Jonathan Tatum

Jonathan Tatum graduated from the Transportation Design Programme at UID in 2005.


What is your academic background?

I gained my Bachelor&s degree at Coventry University, School of Art & Design, and my Master&s degree at Umeå Institute of Design, both in the field of Transportation Design.

Since you left Umeå, what have you been doing?

I started working in automotive design for two separate consultancies; everything from concept generation, accessories to full production programs for both European and Asian OEMs. Last year I moved into public transportation, and I currently manage Bombardier&s industrial design facility in Sweden.

What is your best memory from your time in Umeå?

Studying and learning from such a diverse range of creative people from all over the globe. There were many different cultures brought together by a sense of a real family atmosphere in the school. We worked hard but had great fun along the way, and I learnt a lot.

Which aspects of your education at UID have been most useful for what you are currently doing?

The knowledge I gained whilst interacting with the industry is something I use regularly in my day-to-day work. There were many professionals who gave up their time to travel to Umeå and share their experiences. This was a great opportunity to gain up-to-date knowledge, and it forms a vital part of UID's credibility as a school, current in their tutoring and in tune with the industry. Umeå also encouraged us to go out and gain experience on internships by building the course modules around collaboration and sponsorship - so there is no excuse not to get experience and increase your employment chances after graduation.

Do you have any good advice for new UID students?

Enjoy it! This is one of the best opportunities to evolve and enjoy your profession, you will have all the knowledge, tools and experience you need to grow as a designer, and to see what area of design interests you. After all, you spend most of your time at work, so it&s important you like what you do.

Why did you choose UID over any other schools, and did you apply to any other schools beside UID?

Yes I applied to Coventry University and they offered me the option to carry on there with my MA. I applied to Umeå because it was free, it was something new for me, and I liked the work that had come from the last degree shows. It was a good opportunity for a different experience, really.

Why did you continue to study for an MA?

It was obvious that it was extremely competitive in the industry. When we did our BA degree show in Coventry, we were kind of hidden away, there wasn&t much exposure, and I was still very young. It was a good opportunity to carry on and get more experience, and I felt I wasn&t quite ready yet.

Do you think UID prepared you well for the professional world?

Definitely, I think they did everything they could have done. It was a solid couple of years, there was a lot in there. I definitely learned a huge amount at UID and I owe a lot to them. The tutors were great; the industry experts that came in, I really developed there, so I have only good things to say about the school.

Did you undertake internships while you were studying at UID?

Yes, I first went to MG Rover, England, in the summer, and then I spent some time at Land Rover, just before my final year project.

Is the "real world" what you expected it to be?

In many ways, I think university life can be different; at UID you are surrounded by people with the same creative/innovative interests who understand the value of good industrial design, in the ℜ world& you work alongside other professionals with different educational backgrounds each with their own perspectives to contribute, in many large organisations industrial design represents the minority - so you need to be very clear and convincing in order to sell the importance of your perspective.

Did UID make you appreciate Scandinavia?

UID was one of the reasons I got a really good feeling about Sweden: the people, and the place. It is quite similar in many ways to the UK, it's not such a culture gap, but I enjoy living here and I love living in Stockholm. I think it helped me with the job as well, that I have been taught in a Scandinavian school, and I have been exposed to Scandinavian design.

Did you learn any Swedish when you studied at UID?

I took maybe two courses, two lessons, that is, but the schoolwork took over, unfortunately, I didn&t continue with the lessons, but it would have been useful definitely. I understand a lot now, but I struggle with speaking and need to learn more to get into the culture, although everyone speaks such fantastic English. I think it's polite to make an effort and speak the language of the country you live in.

Which aspects of the UID life do you miss the most?

I think it is probably being with so many different creative people. My class had people from, for instance Israel, Austria, Norway, Russia, Argentina and Mexico, and it was such a unique opportunity to learn about different cultures, and meet interesting people. It&s a bit unfortunate that so many people have gone back, or to another worldwide location. That&s the disadvantage of such a multicultural environment - people disappear afterwards.

With the introduction of the tuition fees, do you think the diversity will decrease?

It will definitely change the feeling of the school. I think that a unique part of UID is the cultural diversity and the class sizes.


Jonathan was interviewed in January 2011 by Louise McCallum and Elinn Bolonassos