UNIVERSITY DOODLES: Scribbling my way through a degree

From the years 2003 to 2006, I was an undergraduate at the University of Westminster here in London, where I was on a standard three-year Bachelor of Arts degree reading journalism and media studies. Virtually all my lectures and seminars took place at the university’s Northwick Park campus in Harrow, which shared an open-plan site with the expansive Northwick Park Hospital, an NHS run medical facility. I studied under numerous lecturers at the School of Media, Art and Design, or ‘MAD’ for short and very much enjoyed my time there. Even now I still reminisce about those golden days, with my new-found independence (this was my first time I lived outside the family home). I met people from all over the globe, learned many interesting things about the media industry and came away a more mature and responsible person. It would be my first years of living as an independent taking care of myself, cooking my own food and arranging my own entertainment, but it would also be the last years I would enjoy life as a carefree student before the world of work beckoned. These were golden days, which I still fondly remember to this day.

English: University of Westminster, Harrow Cam...
English: University of Westminster, Harrow Campus. In Northwick Park, photo taken across Watford Road. This campus has schools of business, computer science, and media, arts, design. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You would  not think that though, if you saw some of the doodles I would often scribble on the margins of my notes, especially during lectures. It was not always a case of being bored to death by the professor droning on and pointing to a whiteboard at the front of the lecture hall, as they often had a great many interesting things to say. Sometimes it was just due to a delay, or me turning over thoughts in my head. I put a lot of emphasis on studies and kept my daydreaming strictly outside of office hours. Still, I could not resist the urge to let my inner artist stretch his hands a bit, crack some knuckles and author some rather elaborate scrawlings.

My doodling career began in primary school, where I would often draw a cartoon bumblebee on the corners of my notebooks and paper sheets in class. This was around twenty years ago so I do not recall why I chose to draw this bee so obsessively. Maybe it was something to do with liking honey. God knows. Once I moved up into secondary school, my doodling career really took off aided by disruptive classes and clueless teachers in the rough inner London comprehensive I attended. Most teachers took a blind eye to my budding Da Vinci drawings, but there were a few occasions where I would get an exercise book returned to me after marking with the offending designs encircled in red pen, accompanied by a handwritten note asking me to desist from desecrating those sacred scholastic notes. That very same inner artist refused to submit to the Soviet-like demands of my educators, and I continued my addiction to manifesting Biro-influenced graffiti between the fine blue lines. At times, I would really pull out all the stops and go full-on Technicolor with the generous assistance of an unfettered imagination and a set of cheap multicoloured pens from the local ‘Poundstreet’.

According to Wikipedia, a doodle is an “unfocused or unconscious drawing made while a person’s attention is otherwise occupied. Doodles are simple drawings that can have concrete representational meaning or may just be abstract shapes“. Doodling is often associated with college or school students being bored and insufficiently stimulated by classroom activities and also by people using notepads or diaries while they talk on the phone. It is an unconscious, yet manifestly physical expression of a person’s abstract or pertinent thoughts and feelings. Doodles can be simple squiggles, spirals or geometric patterns, but for the more time-rich, these can stretch into full-blown lifelike drawings, cartoons and elaborate designs. Doodles are a visual manifestation of a person’s innermost thoughts, ideas, perceptions and beliefs – what inspires them and what makes them tick. Presidents, singers and other luminaries are not immune to the wayward scribblings of their pens, despite the popular perception of doodling as being the preserve of bored schoolkids or lovestruck teenagers with too much free time on their hands.

For me, doodling was often a means to pass dead time or when I felt uninspired or unoccupied, but I also feel it was a natural expression of my artistic abilities. I studied GCSE Art while in school, and had a flair for drawing in class, especially in conceptual design and still lives. At home on bad weather days, I and my brother Azzy would sit on my bed with a blank exercise book, and fill the pages with doodles. In fact doodling has a strong presence in my family, with two of my sisters also involved in the family doodling business.

Sadly I do not have any of my original exercise books from primary school, as my moronic stepfather threw them out in one of his enforced house cleanups, but I retained all three years’ worth of notes from my university tenure as the information contained in them was very valuable to my future career plans. Preserved with these notes are the many silly doodles I did when things got a bit dry academically. I spent a good weekend putting those notes into some old binders and categorising the less controversial doodles with my camera phone, before uploading them to the blog Twitter account. I now present to you a carefully chosen selection of my best ‘UniDoodles’ along with captions explaining a little of their context. Please bear in mind that these are merely simple doodles. As much as I would have loved to create an epic masterpiece, there is only so much time a student can seize the moment before Sir/Miss starts up again. Nevertheless, if you would like to see the full collection, just scroll to the top of this page and click on the Flickr icon at the bottom of the blog header image. The doodles can be found in the set entitled “Doodles @ UofWestminster 2003-2006

Doodle of a three-eyed beast and a numeral from notes on feature writing – 17 February 2004.


