Question of the week 11.08.09
With thousands of new graduates on the scene, demand for placements is at its height. So this week, we'd like to know how you organise them at your studio or agency, what you think of the placement system and what your experiences of placements have been
Do you pay placements? Or do you offer to reimburse expenses? What tasks do you give them to do? What do you get out of the expereince and what do you hope they get out of it?
If someone wants a placement at your studio or agency, what are the do's and don't's? How should they apply and how should they behave when they get there?
What do you think of the whole placement system? Do we need some more formal way of regulating what can be just a way of getting cheap labour? Does the placement system exclude those who cannot afford to work for free, closing off opportunities in the advertising and design businesses for those from disadvantaged backgounds? Should, for example, D&AD or another industry body introduce guidelines? Should all placements be paid at least the minumum wage?
And graduates, and recent placements - what was your experience? Did you find it worthwhile? Were you given interesting work to do or were you stuck in a corner with the kettle and the Spraymount? What do you think should be done to make placements more worthwhile? What advice would you give anyone looking for a placement now?
So many questions, please let us have your answers...
Question of the Week is produced in association with Major Players
When I graduated, my Dad (who's a civil engineer) asked me, "So what are you going to do about getting a job then?". I replied calmly that I'd probably have to move to London and spend 6 months or so working for various companies for free to get enough 'industry experience' to bolster my CV and make contacts to eventually (hopefully) get a job. I've since had to explain this to several other people who work for different industries, and each time I've done so I've been met variously with disbelief, outrage, pity and no small amount of people wishing me a sarcastic 'good luck'.
That said, I managed to get a placement outside of London and after working there for a month (luckily) they took me on. So I guess the system kinda works.
Just try explaining that to my Dad.
I graduated in 2007, and having been recommended to not do placements while at uni (by a misguided/ignorant lecturer) found myself in a position of needing to know more about the design industry before attempting to get a job. I deliberately chose to do three placements, all at different sized studios with different sector clients.
The benefit of placements is totally invaluable - it allowed me to be exposed to a variety of different agencies and clients, seeing how the two interact and seeing how structure of a studio works. It also allowed me to make an informed decision about what sort of agency I wanted to apply to work in, and what structure worked best for my working practice.
But, and it is a big but, not many people can afford to spend months working for free, especially straight out of uni. I was luck enough to get small amount of pay (from £100 - £200 a week) and also be treated like a full member of the team - this meant when I finished the 4 months of placements I had done I had a great portfolio and was full of confidence.
I would fully recommend placements to any newly graduated student.
I'm on summer break, about to go into my third year of graphic design at U.W.E. in Bristol. I'm currently doing an internship at Blackfish Publishing in Bath, working on Filmstar Magazine. I'm not getting paid, but they cover my expenses. Far from being stuck in the corner with the kettle and spraymount, I've been designing the film and DVD reviews section and also a 6 page feature for the next issue. It's rather paradoxical because I'm not getting paid but I'm doing real work for the magazine, something I prefer to being paid and being stuck in the corner with the kettle.
I've also interned for A-Side studio in Falmouth, where again I wasn't paid but I was rewarded by working on live briefs for the whole time I was there, with much of my work being used by clients which was fantastic.
I've learned so much on both of my placements so far, and would say they've definitely made me a better designer. Having said that, if any studios or agencies want to offer me some paid work, please check out m portfolio on my website!
As part of my course at LCC we are encouraged to take a year out and work in the industry on placements.
The experience gained is absolutely invaluable and it is without a doubt a great way to get introduced to the working ways of the word. However the experience can be counter productive if studios take on graduates/students just to help with day to day admin work. It makes much more sense to be brought in to help with a particular job and get your hands dirty.
I absolutely sympathize with Ed with regards to the sort of remarks made by people when told that this is 'what I have to do'. I certainly believe that this system puts people who are unable to support themselves throughout this period at a massive disadvantage. I, along with others havn't always been paid on placements and it is obviously a really struggle that has to be balanced with the experienced gained throughout the time spent there.
I don't believe in working for free. I find it is the industry that is corrupt in it's ways when they expect this as a given. All young designers, no matter what level, should be paid for placements even if it is minimum wage. The idea that to get a foothold in the industry you must work for FOC is absolutely absurd! But in many cases sadly, it is the done thing, and as more and more designers feed out into the industry we will see a lot more of this as the recession increases panic among graduates to find somewhere to work.
I agree that some studios are doing new designers a favour, but a studio would not take on a placement designer if they did not have a use for one.
I have been lucky myself and have never had to work for free, well, maybe once when I did an expenses paid commission for a charity, but other than that I have always felt that a company wanting something for nothing may never respect you as a designer (once again thats not always true but an opinion of my own). Placements are invaluable to any designer but any respectful design agency must at least pay expenses, and minimum wage would be a bonus.
I have worked in some places on placement where I have been the Tea boy, literally doing the spray mounting and the odd jobs that no one else wanted to do, but then I have worked in places where full scale artworking jobs were sent my way (and I was treated like a new member of the team, including the tongue lashing for miscalculated work). After doing several paid placements I found I no longer needed placements and began to be hired as a freelancer for associated companies through word of mouth. It had helped me build confidence with my own designs and acquire a great inside industry knowledge, knowledge I have found I have benefitted greatly from since.
So to sum up, although I sympathize with people wishing to work for free on placements, I feel you should expect some kind of fee for your services, even though I must stress the importance of placements!
I find that taking placements students a very rewarding experience for both parties. I feel the company should be paying NMW to all student placements as a minimum. More if they perform well. Nothing is for free and I don't feel companies should encourage 'free work'.
Our student programme is with an overseas University where we take students for 11 months. Students get a better experience over a longer period of time and learn more. We wouldn't take students for just a few weeks.
Being a creative partner at a small creative agency, HarrimanSteel, placements are crucial. It is everybody who works at HarrimanSteel's responsibility to keep an eye out for talented creatives from many different creative backgrounds and not just graphics. If we find someone who we think has potential, we will get them in and have a look at their portfolio. As meeting someone first hand is crucial in deciding whether they warrant a placement. As enthusiasm and social skills are as important as a good portfolio.
We have people in for a minimum of 1 month as it generally takes people this long to settle in and really start to contribute. Every creative we have ever employed has come about by doing a placement.
Being a small company it is crucial that the social fit is right. It is not all about the work. What are their music tastes, tea making skills, joke telling ability, willingness to get the job done whatever it takes, etc. The only way you can really find this out is by doing a placement.
We never expect people to do a placement for FREE. There are plenty of design companies that do. We feel it only fair to contribute to travel and drinking money. We tend to put placements in at the deep end, giving them responsibilities and their own projects. It becomes apparent pretty quickly what thay are made of. Our last placement was here on an internship for 2 months while on a summer break from their MA in Sweden and completed 8 live projects that all materialised/went to print/got made and would be welcomed back with open arms once the MA is completed.
A really important point is that this is probably the only time in your career that you will be able to flit from studio to studio and find out what and where you like. Small comapnies, big companies, different working parctices, different kinds of work.
Once you have taken that first job and got used to the money, if you made the wrong choice it is very difficult to get back on the right path. So use placements as a learning tool.
I'm mortified by some of the comments above. I run a small agency in Edinburgh, and we often give students placements in order for them to get an idea of what it's like to do real work.
We always give them real projects to work on, and we are often spending a great deal of our time explaining to them how to work in a studio environment.
We get nothing out of it ourselves as to date (that's 11 years) the majority of students who have done placements with us (Serge excluded in this comment!) have been too slow at turning work around to make it a viable option for us, and the majority have not produced anything which could be even presented to the client. What we do hope they get out of the experience is an understanding of how structured the job actually is and how we are constantly working to deadlines, either set by budget or by client expectation.
If Leigh, above, thinks that we should stop giving placements for free, then I think he's just restricting other students from learning. Afterall we cannot afford to take on new staff at present, so they aren't going to automatically get a job if they opt not to do a placement.
I have a slightly different problem. I have been working client side since graduating in 2006 and I very much want to work for an agency now. The only issue being that an agency will only taken on those with agency experience, or through an internship. I can not afford an internship, as I now own a flat with a mortgage and they tend to look to fresh grduates as they can "mould" them.
