Stuart MacDonald was the Head of Gray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. He has served as a trustee of the UK Design Council, a director of the Creative and Cultural Industries Sector Skills Council, sat on the UK Creative Apprenticeships Taskforce and was on NESTA’s Creative Pioneer Programme Commmittee. Here are his first five jobs.

1. Pram salesman
My first paid job when still at school in Dundee. Huge monsters they were in the days before ergonomic designer buggies.

2. Black Squad Labourer
At art school I worked summers in a jute-mill. By the time I left art school on a scholarship to Italy the jute industry was all but dead  (the City too). It’s been interesting to see how culture has been enlisted to transform Dundee’s fortunes.

3. Art Teacher/Adviser
First real job. My career spanned working in schools but I also got involved in national curriculum development and helped shape Standard Grade Art & Design; innovative in the Eighties it’s now way past its sell-by date. Then I became an Education Adviser with Strathclyde Region and got drawn into major initiatives like the Garden Festival, 1990 European Year of Culture and was part of the bid team that won Glasgow 1999 City of Architecture and Design. Joining the 1999 team as Education Director seemed a natural progression.

4. Lighthouse Keeper
Building the Lighthouse and team from the beginning was a fantastic experience. Education in its widest sense was central to the Lighthouse but we also grew an international reputation for cutting-edge exhibitions, high profile events and creative architecture and design networks, all of which are very much missed.

5. Art School Head
Going to Gray’s, my former art school, might seem to complete the cycle but in reality it was part of the ongoing customising of my career. Now I mix academic work with creative consultancy.


We’ve asked professionals in creative industries what jobs they have had in the past to get their foot through the door (or at least pay the rent). For more in the “My First 5 Jobs” series look here.