once and not have someone to work with, as it was an individual role. But again, the support I received brought me back. Communication and sharing turned out to be extremely important to overcome those feelings, as well as never giving up, even when it looked desperate. I learned that what worked for me was to stop for a moment, do something else, go around and see what other people are doing and try to go back to my own project refreshed and ready to believe that soon something good is going to come out of it.

How do you feel that your studies at Edinburgh Napier University prepare you for this placement?

There was something learned from each module that came in handy during the placement as if it was somewhere hidden inside and waiting to be taken out and used.

Do you think your experience from the placement affected your future career plans or last year of university?

Definitely, it has influenced me in many ways - I have become more confident in myself and even started thinking of opening my own Etsy shop, where I could keep on making my own creations, as it brought me a lot of joy and I believe it also did to others.

Would you recommend doing a placement to others?

I would recommend it, even though everyone is different and shouldn't feel pressured. They might end up enjoying it, as that is what happens in most cases, but there are always advantages in whatever we decide to do, so we shouldn't regret our choices.

What advice would you give to someone considering doing a placement at university?

Don't feel too stressed about it, try to enjoy it more and consider it as a good opportunity to grow as an individual and creative! This way it will be much more successful than you think!