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Advice for Design Graduates and Undergrads

Advice for Graphic Design graduates and students

At Silvertoad Ltd. We know how very tough it is to claw your way into a good paid job in Graphic Design.  And even when you’re in, even the most established companies hardly flatter your wily innovation with a flattering salary to stay afloat. We know it’s hard, so allow the Silvertoad crew to help you along in our small way.

With hundreds of other designers just like you graduating every year how do you get that all-important edge?

Here are a couple of factors to consider: some are obvious, some are quite radical and some are plain time consuming to the extreme (but worth it).  But first off, as you know, hard work breeds good luck, and there’s no point in being shy, you’ve got to get out there and network. Make contacts because your work cannot be allowed to stand on its own feet at this point.

Undergraduates:

  • Enter competitions throughout your time at university. This shows that you are able to go above and beyond what your Degree course provides for you. Win or lose, it’ll still put you out there and hone your practical skills. Design Week or New Blood regularly holds competitions. A number of design houses hold competitions to secure internships these days to ensure they get the best (this often leads to junior studio positions).
  • Apply for as many internships as you can whilst at University. The in-studio experience you gain is often invaluable. It’s a whole different world from working in a group in University.  Quite frequently, you’ll be able to include aspects of your work completed on the internship in your portfolio.  Your written report (for your degree) will prove to be an invaluable tool to refer to when applying for work so make sure you give a detailed account to jog your memory because you will be worked hard.
  • Learn a piece of software inside out. The more specialist it is, it will give you a USP when it comes to looking for that first job.
  • Become a specialist but also a ‘ jack of all trades’. What we mean is if logos are your thing, then never lose sight of your talent and continue to build on that. At the same time, in this fickle market you can’t afford to put all your eggs in one basket. Get yourself to a good standard across the board and become ‘the human swiss army knife’ of your agency. Learn everything.
  • Reverse engineer and innovate. Find out how some of the past winners or existing campaigns have won by become a mockingbird, through the use of software, then take that existing design and build something fresh.

Graduates

  • After your degree show keep the momentum going by creating new projects all the time.
  • Send emails, portfolio work through the post to your dream companies. Design and run an email campaign. The more succinct and eye catching the better.
  • Find out where the design firms socialise after a hard days work? We’d say any pub around Clerkenwell Green (if you’re aiming for London’s top firms for instance) and network.
  • If you get a non-trade job over the summer, do ensure that you can allot some of that pay to produce an excellent portfolio. This never gets mentioned but the importance of investing funds in a great portfolio is crucial.
  • If you have to get a non-trade job through necessity, never stop designing. Design for friends. Become a freelancer and join local networking groups. There are great government schemes to help set you up. Ask at your local Job Centre Plus.
  • Doorstep companies.  You can’t be a shrinking violet. Sometimes split-second timing is all you need. Sometimes it will be a waste of time and nobody will have time to see you. But remember what we said about hard work, it generates luck. The more often you do this will enable you to reel in that miracle you need.
  • Get to know your sector. Knowing your client is the biggest aspect of being a successful designer. Always be looking at advertising campaigns, packaging designs, page layouts, absorb everything.
  • Never Stop. If you’re in a non-trade job you have a duty to yourself to keep abreast of technology changes and updates. Software changes up so often, if you don’t keep your finger on the pulse you could end up as obsolete as your old G4.
  • Keep a blog that you can upload examples of your work and anything that interests you so that prospective employers can follow and see that you are keeping current.

To re-cap: enter competitons, make the most of your work placement and make as many contacts as you can, become a specialist AND a jack of all trades, spend money on a great portfolio.

Most importantly and yet probably most obviously:

 “Work hard and be nice to people” – Anthony Burrill (http://www.anthonyburrill.com)

We are always interested meeting new designers and web developers at Silvertoad Ltd. Whether or not we have room at the time is regardless as we’ll always make time for innovative, inspiring and genuinely good people.  It’s always worth dropping us a line and we’ll try to get back in touch with you as soon as our workload will allow.

We wish everybody graduating all the best and above all to keep focused on your goal.