It's a shame, because I love marketing and design, and I feel like my degree in Visual Communications and Marketing is going to waste where I am.
But it's the way of the world and I guess I'll be client side forever.
I recently graduated and to be honest its been pretty frustrating. Even leaving the fact of not getting paid for placements aside, I've found it hard enough trying to get interviews in the first place. At the moment I'm not sure that I can afford to move to London without some kind of placement, and so I'm spending pretty much alternating weeks in London/Devon, going up for interviews etc. The problem is actually getting the interview in the first place. I've tried the usual email route, and phoned up to find out who to email etc, but I just know that my email is lost in a pile of hundreds all with the same begging letter. And if I was a designer working for a busy agency with a lot of work to do, the last thing I'd want to do is sift through them all.
I've tried sending mailers without much success, and I'm working on a new, physical sample of work to send out. I just wonder if there isn't a more straightforward way of getting a foot in the door.
I have to agree with Lisa
I'm a partner in a small agency in London and over the past five years we have recruited 4 members of staff from placements. We pay travel costs and the placements usually last between 2 weeks and a month.
If we had to pay a minimum wage for the placements we would stop offering them. The majority of people who have come in for work experience have not been employable in a comercial environment. We would never recover the cost of the placement.
The few diamonds that have come to us we have employed.
If you're really good, you'll get a job.
i dont see how paying someone for a placement restricts people from learning. by not paying people you're restricting your potential 'pool' of graduates/placements to those living in the local area, those with financial means, or those who are (fool) hardy enough to walk home everyday when they cant afford the bus, rely on friends for food, and prepared to curl up on the sofa at night because you're not paying them to get a room and a decent nights rest.
Most students are already leaving university with a ton of debt, the very least you could do is pay for them for their time with you. I've seen far too many good graduates drop out of the industry because they couldnt afford to do the placements required to get into it.
Down here in london you can expect to be paying at least £100pw for a room anywhere remotely near town and £25pw for travel unless you want to endure the bus system/walk. If you're on an unpaid placement for 4weeks or so that's a personal debt of £500 before buying food or even thinking about having a life outside of work.
Luckily I always got paid for my placements and managed to get involved in some great projects with some wonderful agencies. If it wasn't for for that pay I'd probably be back at home in Sheffield, stacking shelves in sainsburys and wondering why I'd bothered going to University in the first place
I look after the creative placements at our agency – I can relate to them as I'm a scout leader also (different age, but good creatives are big kids so this helps!). They usually sit behind me and work as a junior on a live brief or pitch, we go through dozens a year, take on about 1 in 50 and this is how I feel about it all.
If you're good, have thought-through ideas, and are dedicated enough to know that there's never a clock off time (as such), then you'll be rewarded with more input to a project. And, often if the work's useful, a day's freelance rate per week. If you're slack and go home at 5 because your mum picks you up then or that's the closed bus to half 5, and don't come back in having thought about the brief in the shower or car etc, then you'd only get travel paid.
Listen. Observe. Realise both that you're opinion is as valid as anyone else's, but also that it may, as any idea, not be taken on board- don't get pissed off! Act like a guest in your boyfriend/girlfriend's house, go out of your way to show willingness, and manners. Offer tea, but don't make it every round, you should be busy too. And like any junior creative, you're at the bottom rung. Sorry. But as a junior, if you've got game, you'll be taken seriously.
Network and read. I'd expect EVERY placement to have their own blog, a flickr, and maybe a twitter. It shows insight and gives personality in writing (don't copy and paste stuff). Use your new free time to comment on stuff, on blogs, sites, twitter pages. Get yourself noticed. Read the industry news feeds, use iGoogle to good effect, and you know what, you'll find that you know more about what's going on than the pros. And that'll make you look good.
In summary be realistic, have an online presence, get stuck in, know digital, and have a plan, oh, and have fun! The single best thing you can bring is energy and fun! Show them how to enjoy this crack!
I agree with Kirsten, I believe industry experience is a practical must for students but a valuable learning experience for our agency as well. We had 2 students with us for a 7 week placement during May and have to say the standard of their work was second to none. Admittedly they needed more time to articulate their ideas but I believe it was worth waiting for, they are very good at exploring a brief thoroughly coming up with many creative angles. They both gained practical knowledge that is essential to any design job that was seemingly missing from the curriculum. Their communication skills improved tenfold during the term and were articulate and confident at describing their work.
From our perspective, we are interested to get a completely fresh view on design briefs and experience working with students to respond to their questions and work in a way that would make us challenge some of our ideas and thoughts about what we want to achieve.
Another key piece of value for us is the chance to know more about the outlook of young designers who are focusing their energy on studying image and graphic communication. We are interested in the way both students look at the world and what visual stimulus they find exciting; a large section of our target audience (people who work in organisations) are of the same generation so insight into their visual ‘mindmap’ is also of value.
One of them is now working with us again during the summer on a new branding brief for a start up company.
One piece of advice I would give to any agency thinking of working with students on placement work is to have a clear idea of the brief yourself and what you want as a deliverable Encourage them to communicate on a daily basis about their progress. Likewise for students, be clear about what you want out of it and don't expect to be mollycoddled through, be clear, confident and concise with the way you communicate and don't be afraid to put ideas forward.
We are always interested in talking to fresh talent and I feel the value exchange between agencies and students is a worthy one.
It appears from what has been said that most 'design' graduates benefit from 'completing their education' on a placement.
Is the 'graduate' the 'real deal' or a raw recruit?
What is the role of 'education'?
What is the role of a placement?
Why have placements?
Who will benefit from a placement?
Why do students choose, June/July August for placements?
Yes somebody, a 'body with clout' (course validation body?) should provide not only guidelines but 'rules' on 'design placements' (D&AD.. my Ricky Tomlinson?).
Nobody should work for free. Full stop. Is it not it against the law to work unpaid? So if graduates are not being paid, they are not working... so what is it ... education? Don't you pay fro CPD? (Continuous Professional Development).
Perhaps the Government (Dept for Business Innovation and Skills) should be providing education funds for design studios et al to complete the students education... after all 'education' gets paid for bums on seats? Maybe we should get paid for providing student placements? (There used to be a well known northern Uni that did a four year course, with the third being used for placement. Hi Ben, hope you are well.).
Apparently academic bodies are so capable they can obtain innovation grants of £3,000 for small businesses... but design groups have to complete a 'design' student's education for nowt... so we do their job while they do ours?
And perhaps students could do themselves a favour while at Uni, try the discipline of 'going into the office' i.e University from 08.45am – 17.45pm every day and work a bit in the evenings to catch up and meet those college deadlines. Knowing several colleges and universities I know of only one course who used to take a 'roll call' (!) every morning and lunchtime on one course... no longer! At least their were students to see, other courses, no-one ever turned up all too frequently to the course. Now students are adults and it's all about self learning (just as well, the education system has dropped 'em in it!)... and design groups to pick up the pieces.
From Creative Review sister publication, Design Week in 2006... this is not a new issue
Gradwell Corporate Design
And PUT THAT KETTLE ON!
I am a graduate and have loved all of my placements and I do believe the system works. I have always learnt more on a placement than in about a year of university simply because university teaches you how to pass a degree not how to be a real designer. On placement you learn about interacting with clients, print costs and how other design companies operate and approach a brief. I think it is valuable to do placements during time at university and not just after you graduate.
I don't think it is possible for all studios to pay NMW although I wish it was. I do however think that studios should make sure they have work for the student/graduate to be getting on with. I have done 5 placements, one of which I had to leave early because my dissertation work started coming through and they had no time or work for me. There is nothing more soul destroying than sitting at a computer all day for a week with nothing to do and no pay. The rest of my placements have been excellent and one very kind studio paid my expenses.
I'm very lucky in that I still live at home with my parents so I can afford to hop on the train to Liverpool for an unpaid placement and I even have a friend staying in student accommodation in London so i'm looking for experience down there too. Right now in a recession my only options are to give up on my dream or work for free until somebody decides i'm fantastic. Hope it happens soon!
