One Year On: designers from the Class of 2015 offer advice to this year’s grads

We talk to four designers who graduated last year and ask them how their first year in the industry has been, plus what they wish they’d known before they left college.

The designers we have spoken to will all appear as part of the One Year On exhibition at this year’s New Designers event, which will be held at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London in June and July. Over 60 rising stars in their first year of business across all aspects of design are featured in One Year On – here we talk to four graphic designers and illustrators about how the first year post-college has gone for them.

Ana Jaks

Ana Jaks is an illustrator based in Falmouth. This year she has worked for clients including the FT Magazine, Mapology Guides, Amelia’s Colouring Book, Yubl and The White Pepper.

Top: Sunglasses by Ana Jacks; Above: Colouring book by Ana Jacks
Top: Sunglasses by Ana Jacks; Above: Colouring book by Ana Jaks

CR: What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt over the year since you graduated?

AJ: That keeping my online profile up-to-date and live as regularly as possible really is important and so relevant to the industry I want to be a part of. I have most definitely found that when I’m posting more often and communicating through social media, I get more clients getting in touch.

CR: What has been the hardest thing?

AJ: Following on from my previous answer, it can be really tough trying to draw so regularly and keep your portfolio up-to-date and fresh whilst simultaneously attempting to work a part-time job, apply for relevant positions in the industry, and contact clients you’d love to work with. Staying relevant is hard work and I think that’s something I really want to master.

London Tropics by Ana Jacks
London Tropics by Ana Jaks

CR: What have you learnt over the past year that you wish you had known when you were graduating last year?

AJ: Being a graduate is hard! But what I have learnt is patience, and to self-initiate a project or draw something because I am interested in it and because I think it’s relevant – not because it’s what’s popular or getting the most likes on Instagram at the moment. I wish I’d listened more when tutors told me it was going to be difficult. That getting no work instantly after graduating doesn’t mean you have failed. I’ve learnt to keep going and develop my style as much as I can and I think that’s the best thing that has come out of this year for me.

anajaks.co.uk

Corin Kennington

Corin Kennington is a graphic designer based in London. He has recently worked with ZSL London Zoo, Polpo restaurants, and Indian street food pop-up Pilau.

Letterpress printing by Corin Kennington
Letterpress printing by Corin Kennington

CR: What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt over the year since you graduated?

CK: I hadn’t previously realised how much each project or piece of work can lead to the next. It is nice to realise that everything becomes part of a journey, and the work and relationships that you build quite often lead the way.

CR: What has been the hardest thing?

CK: The initial costing up of jobs and working out rates is a hard part of taking on freelance projects. I am passionate about what I do so am not entirely money orientated, but have found it’s important to take all aspects of a project into account and to completely understand the process in order to make sure not to underestimate how long things can take.

3D printing by Corin Kennington
3D printing by Corin Kennington

CR: What have you learnt over the past year that you wish you had known when you were graduating last year?

CK: It would have been good to have graduated with a better understanding of the business side of working self employed. Post graduation it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to setting up as a business or sole trader, and the best approach to understanding and learning how it all works with tax.

corinkennington.co.uk

Amanda Nicholl

Textile designer Amanda Nicholl is currently designer-in-residence at Belfast School of Art.

Textile design by Amanda Nicholl
Textile design by Amanda Nicholl

CR: What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt over the year since you graduated?

AN: The most inspiring thing that I have learnt is that the step from being a undergraduate to a graduate and working independently is not as terrifying as you think it is going to be. Final year really does prepare you for what’s ahead, all the pressure and stress works in your favour after all, although you do not know that at the time. Not having deadlines or tutors for guidance seems daunting, but you begin to learn to trust your own judgement and not have to depend on anyone, and that is amazing.

CR: What has been the hardest thing?

AN: This would definitely have to be keeping concentrated. Working for yourself requires so much more dedication and perseverance than working for someone else, because I make all the decisions: financially, design-based, everything. It is challenging, but I love it.

Textile design by Amanda Nicholl
Textile design by Amanda Nicholl

CR: What have you learnt over the past year that you wish you had known when you were graduating last year?

AN: That stress isn’t always a bad thing. It means you care about what you are doing, and you want to succeed. Have faith in yourself and in your work and don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is so unique in their own way and has their own individual style, if we were all the same then it wouldn’t be exciting. It’s OK to be different, don’t be afraid to really go for it. Sometimes the best things start off as a mistake.

Amanda Nicholl on Facebook

Thomas Pullin

Thomas Pullin is a freelance illustrator based in Bristol. His recent clients include The New Yorker, Walker Books and Mr Porter. He also holds a weekly contract with the Guardian.

Illustration by Thomas Pullin on Chemsex for Vice
Illustration by Thomas Pullin on Chemsex for Vice

CR: What has been the most surprising thing that you’ve learnt over the year since you graduated?

TP: Probably that drawing pretty pictures for people is actually a job and so far it’s working out … hope I haven’t spoken too soon there.

CR: What has been the hardest thing?

TP: I think I’d have to say the love-hate relationship with the freelance lifestyle. The freedom is amazing but the shutting yourself in a room on your own for most of the day gets a bit cabin-fever like! Eventually I’ll get a shared studio space with other creatives so I don’t become a serial killer any time soon.

Sunset Tower for Mr Porter, by Thomas Pullin
Sunset Tower for Mr Porter, by Thomas Pullin

CR: What have you learnt over the past year that you wish you had known when you were graduating last year?

TP: I’d say not to be so unsatisfied with my own work so much. Usually it goes like this – draw the illustration, love the illustration, two weeks later, hate the illustration. Now I’m finding I’m looking back at the illustration six months later and seeing something in it that I now like. I think things go in circles like that.

I’d also say I’m learning to try and avoid exposing myself to illustration so much. I find looking at your own work and other people’s work all day makes you start to compare or discredit your own work because someone else has a style or an idea which is similar and perhaps better executed.

thomaspullin.co.uk

One Year On will take place at New Designers at the Business Design Centre in Islington, London in June and July. More info is at newdesigners.com

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