University was great. And before you say it, no, I’m not talking about the drinking. As an aspiring creative, preparing myself for the real world filled me with excitement. The role of the designer in today’s world is developing faster than ever, which in turn, makes preparing for industry harder than ever. Now a year on from graduation and reflecting on my university experience, it’s evident that there are some things I wish I’d known before venturing out to work.
For those lucky enough to find a design job, working in industry will be a significant and potentially unexpected learning curve. As much as your degree may teach you, there are some lessons that can only be learnt on the job. In the interest of making the transition easier for the fresh crop of design graduates, I’ve decided to share some of these lessons with you, so listen up.
1. Email etiquette
There’s no doubt that, by now, you’ve mastered Adobe Creative Suite, but one of the biggest tests for me was mastering the art of writing emails. As a designer, you are the bridge between the brief and the final outcome. Not all clients will understand why you’ve used a certain typeface or chosen a particular colour, so being able to clearly explain your work in a tone tailored to suit each individual client is a vital communication tool.
2. Proof reading
You’ve got the artwork signed off by the client and you’ve sent it to the printers, but you didn’t spot the typo in the main title. Who’s to blame? One thing I’ve learnt is to always take responsibility. Just because the artwork has been signed off doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Remember to always check your artwork before you send it to print, or even better, get someone else to check it too.
3. Healthy body, healthy mind
I never thought I’d say it, but exercise is great. It’s easy to go home after a long day at work, still thinking about the identity project or website layout you’ve been working on. Sometimes, taking your mind off the project makes coming back to it a lot easier, and exercising is a great way to do this. So go for a run or hit the gym – the bottom line is do something that keeps your mind occupied and you’ll feel better for it.
4. Initiative is key
Most of the briefs you encounter at university will provide you with all the content you need to get started. In reality, however, despite everyone’s best efforts, sometimes things have to be started without all the content, in order to meet an already imminent deadline. The ability to use your creativity to come up with content is a valuable skill, so be prepared to write your own titles and body text. Developing the ability to write effective copy will make your job easier and your client happier.
5. It’s all about the people
Let’s face it, you could be in your dream role, working for the agency you always aspired to be a part of, but if you don’t get on with the people, then just going to work will become a laborious task. The team around you will become the most important part of where you work, so make the time to build positive relationships with your colleagues. When it comes to looking forward to getting up every morning, finding the right people to work with is make-or-break.
Right now, you might be wondering how you can learn all this for yourself ahead of time. The answer is only through hands-on experience. Your degree will teach you new skills and help to direct you down the right path towards your chosen career, but putting yourself out there is the only way to learn the ‘life lessons’. Get as much work experience as you can; make the most of all placements and internships that come your way, be they for a week or a year.
At the end of the day, no matter where you go to find experience, remember to consider the kinds of people you want to work with, and keep this in mind when looking for an agency that suits you. The team around me at Salad have made my first year in the industry an awesome experience, and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from them it’s that, throughout your career, the learning will never stop.
To find great opportunities here in the South, check out ThinkCreateDo: http://thinkcreatedo.co.uk/