When I left college I organised short term unpaid internships for a year and worked at night to pay the bills. I got my first big job whilst interning in a different department. It worked but I'd recommend doing it at college when you are supported by your loan. Of course interns should get paid but you just have to play the game and hope you have more morals/budget when it's your turn to pay interns.
I'm creative director of InboxDMG (www.inbox.co.uk) and we totally believe in the value of work placements. For us, they're not just monkeys who sit in the corner and make tea. They become a valuable part of the team for the time they're here.
How do they get a placement at Inbox?
First of all, I need to see evidence of talent. A porfolio site is best or a PDF will suffice. And a short, concise CV. Then they must interview well and prove they'll fit in with the culture of the team (fun, talented, flexible).
How long do we give them?
I usually ask them to come for a week or two and play it from there. If they're good, we'll ask them to stay on for another week or two (or as long as they can afford it).
What sort of work do they do?
Real client work. If they're here on a work placement, we believe with help and guidance that they can work on live briefs. We recently had a grad who worked on a viral game for a new client and they designed a cracking little game, as good as one of the full time designers would have done. If there is not enough real work, I ask them to work to an old brief or to look at some speculative client or internal work, hopefully to be used in the future.
How much do we pay them?
In a word, nothing. However, when grads have stayed for a few weeks, we sometimes end up paying them £50 a day if they are working on a pitch or urgent client work. But for me, work experience is a quid pro quo. We give them work experience and our time and help and a good agency on their CV. They give us their time and help for free. It's a fair swap.
Can it result in a job?
Totally. Over the last two years, we've taken on two of the grads who've joined us. Once you make yourself indispensible and an agency realises you have talent and you're right for the agency, it's actually an easy step to become emplyed. 1. They like you and you would have been there for 1-3 months. 2. You're cheap. 3. No recruitment cost. Bingo.
Can I work for you?!
Yes, we're in sunny Swindon, so email email@example.com and send your portfolio over. We're keen to help you if you can help us.
As an ex head of department of fashion and textiles at UK and USA universities I am all for gaining experience through practice in an industrial context. Having said that it should be during the period of ones degree, not after their studies as graduates.
Students of art and design are now clients, they come into education with a purpose, to gain knowledge,and skills and develop an intellectual agility in preparation for their future career. With luck they fine tune creativity to a point where an innovative approaches to problem solving is second nature.
With most students struggling to maintain their studies in a climate of financial constraint, often living below the national poverty line, it would be criminal for educational establishments not to provide a placement program of some description during the three or four year study period. I have always been of the opinion that during this placement period some sort of remuneration is required whether a small salary or reimbursement of expenses, even students have to eat and pay their rent and not all are blessed with wealthy parents.
The provision of a placement program during study, not only provides the student with an attractive cv but develops a discourse between industry and education that int urn can provide many other benefits not necessarily apparent at the time. I just wish that government bodies where more supportive of our young thinkers as they are the future for societal, economic and creative innovation.
I am MORTIFIED to what Lisa has to say!!!!! How can you say you get nothing from having placements with yourself! Graduates are obviously not going to be at the same level as yourself and other designers in the industry, they haven't had experience in this enviroment and need to get to grips with aspects such as short deadlines etc. They have fresh, new and innovative ideas to bring to the table, other skills that will benefit the design group. I am angry as to what you say - were you up to scratch when you first came into this industry? I doubt it very much. These graduates need to be given chances, and really good designers are slipping through the net as a large number of design groups don't pay for placements. It is tough out there for graduates, if you are not privelaged enough to come from a wealthy background and have people to financially support you - then what chance have you got? It is disheartening.
Placements are extremely valuable and benefit both the graduate and the design group - but these graduates need to be able to survive financially - whether this be minimum wage or otherwise!!!!!
I am a Design Manager within a large European Retail inhouse studio - I have not received ONE portfolio from any students etc this year. My Director and I have agreed to take on Students/Graduates WITH PAY - (obviously not the same rate as the qualified guys) whilst learning the trade. The only Grads/Students/workplacements are from colleagues/family/friends asking me if I would take them under my wing and show them how it works in a corporate company some have been paid if working over 1 month with us. I have 3 grads in the last 3 years, one went off to do film work, one was offered a permanemt position in Web design within the business and the other went on to work in a magazine design studio in London. I believe that we should help these guys get a foot in the door and at least 6 months in the business with a blue chip name on their portfolio should give them the lift they need. I am all for helping the next generation of designers/layout artists and artworker, but you guys do need to maybe look at the retailers as well - not only agencies - apologies now if every retailer will get portfolios sent to them by the 1000s but come on please give these guys a chance for goodness sake - I am sure they would learn so much in 1 month - even if they had to work free - just think how good it is for the design business tomorrow - give the next design generation a boost - we could do with some young blood!!! When you work in the business its not all arty farty design - you need to know the business cradle to grave that includes Design/Layout and artwork - learn the correct way and it will take you far. Good luck to all.
At Uscreates we have just introduced a new internship programme which is outlined below. We have opened up internships in the past and always found that many people apply but most with a generic letter which does not communicate their knowledge of Uscreates, or any desire to work with us over any other company. This time, to manage the amount of people who apply and to gauge enthusiasm, we have asked that interested people send a 30 sec application. More details below.....
Uscreates is an award winning creative agency that uses collaborative approaches to change public behaviours for a better society. We use our skills in social research, social design and social marketing to change behaviours through communication design, public service improvement, strategy development, education, training and events.
At Uscreates we invest in exploring and researching new social topic areas, new methods, new processes and new networks. We are currently running a programme for outstanding interns in which they will support our internal research and development work, and we will support them in gaining knowledge and skills in creativity, collaboration and current social challenges.
More information about the internship is outlined below and can also be found on our website at - http://www.uscreates.com/contact
The Pass It On internship:
You will spend a minimum of 3 weeks based at Uscreates’ studio.
For the first two weeks you will respond to a project brief set by the previous intern.
You will spend the final week developing a brief for the next intern.
This way we hope to build a network of interlinked projects, which will organically explore and discover new things. Lets see what happens.
You will also have the opportunity to get involved in projects, meetings and events going on at Uscreates.
We are looking for people, from any background, who are interested in social issues, behaviour change and who are keen to try new things, explore, think differently and teach us something new.
Expenses will be paid.
The 30 sec application:
If you are interested in applying, please send us something that tells us about you and what you can bring to Uscreates. We must be able to read / view / listen to it in 30 secs.
Please also include a CV and contact details.
I completed a placement at a post house at the beginning of this year. My uni course (rightly) afforded time for students to take up an internship, but did little to actually help students secure one. Maybe this was a good stance on their part? I'm not so sure as only a third of students found work.
Some were more fortunate than myself in that they actually got paid expenses. I received nothing for a 7 week stint. If I didn't have friends able to kindly accommodate me during this time, it would have simply been impossible for me to have done it.
Then there is the important question of what I actually learnt. Rather than being immersed in the true workings and mechanisms of a post house, I spent my time largely making tea and feeling like a removal man...I can accept that this can be the life of the bottom rank, that maybe I should have been more proactive in gaining some knowledge. But the reality was that they were massively under staffed and in the process of going into administration.
With hindsight there was much that I learnt, just not what I was expecting. I will be fully alert to a companies imminent collapse when those suits keep entering the building. But also the way to not treat (loyal) staff. A please and thank you aren't much, but they sure go a long way.
Oh and don't work for free!! Expenses really should be the absolute minimum, It doesn't matter which way one looks at it, it's just cheap labour.
Oli speaks a lot of sense! To expand, paying for proper work when they're good is a fair deal, you should pay if they're helping profit your agency, but Oli's point is valid that "We give them work experience and our time and help and a good agency on their CV. They give us their time and help for free. It's a fair swap".
The same as a visiting lecturer would perhaps give advice, industry knowledge and a brief, agencies do the same. I had a microsite for Lynx and a microsite for Sanyo in my book after my placement 7 years ago. I was paid travel and a little on top. I was thankful, and I got a job with it in my folio. Not at the same place, but it showed my new agency that I had good ideas, industry experience, and know-how.
