Rachael Kearney, 35, is a BA Visual Arts graduate. Originally from Preston, she moved to Salford for her degree and still lives and works in the city.

Having held ambitions of a creative career since she was a child, Rachael now runs a digital design business, specialising in responsive email design. She says her experience at the University of Salford helped to shape her future and introduced her to an artistic community that helped her to pursue her ambitions.

“I chose the Visual Arts course because I loved drawing – at the time it was as simple as that, I didn’t have a career in mind. But the most valuable thing about it, and what I found really empowering, was the way we were taught to think like artists and given the confidence to become artists.

“Coming from Preston, it was so important to me to be able to have the confidence to be a part of that art world. I moved from a town to a big city, and the course opened a lot of doors for me and allowed me to grow as a person. My peers were all highly motivated people who worked incredibly hard, and that atmosphere is invaluable. The whole experience introduced me to a world that was beyond what I knew, and I became part of a very positive community.”

While talent is clearly a pre-requisite for acceptance onto any creative degree course, Rachael believes the university experience can be just as important as the teaching.

“Being at the University of Salford gave me the opportunity to collaborate in a studio environment, which gave me the confidence to be around other ideas people. We were given free reign to cover whatever topics interested us, and that experience was very valuable. The technical skills and teaching are obviously essential, but my personal opinion is that at 18 or 19 you’re still learning what your language is as a creative person, and what’s important for you to articulate. It’s so important to be in an environment of creative people to help you learn what you want to share, and to explore ideas and discuss concepts. You need a combination of both technical skill and an inspirational environment.”

Since leaving university, Rachael has specialised in web design and, more recently, responsive email design. Responsive design ensures emails are displayed correctly on whichever device they’re viewed on, whether it’s a wide-screen Mac monitor or a small phone screen.

“As a digital designer, I’ve worked with household names include LateRooms, Asda and Bupa. Now I’m specialising in email design, I’ve set up a new website which is just about to launch – www.bestresponsive.email – and I’m working with lots of exciting brands.

“I’m passionate about coding and digital design. But coming from an art background and having that grounding gave me a hunger to work with other ideas people and remain a part of the creative community.”