Now and then, I meet up with old school buddies, and as the night progresses, we always have one of those conversations about what we didn’t learn at Uni. Sadly, what we were taught goes out the window soon as we enter the industry.
I started to wonder that if I knew then what I know now would I be a better designer? Or would it have prevented me from developing as a creative person? We need to learn in a ‘blue sky’ thinking environment even if what we are taught may never be used? I believe there is scope for certain truths for students to equip them better when entering the creative industry.
So with this in mind, I decided to compile a list to advise students still in Uni and perhaps those who have just graduated. Hopefully, it will give insight into what the real world of design can be like.
1. You probably won’t get a job at your end of year show
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, though. I’ve never met anyone who has got a job from their end of year show. I feel a lot of emphases is placed on the back of year show, almost like you’re wrapped up in cotton wool, given the impression that this show is the be-all & end-all. It’s not.
2. You won’t get 12 weeks to do one project
In the commercial world, especially in advertising, you may only get a week to produce something. I’ve had projects where I’ve had a couple of days to make something from start to finish. Even if you have more time to work on something, it won’t be the only thing you are working on. But don’t stress. You do get faster over time.
3. Your qualification means nothing. Your portfolio is everything
I’ve never shown my degree certificate in an interview. I can’t even find it 🙂 Even if you haven’t got any qualifications, your portfolio and experiences are the only things that will get you that first job.
4. You have no experience – work experience, work experience, work experience
Nothing opens your eyes more to what the industry is like other than work experience. And if you get along with the people enough and produce good work, they may even hire you. And even if they don’t, it all adds weight to your CV.
Another way of getting your foot in the door is to contact as many design agencies as possible. Ask them if they would mind meeting you, looking at your portfolio and giving some advice (keyword here is advice that gives experienced designers an ego boost and gives you your first foot in the door).
*5. Good design takes time/designers block is overcome through hard work
I remember the term ‘designers block’ was used a lot when I was a student, and it was usually by people who often did the same thing repeatedly. So I don’t think it’s a good starting point to design something with preconceived ideas or templates and expect your work to be stunning. Good design takes time, research and effort. Grind away, and you will get there in the end.
6. Don’t take it personally
Design is subjective. Everyone has their views on what’s good or not. Nevertheless, most people can agree on what’s a thoughtful design. However, don’t take offence or view it as a personal attack if someone criticises your work. If you’re not sure why they don’t like it, then ask them to explain in more detail. Most creative people want to see good stuff around them, and constructive criticism will help you become a better designer in the long run.
7. Creative and Technical ability is equally important.
Web designers get a lot of stick for being ‘techies’. I’ve always argued that it doesn’t make you less of a designer because you can develop a site using CSS or Actionscript. I think that it makes you more. When Leonardo Da Vinci or Picasso mixed their paints and made the frames for their paintings, it didn’t make them less of an artist, just more aware of the medium and visual experience.
However, with that said, using filters and drop shadows won’t make you a designer. Techniques should be mastered, but the actual work should always be about the idea/concept. Sometimes we get caught up in the technology, and it’s essential to bring the design back to the core idea.
8. Do what you want to do, not what other people like you to do (this one came from Billy Hardnoyz)
It’s your career, and it is in your hands. You are a professional and have a right to make decisions on your work. Of course, there is a balance, but there is also integrity.
9. Confidence will get you employed
If you walk into an interview and are doubtful about your work, the people who interview you will also be. They don’t know you. They don’t know if you’re having an off day or if you are generally like that. And everyone likes a person who is enthusiastic about their work. If you are unsure about your portfolio, then change it. Get it to a place where you are proud of it and show it to as many people as possible to get used to talking about it.
If you don’t like your work, other people won’t like it either.
10. You never stop developing
It applies to even seasoned designers. I’ve been lucky to have worked with some fantastic designers, and what has often shocked me is their emphasis on learning and developing as it’s a never-ending process. Oscar Wilde said it best.
‘We are all in the gutter, but some are looking at the stars.'
Well, I hope this helps. It is all advice, so treat it like a plate of food, take what you like, and discard the rest.