If it was so bad, why is there a queue of people wanting to do it every year???
We don't do spec work for clients and so in turn we wouldn't expect placements to be unpaid.
....And before anyone asks we currently don't have any placement openings.
I've just put a poll on my blog about the payment. I'll send the results to CR on Monday.
Please vote and let's get some feedback from you all.
We at least cover their travel costs and lunch each day, but more often than not there's money left over from our max. budget that we give the placement anyway at the end.
Like charlie above, i too am currently on a year in industry, before returning to LCC in october for my final year. While quite daunting (because we have only done 2 years and are competing against graduates for these internship positions) I have had the most fantastic experience this year through placements and have been lucky enough to have worked at This is Real Art, worked for Jeremy Leslie designing a book, and am currently at Le Cool in Barcelona.
The experience you get is totally invaluable, and the main thing is it quickly outlines how inferior certain parts of your 'game' are. Your typography is generally fairly crude, your timekeeping (working to deadlines) is not quite tip top etc etc. All of the studios i have worked for were fantastic in giving me lots of hands on experience and gave up a lot of their time to help me. It has made me so glad that i have had studio experience before leaving college as i now know what to expect and having been thrown in at the deep end in the majority of my placements, i now am far more equipped for when i leave college in another years time.
I was lucky enough to be paid for my placements, generally only £100 a week and considering my rent in london is close to £500, it has been a tricky year, living off savings, working for stints to try and support my placement periods. I was offered a couple of placements that were unpaid, but i just don't think for the majority of people that don't come from a really priviliged background and have to fund themselves it is feasable to work totally unpaid. Even paying travel expenses shows that the studio is willing to give you something in return for your services (which i would imagine most graduates would be working their socks off to make a good impression), its just the gesture that you are in some way valued that matters.
"But for me, work experience is a quid pro quo. We give them work experience and our time and help and a good agency on their CV. They give us their time and help for free. It's a fair swap."
Don't get me wrong, I value every single piece of knowledge and skill i picked up in my time on placements but to say it's a fair swap for free work is unfair. if you're not at least covering the placement's expenses then it's costing them much more than time and effort to work for you. There are plenty of places I'd've been willing to work for free for experience's sake, just so long as my landlord didn't mind letting me live for free, the supermarket didnt mind me ignoring the 'pay here' signs, and tfl didnt mind me jumping the ticket barriers everyday.
In a previous life, with a decent sized studio, well-educated and informed left-wing socialist, creative and innovative led employers, we encouraged education/student/studio relationships, validating courses, external advisor roles, visiting courses, doing visiting lecturing duties, portfolio clinics and of course student placements. Placement fell into different camps,not just 'one model fits all' and of course now school leavers are too looking for 'work experience'. All this has continued throughout my working life, including mentoring a student to 'a first' and an MA despite recessions, the vagaries in the design business etcetera. (how many 'students on placements', now graduated, still return or contribute to their previous education establishment, or any other? I don't see no queue!)
Placements of two weeks were a waste of our time, although we often had people for this length of placement, for their benefit.
The main strength at the time was indeed the four year design course and we took undergraduates for six months as PART of THEIR course. They were paid as level one junior designers. For three months they were a waste of space and for three months they were 'productive', hopefully ('productive' used loosely). We 'lost out' initially, but over the six months, hopefully we all gained from the experience, although it was always loaded in the undergraduates favour.
They were nevertheless included as a member of the studio, one of the team and engaged in everything everyone else did (everyone brews up, me included!), came to meetings, the pub, celebratory meals... the lot! By the time we had finished with them, they were the 'real thing' ('wrecked' but the real thing!) and we inevitably employed them upon graduation, I think we employed at least six designers from the course. Alas the course no longer exists.
Would you want to work for an outfit that didn't pay their staff, whatever level they were at? Unprofessional, not worth working for?
The dichotomy lies in this approach of non payment and trying to be helpful, when the accountant says it doesn't add up. So yes we can invest time and effort in a student placement, but we cannot afford to shell out salaries and expenses that have no financial benefit to the organisation. An easy way to go out of business.
Of course many a graduate and unscrupulous employers will see placement as 'free labour'. Well if you as student think it's free labour, walk away...
So it seems to boil down to
1 exploitation of student by employer (the employer gets all the benefits)
2 free placement (employer benefits) and continued education for student
3 free placement (no employer benefits) and continued education for student
4 paid placement (no employer benefits) and continued education for student
5 paid placement (employer benefits too) and continued education for student
6 no placement, get a job
7 placement as a pre-employment offer, work for nowt with promise of 'possible' employment thereafter (yeah I've hundreds of EX clients who... "just do this and there's all this work to follow...")
So where does that leave the responsibility of Government in terms of 'higher education in design', of the academic design educators and all the design courses?
Did anyone ever ask the design industry about placements before it became embedded in the education culture or has this been hoisted upon the profession, who feel too guilty to say, "yeah fine do it properly, in a business professional way or Foxtrot Oscar?"
On a separate note, I recall hawking my portfolio around, and not far from Soho, a 'creative director' at the end of the interview, suddenly making notes and sketches of my work (before PDF's and computers! etc)... now why would he want to do that?
Gradwell Corporate Design
Why do students NEVER approach design studios BEFORE signing up to a design course to find out about the design business?
Why do design studios NEVER do Career evenings?
I've also just remembered we had a democratically agreed 'no smoking office' policy (with outside smoking facilities) ... in about 1988!
The report, 'Future fit' highlights some of the positive work being done by universities and employers to provide these opportunities but as the report suggests there is still scope for universities, employers and indeed students to do more to address employability.
One of the key messages to come out of the report was the need for universities and businesses to 'up their game' in the development of employability skills in students – both in terms of the number of placements on offer and in terms of course content. Both universities and students need to recognise that employability skills should not be treated as an 'add on' but as an essential part of the university curriculum.
Perhaps the answer lies not with agencies but rather with universities. As a recent graduate, and now a partner in a startup design agency with two fellow graduates (SMILE creative consultants), I have a slightly different view point.
As a team we worked together on a handful of placements during our second and final university years, completing various live briefs and not being paid for them, or (in the majority of cases) receiving little reward in return for our contribution. But, because we chose to complete our placements while still at university, we gained priceless experience, confidence, and a portfolio of work, and didn't lose too much sleep over not being paid. This set us in good stead for heading out into the real world, and I would not change the way we approached the situation. I am not saying that this didn't have its downsides. For one, the increased work load while working towards a degree takes a lot of commitment, and there is still cost involved, but this is lessened by having student loans, and living either with parents or in student accommodation.
My suggestion is that universities run a module through which a placement is arranged by each student for themselves, and is carried out in term time. For a university to actively encourage students to go on a placement would surely be a good alternative to simply telling them about 'professional practice' in a classroom. This way the students have the guidance of tutors if needed, and could work for free as they still have the money from student loans for life's costs. There would obviously be limitations to this, but I believe it could be a viable solution for all involved.
From an agency point of view, I have to agree with Lisa and Douglas. Although we would be more than happy to take on placements at Smile, we could simply not afford to pay them even minimum wage, so by introducing such regulations would deter agencies such as ours from taking on placements at all.
D&AD's graduate placement scheme has been running for four years. We've got our own guidelines which we give to the agencies and participants who take part in our graduate placement scheme.
We have also run surveys and a number of focus groups in partnership with Wunderman over the past year on best practice for placements and will post the results along with recommendations on our website soon. We'll let you know as soon as it's up.
I think it should have to be done as part of the course. That way the student has there loan and bursary to survive on. Or the govt should could introduce an optional placement means tested bursury or loan during placements that are part of courses, This would be tied in to your whole studnet loan repayments after you graduate. So those from lower income families can compete on a level playing field with wealthier students and can also work for free if need be.
Or the govt could provide extra funding for studios to take on placements, there could be say funding for 100 studios every year and studios have to apply to recieve the moeny. It could be handed out based on a number of criteria like size of studio, amount of placements there willing to offer and then after the system has been running also feedback from students who have worked there.
I guess what im saying is the industy needs support from government.
