When starting out in the “creative industry” it's all very mysterious, isn’t it? Let’s face it, as a designer you’re probably working on a project right now not knowing what the outcome is going to be.
It may differ from person to person, but my initial thought was something along the lines of “Shit, I don’t look like a designer.” The only designers I had ever seen before were on shows like DIY SOS and “60 Minute Makeover” and these were interior designers. Thankfully I didn’t opt to copy their dress sense so patterns neck chiefs and trilby hats were not in the wardrobe.
Knowing very little about the industry, I went off to college and studied Art & Design (I’m sat here writing this now and thinking how the f*ck did I wing my life). After completing the qualification I then had some understanding of the Adobe Suite and could go home and create some cool conceptual designs by “borrowing” one of the college MacBooks.
At this point, it was more about creating clever conceptual marketing designs. Purely because this was my strength and I knew I could create content for my portfolio quickly - so I could apply for apprenticeship interviews. So I now kind of had a portfolio (I’d hate to see it now) and had an interview for a local agency apprenticeship I found through Creative Alliance, if you’re a student designer in the West Midlands I 100% recommended you take a look at these guys.
I mean, you won’t have the uni experience of drinking yourself silly, but you also won’t have the debt...and you’re learning on real client work, in real agency life and it gives you that “foot in the door” so to speak. Then you just have to make sure you’re trying your hardest for your creative output to be on par with the other seniors.
I remember being an apprentice at my first job and my work being pitched alongside other senior work, it made it down to the last two options. It didn’t win, but that second place felt like a victory, I didn’t stop smiling for a week. And from then, it became like a drug, I wanted to win every single time. I remember the first time one of my concepts got chosen over a senior work, it was for a local cleaning service company - I felt like I had just rebranded Nike or something. I still see it around today and I smile to myself thinking that a 17-year-old Apprentice Designer branded them and they paid for a Senior Creative...Lol.
So if you’ve made it this far into my article you have (A) managed to read past all my bad grammar and (B) heard enough about my challenges, you deserve some strong and professional advice, I can’t give you that, but I will give you some opinions. If I was to do it all over again this is what I’d ensure I do…
1. Surround yourself with other designers, I didn’t get this until I joined an agency and already had the job. Do it before, whether that be online community such as OMB, The Drum community or just the local art class. It really doesn’t matter, but surrounding yourself with other creatives will make you more creative. It keeps the hunger going.
2. Focus on your strengths and develop your weaknesses, this may seem a bit of a weird one because you’re thinking “well if I have weaknesses I need to improve on them” well yes, but that will come naturally by doing more and more of that type of work. Initially, to get an interview and have a strong interview you need to show your talent, and make your craft the best it can be. Create stuff that you think is cool initially, if you think it’s good then you can stand by your creative and have reasoning. Make it clever, don’t just create something because it looks nice, that’s art.
3. Lose the haters - there will be a few. Especially in today's world of social media, let’s face it every fucker on Instagram is apparently a designer and photographer. Just keep doing what you love, and if you love what you do enough you’ll keep going anyway even if you do get haters along the way.
4. Self-branding is everything. By this, I don’t mean you need to create your own brand and logo etc. Companies these days are having brand strategies to be more personable and human, well you’re already this, you aren’t a company such as Nike, you are Tommy Mason or John Smith etc. Just be you and talk about what you love. A great example of this is a local Birmingham designer called Luke Tonge from Birmingham. Now, I don’t know Luke personally but I know of him because of events and talks he puts on throughout the year all about graphic design. Being famous in your own division is the best type of famous.
5. Remain humble. Even if you win a few awards along the way, that doesn’t give you the right to go jumping on Twitter to criticise other work without being constructive. ]
6. Follow BOC obviously ;)
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