Take a break with Derek Yates

Actor Idris Elba and lecturer Derek Yates
Publication date:

Join us as we sit down with Ravensbourne staff members to hear about their job role, what they enjoy doing outside of work, and - most importantly - what’s their favourite break-time snack!

First things first, please introduce yourself!

“Hi, I’m Derek Yates, Interim Head of Design.”


It’s time for a coffee break! What’s your go-to drink or snack?

“A latte with an extra shot. When I go to Pret, I always have a chicken and bacon Caesar salad baguette.”


How did you get to where you are now?

“When I first left college, I worked as a freelance designer/illustrator. But I always felt like there was something missing. I did a workshop in a primary school and realised that teaching was what I really loved – it was a bit of a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment.

“So, I started working in a secondary school and gradually worked my way up. Teaching has always been something I love, as is working with young people; young people are amazing.

“I worked for three top creative universities, and now I’m at Ravensbourne, where I’ve been for five, nearly six years.”


Tell us about what you do at Ravensbourne.

“I’ve got a busy job! I was the course leader for Advertising and Brand Design up until the beginning of this year, but over the last 12 months I’ve been seconded into a number of different projects across the university.

“I developed a series of courses for Future Learn, they are online courses that look at digital communication. My best one is about digital storytelling, and it’s got over 4,500 subscribers from all around the world. I'm really exciting about that.

“Off the back of these courses, I teamed up with the guy I did the Digital Storytelling course with – Dines, from Studio Blup – to put together an online learning platform called KICKSTART!, a knowledge exchange project that was made possible with government funding.

“Since July, I’ve been the Interim Head of Design, which has involved looking after the design department between the old head resigning and the new head taking their place in January. It’s been brilliant – the design team is incredible. Definitely the best department at the university (but don’t tell Gurmit, the Head of Fashion, that I said that!).”


What is your favourite part of the role?

“I think my favourite part of the job has always been working with students. And the students at Ravensbourne are the most dynamic, most interesting, most diverse students I’ve ever worked with.

“The other thing I’ve really enjoyed in the last year has been developing a brand communication strategy for Ravensbourne. That’s involved running workshops with students, meeting with the governors, and brainstorming with the senior management team.

“We've tried to work out the attributes, attitudes, values, and behaviours that will help Ravensbourne get to where it wants to be – and to celebrate that through the way we communicate in the media, online, and internally.”


What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

“Don’t be scared. Make mistakes, it’s all right.”


What is your proudest accomplishment?

“Apart from my kids…

“I was invited to write a piece for the 100th issue of the graphic design journal, ‘Eye’. The piece, ‘Remixing culture in the here and now’, gave me the opportunity to profile Dines, a talented young black designer.

“Over the last five years, his studio has carved out a place at the very top of European design. Dines is a valuable role model for our students, providing guidance and mentorship as well as valuable insight into the future direction of our industry.

“This journal is very respected, but most of the issues are full of white men. Having the opportunity to write Dines’ place in history and make a small contribution to rebalancing the inequality of representation that exists within the canon of our discipline has been one of the highlights of my career so far.”

Quickfire questions!

I can’t stop listening to… Mecca and the Soul Brother by Pete Rock and CL Smooth

A book I recently loved is… ‘Caps Lock: How Capitalism Took Hold of Graphic Design, and How to Escape from It’ by Ruben Pater

People should watch… ‘Last Chance U: Basketball’ Season 1 on Netflix

My current favourite piece of clothing/accessory is… my blue brushed cotton folk shirt

My most-used emoji is… flames

In the kitchen, my specialty is… my lemon chicken risotto (it’s famous) – or my son loves my chicken noodle soup

My guilty pleasure is… going to Arsenal and shouting like a football hooligan