Placements after Uni are just tough, because as has been said, people have debts to pay and for those who have studied in a city other than London, where a lot of the industry lies, transportation is expensive, living in or moving to London is very expensive and working for free or next to nothing, is just not really feasible and we end up with this horrible situation of graduates ending up in places like Tesco or something and not actually in the industry.\
Students should really consider work placements when applying for Uni. I go to Uni in London as i know thats where most of the industry is based and Im well aware of Londons high prices, so I live here now and can get a London job with a london wage, I have a greater understanding of the money needed to survive in the capital. If you go to Uni in the sticks somewhere and then get a placement in London and have no family, friends willing to let you stay with them you might be in trouble, when trying to move here. Plus relocating takes time and costs money.
Overall there needs to be more discussion on placements at college leve so students know what theyre getting themselves into.
Geoffs makes a valid point
Why do students NEVER approach design studios BEFORE signing up to a design course to find out about the design business?
I think it is impossible to regulate the way that agencies pay placements as there will always be willing graduates desperate for experience and studios that could do with an extra pair of hands but cannot afford to pay a full junior rate. It saddens me to say but I liken a graduates search for work to natural selection – the graduates who are smart enough, and hungry enough, will succeed in the end.
I am smart, I am hungry and I had good ideas. I love design and I live it and breathe it. I worked for 8 months in london on placements with companies and gained so much experience. Okay, I never got offered a job but hey thats life, competition is fierce. I got loads of cool experience and took away loads of good credible work and I got paid fully well from a placement point of view. What one word I would say really sums all this up is DEDICATION. Keep at it and network like f**k. Pester designers not too much but ask about who they know and what they know. Save up cash and just work at placements solid. I am working freelance now and will hopefully be working on my own stuff over the next few years to build something up slowly maybe my own company who knows.
One last thing is, you don't have to go and do placements, you can go and do work on your own, I think lots of graduates just do placements at agencies as a CV booster and to say look at me as if its a fashion to be seen at that place, take the advice if you are that person reading this, you will be found out chewed up and spat out like a used piece of gristle.
I am currently about to start my second year on an undergraduate design course and I am throroghly enjoying itand would love to do some work placements (paid or unpaid) to build up my own knowledge but the competition is so fierce I don't feel confident enough to go for a placement, as I feel after my first year I don't have enough knowledge to be taken seriously as a designer for an agency. This is deffinately a big worry (which will hopefully be resolved during the course of this year).
I think there should deffinately be some sort of government funded scheme for placements which covers the students expenses and looks after the company who takes them on.
Doing it as part of their course as a few of you such as Aly, above, say should be compulsory. The only point I'd add there, is that that is just that, compulsory, and doesn't always mean that you get the pro-active students, the ones who have nous and a drive. I'd prefer a grad to come along and say "hey, I really want to get stuck in and find out what it's like" rather than have them 'placed'. If they blogged their experiences, and then submitted these to say CR, it could open up a world of opportunity!
Get SEVERAL placements, get at least your expenses covered, and write about it!!! Twitter your time there so we can follow you, blog the photos of you making yet another coffee so we can comment on how we soooo understand how it is, add your personality! And you never know, you could even find yourselves in Creative review if it's interesting, or, (coughs) Design Week (sorry CR). At the very least, you'll have a story for a future agency, and dozens of new followers on your online!
You could still be able to filter out the pro active student's even if placements were compulsory. One way which just comes off the top of my head is that, each college could have deals with a range of design agencies, but those really interesting studios that everyone want to work for, you'd have to apply off your own back and somehow prove to them why your more interesting and valuable than everyone else. If unsuccessful, you have the studios that have a relationship with the college to fall back on.
We (LBi) take on a number of placements throughout the year. Most tend to be short (2-4 weeks, expenses and travel paid) and usually with people still at college, or just graduated. We have also committed to a number of properly paid, longer term internships throughout the year. Regardless of length of stay, they're treated like members of the creative department, thrown in the deep end, working on live briefs and pitches from day one. This allows the agency to take on more risky projects and challenge our conventional ways of doing things with a smaller overhead, and brings a stack of fresh input into the team - a totally win/win situation. Sure, there's an occasional bit of spraymounting, but we all tend to get stuck in to it.
On top we do a load of book crits, and help grads bash their portfolio into shape.
What do we look for? An online portfolio, a willingness to be flexible (happy to work in blended teams with technologists and EAs for example, rather than just AD/CW). Ideas above and beyond the standard print/outdoor one-liners that seem to bulk out a lot of grads' books. A serious thought about how to create something useful, engaging and believable for the client using the appropriate channels. An understanding that "digital" is not just how a print ad would look in a benner. An opinion. An entrepreneurial spirit. A happy outlook. A lack of ego but a confident belief in their abilities.
Top tip, start a blog and post your work up as well as your thoughts... it gives you an edge because potential employers can see more about you, your creativity and your inspiration; even your half-made ideas; and you come off looking like a much more well-rounded person who's engaged and passionate about what you do.
In reply to laura.
I did placements for a while like I said and got great feedback about me and my attitude but never got asked to stay on longer on all of my placements due to the fact that they had a long list of other graduates waiting to come on a placement. It was really disappointing but I got over it and took away loads of advice and learned loads and now I am going freelance and getting to pitch for my own jobs with smaller clients but non the less its still a start.
What advice would you give to someone who has got a stack of great placements on their cv but has never had a job offer and is still looking for a job like many other graduates who are still very good at what they do?
I was lucky enough to have a placement with a great studio during my last few weeks as a 3rd year that was then extended on for several more months. It was single handedly the best thing I could have done as all of the work I have had since then has come from recommendations and introductions.
In hindsight, I wish I had been able to do a few more placements prior to graduating, as you can never have too much experience, however, I believe that if have a good attitude and lots of determination, you will find something. With some placements, if you do a good job, even if they can't offer you something permanent, they might know somewhere else that is looking or give you a call again in the future.
With regards to pay etc. - having placements as a mandatory part of your course load is a great idea and I think it would definitely help bridge the gap in skill sets between graduates and juniors. I know I would have benefited greatly from understanding the fundamentals of how a studio works even if I was only making tea.
I am from the states and graduated in 2007 with a graphic design degree. I came to Amsterdam for 3 months on a non-paid internship. It was a great experience and I was willing to pay the extra costs of living and traveling to a new country. After this, I got a good freelancing job back in the states, but when I moved back to Amsterdam to permanently live, I've found myself in catch 22. After Uni it's okay to do these 'free' placements but once you're looking for a permanent job, especially during these times, no one is willing to hire you for pay because they can get all these students for free. I even did a free job for a firm in Amsterdam as a test run to see if I could fit with the company and after that, they wanted to keep pumping me for more free and low paid work, for 60 hours a week. There has to be a way to get out of this cycle where employers understand the tone they set when you work for free, and that they can't abuse the system by having unpaid students doing their work, leaving junior designers in the dust because they'd like a salary.
It's a difficult subject. I did placements for over a year when I graduated and now, many years later I'm in charge of getting placements in. We have someone in pretty much all the time.
It's one of the many bad things about the industry we work in. I think placements should always be paid and I think they should be paid minimum wage. It's unreasonable to expect people to work for free. People should always be paid enough to live on. One agency can't do much on its own though.
I've given this a lot of thought and I think the problem stems from degree courses. The sad truth is that half the people—while maybe having a good student portfolio—do not possess the skills required to do the job. Many do of course, but it's always a gamble. If people are not taught key industry skills on their degree, how else are they going to learn until they are equipped enough to become a junior designer?
We get asked a few times every year if we will take work placements from the local schools. However I always politely turn them down. After all what could a 16 yr old do in a design studio apart from clean up and make the tea. It would be boring beyond belief for them. What is more they would only be with us for 2 weeks which is in no way long enough to teach them something meaningful.
As for graduate placement we have never been asked. I think that is probably because we are in a remote rural aria. Heck the nearest city is one and a half hours drive away.
PS - I agree with James that university's and collages leave there students woefully under prepared for the real working world.
For years, we were anti-work experience unless the candidate was a friend-of-a-friend.
Reason: we didn't have time to manage and offer anyone the work or attention they needed/deserved while they were here.
