“There’s a lot to think about, but nothing to worry about.”
The above quote comes from an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. An unlikely source of inspiration, but as a natural worrier, I’ve always found it to be a useful quote.
If you are a designer about to graduate, there is a lot for you to think about, but there’s also an awful lot that you shouldn’t be worrying about at all.
Based on my own experiences as a young designer, here are 10 things I wish I’d known before I graduated. I’m sharing them with you today, with the hope they’ll make your next steps into the world of work as stress free as possible.
1. Make two of everything
Print pieces can be fragile and at degree shows, your work is at the mercy of the heavy-handed and light-fingered. Save yourself some heartache by making two copies of your favourite pieces. Processes such as screen-printing and letterpress become massively more expensive after graduation, so do this at uni while you can.
2. Be discoverable
While you are out looking for opportunities, make sure that opportunities can find you too. Buy your URL, create a website and update it regularly. Before you ask: yes, your work is good enough to put on a site. Showcase your best projects and make your contact details clear. Don’t agonise over it for weeks and no, you don’t have to build it from scratch. Just get it out there.
3. Learn from each other
You are not rivals! You are all unique, so there is no need to screw each other over. And you’ll all achieve more the more you help each other out. The design world is hyper-connected so don’t burn bridges before you’ve even started.
4. Meet your heroes
Mostly to realise that they are human too. Graphic design is not the work of gods. Your favourite designers have most likely been in the same position as you are now. Meet them, learn from them and try your best to work with them.
5. Just apply!
Don’t talk yourself out of applying for your dream job. The worst case scenario is that you don’t get it, which is exactly the same outcome as if you hadn’t applied. Have faith in your abilities and apply for jobs you can do as well as internships you could learn from.
6. Write everything down
Once you’re in the door, starting a new job can be overwhelming. Make sure you write down all the information that’s thrown at you during those first few days and weeks. You might not get the chance to hear it again, and you may forget it the first time around.
7. Adapt to working in public
Most studios are open plan, which means everyone can see what you are doing. Don’t panic! If anyone comments on your work, it’s to help you and make the work as good as it can be. Their advice will save you huge amounts of time.
8. Say “yes” to presenting
You have to be able to speak about your ideas. Practice makes perfect, so always say yes to any opportunity to speak in public. This is especially important for female designers – we need to see more of us showcasing ourselves in an industry still dominated by men.
At university, you had the luxury of time. But at work, your deadlines will be tight so you have to stop overthinking and start doing. You can build the idea as you go and your work will evolve as you work with others.
10. Keep on learning
Stay curious and keep challenging yourself. Embrace being a beginner over and over again and question everything along the way.
With all that in mind it’s time to get out there. Try your best not to be afraid and don’t waste your talent on worrying too much. Go get your work seen and your voice heard. Good luck!
Alison Haigh is a designer at Wolff Olins London. Follow her at @alisonhaigh. This article was first published on Wolff Olins’ blog and is based on a talk given by Haigh at the agency’s annual student event, Show & Tell, which includes talks from staff and one-on-one portfolio review sessions.