I moved to Darwen from London three years ago, when I was fifteen. It’s a nice community here, really friendly – everyone knows everyone. I liked my school in London but starting at Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio was a real eye-opener. You do your English, maths and science, but the other subjects are up to you; I’m in my final year doing A-Levels in graphics and photography. It’s not just the choice you get though: DAES has links with all these local businesses, so you get a proper introduction to work before you’ve even finished school!

That’s how I got the commission last year to design for Together Housing: the company approached the school’s Employer Engagement tutor about designing a logo for a luxury retirement housing complex they were building called Riverside Heights. They had their own graphics team but wanted to work with creative students as well, so my graphics teacher recommended me and a girl in the year above, Emma.

It was an amazing experience but a lot of work – I reckon we came up with 50 logo variations. The housing people gave us a brief and talked about the things they wanted to incorporate, like the Darwen Tower that overlooks the valley, but we had quite a lot of freedom to explore and come up with our own ideas too. There were challenges – Emma and I didn’t always agree, but we respected each other’s opinions and each other’s designs, and we shared feedback and merged ideas to come up with a logo we both liked. I reckon we put in between 40 and 60 hours over five months and that was all in our own time and alongside exams and everything. There were days we were tired and didn’t always want to do the work, but we pushed on because that’s the real world isn’t it? I’ve learned that you have to work hard every day, even the days you don’t want to.

I want to be a graphic designer and Riverside Heights was a massive project for me to be involved with – a £14m investment by Together Housing. I never would have had an opportunity like that if I hadn’t come to DAES and now that I’ve had the opportunity, I’ve got some insight into the world I want to be a part of – and I don’t just mean graphic design. I hadn’t heard enterprise skills or entrepreneurship before coming to DAES, but it’s kind of central to everything here. You learn how to demonstrate the qualities in class and out of it, so you know what you should be working towards in your future. With the clients you might have, but also just how you should treat people generally – how you should be around them. That’s the Aldridge attributes in real life.