In the past 6 months, we're realised that we have lots of areas which we could have some helping hands with,
and work experience placements would be ideal.
why? well, it's always nice to have a new face around the office. we enjoy a new sense of enthusiasm and a new set of eyes on a subject.
And sometimes explaining to them what we do and why we do it equally reminds us of what we do and why we love it!
In the current financial climate, it's hard for us to justify employing a new junior when we're on the brink of redundancies.
We've also realised in the past that juniors grow out of their role and expect more... so, we still need people to cover the basic duties!
The work we offer currently is everything from running errands, to some basic admin, to promotion.
We understand that we offer some of the more (what we consider) tedious tasks around the office so, like to mix it up a little to keep interest for them.
An ideal candidate is someone who is happy to be sharing their time with us, whatever the task. And those people really shine!
There's such a huge difference between uni life and working life and we hope to gently break our candidates into what we do in a creative office.
There are giggles and jokes; but also a lot of stress and important jobs which have tight deadlines.
A few candidates have never used excel or word before so, they get some experience in these areas!
Some past helpers have expected more from us in this position... which is a shame, because they leave feeling disappointed.
We try to do as much as we can for them but, remember we have our own jobs too!
And on very busy days, we need to rely on candidates to be able to get on with a task without supervision.
Our positions are totally unpaid unless we ask them to travel - then we provide expenses.
In the past we had people offering to travel for miles and expecting to be reimbursed A LOT of money which, we sadly don't have the budget for!
But, hopefully this will change in the not too distant future.
Applying for a position:
A CV is always a good reference but really, we don't look at them.
I like people who write a paragraph or two (not an essay!) about themselves and really let their personality shine!
To be honest, I don't really care about where people studied or what score they achieved.
I care about what they'd like to find out and where they'd like to go in the future - what they expect from a placement at jelly!
I don't think we need an industry body to intervene with work experience placements...
Michaela - jelly london
As a recent graduate who already has over a years experience (from a year long, full-time junior position between my 2nd and 3rd year, other short term placements, and freelance jobs) I think the idea of working for free has been over complicated.
Why would studio's/agencies take on work placements that don't seem good enough to pay them the minimum wage, it's a business at the end of the day that needs to make money and has a lot of responsibility placed upon there shoulders by there clients who are placing trust in the company to do them a good job, so why would they let a graduate into the studio to gain experience if there totally incompetent and aren't worth paying less money then a burger flipper at McD's.
Seeing as a lot of studio's only let the best of the applicants partake in a placement. most of those i have encountered or heard of through graduate/student friends have all paid a basic wage but for those who haven't i find it appalling that they would only allow a certain caliber of graduate or student to create work, generate ideas (even if there not used) and work within a team, not pay them and then say that its giving them the chance to become a better designer and better prepared to work within a studio because there ill equipped with the necessary skills. When all they are really doing is alienating the less fortunate who may be some of the best up and coming designers out there.
I have worked at one place for free before which i didn't mind at the time as i had a student loan, but once they actually started using my ideas for a five figure paying job and there was only two other people working on the project, which I had laid the foundations and completely changed the direction the project was going, and worked all the hours I possibly could. When they asked me to stay on for a few more weeks unpaid I lost all respect for the company even though I really enjoyed working at the studio. From then on i decided no matter how much i want to work for a particular studio I won't work for free as there had to be another way to gain experience whilst getting paid, and there was.
Just because placements is the norm doesn't mean its the only way to gain experience.
Regarding regulation. If there are to be any regulations in place over work experience it should be made into law across professions, graphic design isn't the only profession that has problems with these issue portrayed in these posts, and having some sort of almighty regulations put into place by a body such as D&AD is silly, what can they enforce if people ignore there guidance, they decide that those companies can't pay them lots of cash (yeah i know it's non-profit) to enter work to win a yellow or maybe black pencil.
Basically I feel that the reason students have to do unpaid placements is due to the fact that the design industry is completely saturated. Every year when students graduate, its like christmas come early for agencies. They can completely take the p*** out of students because they are in competition with so many other students that are constantly raising the bar. Personally I think it's disgusting how many companies feel it is exceptable to get people to work for free. Yes graphic design is a creative and 'fun' profession to a certain degree but at the end of the day it's a job and when students / graduates come up with great ideas / concepts within a large agency, they deserve a lot of the credit and a little bit of the large amounts of cash that the agency will receive because of the students creative thinking and hard work.
I´ve seen some of you complaining about low standards of the placements. Why do you think that is? To quote my father and probably the fathers of many others: "You´ll get what you pay for!" By paying, I don´t neccesarily mean money, but value in the form of relevant experience. What can you offer at the placement that would make you attractive among the most motivated students? And as we know, the most motivated ones are usually the ones giving much back to your agenecy.
To make an example. I´ve just finnished my Interactive Art Direction course at Hyper Island in Sweden. As a part of the program we have to set out and get a industry placement for 3 months. Luckily enough we have a good network and can easily ask previous studens how their placement was. As a result of this, we can avoid the bad placements and focus on the great ones. The most motivated ones in my class can avoid the bad placements and find a place where they fit in and contribute. Meanwhile, the less motivated studens takes what they can get, ending up in agencies that don´t neccesarily put that much effort into their interns.
Despite going out in the worst of the credit crisis, I avoided agencies that couldn´t pay me money. If they can´t pay me, they probably don´t have any use for me. Neither of us would benefit.
Treat every placement you have with respect and offer them opportuneties to develop and develop their skills. Offer the money you think they are worth and to help them out. In worst case scenario you might loose a bit on a few placements and get hold of the most motivated when they hear of your glorious treatment :)
Ease out with love
As a student returning to 2nd year graphic arts degree, I find most of these posts very worrying. I am already having to work insane hours to support myself through uni alone, and although I'm enjoying, learning much and doing well it is already taking its toll. Now to hear that most agencies don't pay anything not even expenses and how hard it is to even get your foot in the door is very daunting. Even though I would design and create for free all day everyday no matter what profession and situation I was in, and do sympathize with agencies giving up there time, people need to be realistic about life in generaI everyone needs food and some where to live nothing is free! I hope all this is taken on and companies agencies and even the education system are more open and understanding, and something is done to help both students and agencies.
Lisa - your link is wrong - url mistake, and your address is spelt wrong on your website. Shame you couldn't get a student to at least proof read your site?
I have spent the past few years helping students get placements, not just any placement - but the placement they want.They research companies and go on site visits if possible. This year it has been particularly difficult. Previously we had focused on portfolio and interview skills, but after reading the above, I think one of their first tasks should be website and online presence, ie blog/twitter/flickr etc. we have also encouraged them to come up with a 'giveaway' or 'leave-behind' idea, whether that be a font, or an object, but I think these are becoming over used, when most potential placements really just want to see the work they are capable of.
In the past few years I have heard of students getting paid nothing, to getting paid a few hundred quid. But all of them have gotten something out of the experience. But you can't be a wallflower. You have to be passionate and interested to get the most out of a placement.
I graduated this year at LCC and I already had a job offer before I handed in my final projects. However that was due to me doing by many freelance jobs as possible during my three years.
I think that graphic design really isn't suited to a degree and the university way of working. University really demands you to do everything yourself on your own. While graphic design needs lots of group work, crits, plenty of tutor contact time.
If you are pro-active you can get a lot out of it and have keen class mates then all is well. However most students aren't.
Perhaps a better solution would be to scrap degrees for graphic design and have an apprentice based system. You spend a year doing an intensive 1 year course in the basics of generating ideas to final results and being trained how to use Creative Suite properly. After that you could spend 2 years working for a studio. The money from the fees could go to the studios to help them pay for the interns.
I imagine this system would eliminate a lot of people from getting into graphic design but then it is probably a more realistic view on how many graduates are going to get a job in design anyway.
I'd like to take this opportunity to offer a bit of advice from the person in charge of placements in our studio:
Getting a placement
1. Send a PDF with about 4 or 5 of your best projects in. If in doubt — leave it out. A bad project will put a lot of people off.
2. Don't send something by post unless you have a really winning idea. Design studios will be used to professional and exciting printing and something printed out on an inkjet and glued together is unlikely to impress. It may also annoy the environmentally conscious studio.