A bank of doodles including a vintage rocket with landscape and graffiti. From university notes on PR and mass media dated 26 February 2004.


A bird zooms in on an apple. From ‘Understanding PR’ lecture notes dated 26 February 2004.
US style ‘Harrow’ licence plate on essay notes concerning public relations and consumerism 25 March 2004.


Mutant vegetables and factories – influenced by the usage of PR by controversial companies in a lecture on alternative PR perspectives. Dated 6 May 2004.
Wings on fire – bird drops an object in fear on notes from a lecture on the future of public relations. Dated 13 May 2004.


Assorted ensemble of designs including the slogan ‘All Your Bases Belong to Us’ which was fashionable at the time. On media management notes for a PR seminar on 15 March 2004.
Graffiti doodles on notes explaining the essence of a good PR practitioner written on 22 March 2004.


Budgie News – for your daily diet of avian scoops. Found on notes for PR crisis management 29 March 2004.


A squirrel pronounces her lyrical prowess on a paper of notes on press conferences 26 April 2004.


A fusion of space travel and Seventies youth nostalgia on these notes concerning the social organisation of journalism and news 1 April 2004.


A smiling cartoon bat complete with phrase in London urban youth slang. Found on notes concerning the social history of the world’s media technology 20 November 2003.
A silly selection of scribbles on seminar notes for theories of globalisation 5 October 2004.


Probably a less than complimentary caricature of our lecturer. Seen on a handout sheet on the global and local aspects of globalisation 12 October 2004


An elaborate smorgasbord of some of my finer doodling behind this sheet on media law and ethics in the first semester of 2004.


Boom graffiti possibly influenced by the vintage British cartoon “Dangermouse”. Appears on a handout on ethnography collected while writing my dissertation 3 November 2005.


Be afraid, be very afraid: Cartoon drawing of a snake on the same handout. March 2005.


“Rite” glowing graffiti – possibly religiously inspired – on a handout on media multiculturalism in March 2005.


A scorpion on another handout sheet on multiculturalism in March 2005.


All pictures copyright V. Shah (2003-2005) 2013. Apologies for any pictures that appeared darkened. This was due to the strong flash employed by my camera-phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. Better resolution photographs can be found in the HEM Flickr page.


Doodle” – Wikipedia/ Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. LINK
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29 thoughts on “UNIVERSITY DOODLES: Scribbling my way through a degree

      1. Hmmm…but you’re living in a beautiful part of Thailand. That’s a huge improvement on Harrow.
        Even recently I have contemplated moving back there, however most of my close family are here in the East End and I grew up here, so I’m a bit reluctant to step away from my little EastEnder ‘comfort zone’. However I’m looking to move into a one-bed flat at the moment, so I could well make to District HA lol.


      2. Horses for courses really best do what suits you best 🙂 I was looking for a somewhere a bit more family-fied and the green of suburban Harrow would have been more applicable than the built-up Bohemia of Camden …


      3. That’s a very true sentiment. The inner city doesn’t really work for families.
        The area around Richmond/Kew is really nice, very genteel and sophisticated, well heeled.


      4. Yes…unfortunately the rest of olde London town is heading the same. Even in my area, which is one of the poorest parts of the city, houses are going for £265,000 for ex-council properties. It’s madness!!
        One day, DC…hopefully one day.


    1. Thanks so much Dilip,

      I always have these ‘creative juices’ gushing through the veins of my mind, and every now and then they seep out and manifest themselves as doodles, photos etc. I am eternally grateful for this God-given talent I have been blessed with.


  1. Such an interesting post! Brings back memories of all the doodles I did during my high school and college days. I find the Wikipedia description of doodles interesting, especially the part where it says they can have concrete representational meaning. I think the #1 thing I used to doodle was balloons. I think it represented how I wished I could just fly away from the classroom lol.


    1. Thanks for your comment 🙂

      I guess doodles are these little hints of a person’s innermost thoughts.
      Hahahaha…”just fly away”. Even the most boring and cardboard-stiff teachers can inspire.



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