It's Nice That...

Today is the first day of the rest of your life / Demand the Impossible

Lawrence Zeegen contributes to It's Nice That articles with a piece about the current state of play among today's art and design students...
It's Nice That

Today is the first day of the rest of your life – Demand the Impossible

Attempt to shoehorn together two philosophically opposing counterculture mantras and you’d normally be in a heap of trouble. And while it isn’t often that you’ll find two rival factions come together; the Hippy edict - ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life’ and the Situationist-inspired punk decree – ‘Demand the Impossible’ jointly manifest to act as a rally call and call-to-arms for every design course fresher in the land…

Being at art school, and that includes university-run design faculties too, must act as a challenge; be life-changing, life-affirming and instill a lust for life that smashes preconceptions, and kick-starts freedom, creativity and invention. The very start of your art school education must be your very own personal ground zero.

But in a brave new world of university fees and student finance/debt is it any wonder that many of tomorrow’s mavericks and misfits are commencing three years of study knuckling down to the proposition of rowing boats rather then rocking boats. In recession-hit UK Ltd art and design students are in peril – in real danger of playing too safe, too wrapped in the cotton wool of conformity as they over-worry what the future might bring…

UK creativity has always relied on the nonconformist, eccentric, individualist, one-of-a-kind, odd-one-out rebels; those prepared to roll the dice of risk. Is it just me that remains unconvinced that in today’s climate of fear; today’s art and design students, tomorrow’s artists and designers, just aren’t pushing hard enough, aren’t bucking the system, leading an insurgent revolt or dissenting, rising up – where have all the radicals gone? The memory of the civil rights Berkeley student rebellion of 1964, the Parisian student revolt of 1968, the Soweto uprising of 1976, even the poll tax riots of 1990 are all now a distant glimmer.

Even the YBAs, the last generation of true innovators and still the most recent height of creativity spurned by this country’s art schools, are old school. The middle-aged YBAs are yet to be upstaged and overshadowed. Ok, so student radicalism can’t be summoned like a genie from a lamp; but isn’t it time for a movement to rise to the surface that scares us, dares us and shakes from our sedated sleepwalk into slumberland?

So, as term starts and your bright new future begins just remember one thing - Today is the first day of the rest of your lives so don’t just opt for the easy life - Demand the Impossible, and start to make a difference…


Lawrence Zeegen is an educator, illustrator and writer. Zeegen is Head of School of Communication Design at Kingston University, a regular contributing illustrator to the Guardian newspaper and the author of four books on contemporary illustration.