3. If you have to send a CV keep it short. Very VERY short. I don't care if you worked part-time at Waitrose in 2004 or what mark you got for your Geography GCSE. I don't even care what class of degree you got. Design studios want to see your work.
4. DO NOT turn up to a studio unannounced and asked to be seen. Designers are very busy people and this will not go down well.
5. Follow up what you sent with a call or email. We are so busy we often forget to reply to people we want to get in.
6. In interviews, listen to criticisms of your work and don't just get defensive and argue how great you are. The interviewer is trying to help you improve your portfolio.
7. Be confident when presenting your work. Don't say "Oh, this is just a .... but I don't like X, Y and Z about it" etc. The ability to sell an idea to a client is a key skill design studios look for. Don't forget its importance.
On a placement:
1. Be friendly and chatty but know when to stop talking and let people work.
2. Offer to help. From cutting things out and making tea to serious creative input.
3. Be useful and don't get all self righteous and moody if you find yourself doing something less interesting than you would like.
4. Ask questions if you are unsure. Don't assume anything. It's much better to ask if it's okay to save over a file on the server than to lose someone's valuable work.
5. Understand that you have a lot to learn and get as much information as you can about things.
The design world is a tight-knit community and everybody knows everybody else. If you annoy one studio, you may well get a reputation as a trouble-maker. Grinning and bearing it when you have to run errands for people for no money is difficult but to kick up a fuss is not worth the consequences — as crap as that is. Remember it's not forever and one day you will get paid to do something you love. It's worth it in the end. I promise.
Speaking from a design agency based in London and New York:
We pay our placements £200.00 per week minus any tax and expenses.
We involve our placements in as many typical studio tasks as possible. Researching, scanning, sketching, designing, 'photoshopping', cutting, sticking, fetching, brewing.
We get to ‘borrow’ some fresh, uninhibited minds for four weeks. It’s a chance for us to keep in touch with great designers and people of the future, because although it may seem unlikely in today’s climate, one
day we’ll be looking to hire.
Whilst with us, out placements get a taste of the real world. They get to understand the difference between an academic environment and an industrial one. They can experience what it’s like to work with people up to 10 years ahead of them and realise that finishing college is great, but there’s still plenty of room to improve.
Do show enthusiasm. Do show respect. Do research the studio before you apply. Do be gracious for the opportunity – there’s plenty out there who’d be willing to take it. Do listen. Do make the most of your placement. Do make tea. Do make friends. Do all you can to impress.
Don’t bring a bad attitude (it’s a small world). Don’t be shy. Don’t waste your time at places you’re not keen on. Don’t be afraid to ask. And most importantly, don’t stalk people (it’s illegal).
We love seeing how students/graduates think, so send us your best work. Once you’ve got our attention, we like to know who you are, where you’re from and why you want to work with us.
Placements are an invaluable resource for an industry that is massively oversubscribed and often places equal merit on industry experience as it does academic qualifications. Formal regulation would be an ideal solution for those who cannot afford to work for free, but enforcement would be an issue and the reality may prove that certain studios simply cannot afford the wages of temporary staff (no matter how minimal).
Unpaid placements are tantamount to discrimination against all those who want experience, but do not have the financial resources to enter the industry as an unpaid trainee.
Those of you on unpaid placements, your employer is engaging in illegal activity as defined by the National Minimum Wage Act.
If you're offered unpaid work that should be paid, perhaps you should consider reporting the company to the Low Pay Commission at http://www.lowpay.gov.uk
I am a lecturer in Graphic Design and I have to agree with Thomas when he indicates the discrepancies between degree requirements and the nature of Art & Design. To validate this type of course as a HE degree certain criteria must be met. This means that a lot of learning/teaching time and focus goes into teaching research methods and developing analytical skills. This may prepare students well for the academic world but may be less applicable in the industry. Should technical skills be taught in a theoretical frame? If so, by whom? And to what purpose? Ultimately, should Graphic Design be taught at university? Or, in other words, should a graduate have to work for free?
There is one simple way to stop graduates having to do unpaid work placements. CO-OP education.
Re Rhiannon James (D&AD Senior Manager, Education and Professional Development) comments about D&AD
We've got OUR OWN guidelines which we give to the agencies and participants who take part in OUR graduate placement scheme. EXACTLY! EXCLUSIVE. OUR Guidelines, OUR graduate placement scheme.
Where is there an industry standard across the board available to all? Oh, guess what there isn't one?
And of course similarly 'education' and every course has different approach and quality of 'networking', so there is no 'uniformity' or equality in placements... it's all a sorry old shambles! Was, is and never any different. Hence Creative Review's question. Why don't D&AD simply publish these guidelines, enagage all 'education' and make them available to all and an 'industry standard'? Lots of brownie points to be won. As it is,
The D&AD web site also states –
"D&AD’s Graduate Placement Scheme... identifies the sharpest design and advertising graduates, offering them the best placement opportunities in the business"... obviously to the exclusion of all others, so if you aint in D&AD.. forget 'the best placement opportunities in the business'.
There is always the Shell Step scheme, where the student is paid £200 a week on placement!... but how many design students have heard, researched this and used it? (Be interesting to know, as I have never come across it being used in the 'design business'... but they do web site design!)
(I'm nothing to do with Shell)
We offer 1-2 placements every three months. We take this very serious and tend to train up interns to the extent that they could be taken on as a full member of staff afterwards in our company.
It is a good way to see if someone has potential and the motivation to really impress and develop in that specific role. Too often the interns are being exploited for what they are but I feel they need to be nurtured and trained. And yes, they need the 'rough' ride a little bit, we all started like that and I think everyone should learn the basics but they also should have fun and feel they are learning about the company and the jobs involved.
I think the system of internships is a great idea and fantastic for graduates also for people who want to orientate themselves newly, but way too often the educational role of the company is neglected and interns are being used as cheap admins.
We have successfully taken on placements but also have to do reality checks when we feel they are not suitable for our company in the long run or for the field of arts PR.
I must admit that it is also exciting for us, as you see fresh talent with new ideas and concepts and we love involving them in brainstorms and creative meetings.
As a matter of fact: We are currently looking for Junior Account Managers and Interns. So feel free to drop us a line.
I'm currently on my work placement. I'm a true believer of the more you put in, the more you get back. Less than a year ago after a drunken conversation with a colleague we decided to create something called "the art of dancing". We filmed ourselves dancing to classic songs in public places, and uploaded a new video everyday. The facebook group grew rapidly, and the MD + CD of the place I'm currently working happened to be invited in. I always new the importance of Live Briefs and my freelance work and through that had had encounters with him already. My CV and portfolio (which is still v.important) jumped straight to the top of the pile, and I was in within a matter of days. It's gone really well, i've met people that I couldn't have dreamed of, and they want me to stay (even though I have another year of university left).
The point I'm trying to make is, you just get lucky.
But you make your own luck.
I understand the nature of this post and comments... more or less the opinions of those on each end of a 'placement' (which appears to be an 'internship' to us Americans)... I'm still taking courses and thought a follow-up to this post and comments could be "what you learned on placement"... Some folks commented about how much they learned... but what exactly did you learn? Your positive experience could enlightened all of us who have yet to be on placement/intern or who may not have a chance to (as mentioned, many of us cannot afford to take months without pay)... So what was the most valuable lesson you learned? Or the top 3? What did you learn that you could not have possibly learned in school? All of us non-placement/interns thank you!
Like Charlie + Alex above, I'm also currently on a year out in industry, as part of my graphic design course at LCC. This opportunity was one of the main reasons why I chose to do the course. It's hard to be negative after having such an amazing year (and it's still going until I go back in October). Placements and internships, my opinion would be to do them, any way you can. Save up, work extra shifts at a part time job, look for funding and grants (there is actual people out there who believe in young people with potential), stay true to yourself, be brave, provocative, never give up, be persistent and try your best, no one can ask any more of you.
I've interned at Print Club, Not Actual Size, Pentagram Berlin, Cunning, THIS IS Studio and just returned from Tokyo with Wieden+Kennedy. I'm still sniffing out internships and also looking to do a 1 day a week placement at a company whilst I'm in my final year. If I thought that just over a year ago, I would of worked at all these companies, along with everything else that has been happening on my year out, I would of say get out of here. But I stayed brave and persistent and took every opportunity that came my way.
I stayed persistent and hard working and I'm still emailing, phoning, sending work, speaking to people, meeting up for beers with other designers, collaborating, looking at blogs, twitter feeds and basically just soaking up as much as I can.
I've been paid expenses for all my placements, and along with a student loan and other bits and pieces, it's been enough to get by this year. With the amount of debt I'm coming out of university with, the extra year was never an issue in the bigger picture. And with what I've learnt by working for real clients and projects, not only have I learnt new physical skills, but I've learnt more about myself in the year than I have in my previous 2 years at LCC; relating back to my original point of staying true to yourself.
This year and all the internships don't guarantee a job when I graduate next year, but I'm a better person and designer for it and I'm a BIG believer in, that if you have talent and try your best, you will always make it, you just have to stay patient.
I run a small design studio and we often consider taking on placements though we don't have a placement desk as such. We certainly don't expect current students or graduates to work for 'free' nor do we give them the the worst possible jobs that we can't be bothered to do ourselves. We expect complete involvement with all the projects we have on, and the commitment to come and work with us on a placement basis to be reflected in the committment to those live projects.
That the creative industry, which has always traditionally run 'internships', is caught up in the current debate over students working for 'free' pains me. As a sector our annual turnovers are, in many cases, far lower than other industries - law, politics, finance, commercial services for example - where perhaps there ought to be redress of the issue because of the difference in company and career structures outside of traditional graduate recruitment schemes.
Why we are all dwelling on this to such a great degree when it's something we have traditionally done, and which has strengthened a student/graduates chances of employment and their portfolio alike? Should we not carry on continuing to do as we did before this became a media issue? If the creative industry becomes obliged to alter this longstanding practice by conforming to a top down systematic approach imposed by authorities outside of our industry it will only be individual students/graduates who suffer for it. Think of how reluctant we all are to take the very youngest 'work experience' kids because of the cumbersome and frankly ridiculous regulations one must satisfy to even allow them through the door.
Well Im a graduate with both an MSc and BA Hons in marketing and finding it rather difficult to get a job at all. I have also applied to do placements but like the majority of you, have been told that this would be unpaid and would last 1 - 3 months. Although I think the idea of a placement is great (what better way to gain experience and exposure to an industry) but what I don't agree with is the fact that companies want 'free labour'. I have bills to pay in order to keep a roof over my head and unlike some people, don't have rich parents who can subsidise the time of unpaid work. I really do think that placements should be paid and I believe that this should start in university. Again, I was unable to do any unpaid placements whilst at university because I had to pay to keep a roof over my head. Its a catch 22 situation im in. Companies want to hire someone with experience, but no company is willing to give me experience (well paid that is). I really do think this is an issue that should be addressed immediately in order to stop what will only become a gap in the market in years to come due to other people like me thinking of changing their career path because of this silly system. I hope you all are successful in your careers but working for free just shouldn't happen. Lets get a petition started!
How would going to a design studio 5 years (pre college) before finishing a degree help me find a job in a recession? That is the core reason for so many interns and not proper jobs!
I'm with Paul on this.
I've been out of uni a year now and it took me nearly 9 months to secure a job. It quickly became clear, especially after exhibiting at the D&AD Cattle Market (sorry New Blood), that no-one was just going to give me a job, the collective noise from some 40,000 competitors was just too much.
Unless you're really lucky and talented (and you need to be both), graduates, in my experience, have to do the job hunting thing the hard way. This means emailing, phoning, popping round to agencies, re-evaluating your approach, editing, re-editing, scrapping and re-doing your CV and portfoilio as often as you can. And most importantly, remembering everyone you meet, it really is not what you know, but who.
I did 5 work placements at 5 different agencies before someone I met months before put me forward for a Junior designer job. Some placements I got paid for, some I did not. I spent whole months sleeping on friends sofas in order to do placements in London. It wasn't easy, but patience and determination will pay off in the end.
Also, if you're still at uni, you're more of a liability to have around a studio than a help. Even a graduate needs an awful lot of babysitting (I'm talking about myself here too) to make sure they don't screw up, or rather to help them understand what they've done wrong.
Unpaid placements? Bad thing, but just remember what a studio has to give up to have you hanging around and be grateful for the opportunity!
Placements are undoubtedly valuable for students/graduates and the experience gained is worth far more than a few weeks pay. The system of doing placements and creating your own luck/opportunities does work to some extent but is also flawed in regards to the fact it is financially elitist. Perhaps a solution to this is direct government funding to students, based on their financial situations—similar to the current bursary and hardship fund schemes.
Having said this, I think freelance/live projects are a great way for students to gain experience (and earn a bit of money) while still at uni. This will also lead to vastly different experiences and lesson learned that a placement in a large studio.
A placement is the creative industry's form of 'natural selection'
– everyone I graduated with, 15 years ago, started on a placement. Paid or not paid.
Since then – the number of Design graduates has increased massively... I blame the Colleges for just putting 'bums on seats' and flooding the industry.
Didn't someone write recently "if you want a job designing restaurants, go work in one."
I now run a design agency and we take on placements - but always pay expenses and a little more as a principle. It's not free labour - Think of the time we put into working with the students.
Working for free was the best move I ever made.
Don't ever turn work down, as your dream job will be what's on offer as a placement usually. Yes you might not end up working there, but will you resent the fact you did it? No. Fond memories, great experience - and if you wont work for free, SOMEONE ELSE WILL. I had to explain this to my parents copious amounts of times.
Working for free will not change anytime soon, so get applying to your number 1 place, if there's no pay on offer - hopefully that'll put some foolish-types off - you've got a look-in. Go for gold!
I don't understand why anyone would choose to work for free, unless of course you have the financial means to do so. I understand that by working for free, you would still be gaining experience, but why shouldn't you be paid when college students don't have money to begin with?. My problem with this is that since the student or graduate is working on REAL projects with REAL clients, the clients are paying the studio or firm for the students work. It is not comparable to college because those projects aren't real. No one is paying to have them completed. It would make sense to not pay if the design firm or studio created a fake project for the student to execute.
As someone above mentioned, you are only limiting your pool of talent by not paying.
I have a lot to say on this subject, but have to be brief as I'm busy...
We make a real effort to get 2 to 3 placements in throughout the year, for really nothing more than helping the them. It probably costs us more in time and effort that the output we get back in return. It takes a lot of time (from our very busy schedule) to interview, train, and oversee the placements, and it's very rare that we get much back from them in return.
However, on the occasions where a placement proves useful and helps the output of the studio, we pay them weekly, and offer them more paid work in the future. We think that's only fair.
...Right, I better get back to work. I have our placement student asking me what a mouse is.
I graduated recently and have been lucky enough to land quite a bit of freelance work. I would like to work in a decent agency and understand that taking on placements is the best way of getting a foot in the door. Trouble is I can't afford to do it. The placement system stops anyone is isn't middle class from getting an entry level role in the creative industries. Just another feature of the oppressive british class system you all pretend doesn't exist anymore...
I graduated in July this year after studying Graphic design for 3 years at the London College of Communication (University of the arts London) Im coming to the end of my 3 month internship at Mabox Marketing near London Bridge. on the hole ive got what i wanted out of it, ive learnt a few new things, ive got more confident with designing for other people and ive got some knowledge of how an agency works. there has been days when have literally don't nothing until 4 pm, like yesterday all I was asked to do was amend some business cards,another day I was just image searching all day which was very boring
But then there has been a couple of really busy weeks, I've designed a booklet for a utility company and some marketing material for Reed Consultants. I get paid £250 for every 10 days which isn't great but it covers my travel and gives me a bit.
I would definitely recommend placements to everyone, its given me more confidence, and an insight into what goes on in a studio environment, and the stages the work goes through before the final result.
Im prepared to work for free for as long as it takes as it looks good to employers, that you are dedicated and willing to succeed, also it will open a lot of doors for you.
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