Back to the drawing board: 5 tips for the graduate designer

AUTHOR:  
Published:  June 27, 2014
Desktop

As a graduate, you may be vaguely aware of the challenges coming your way. Some of you may already be thrashing your way through. Regardless, the big questions remain the same: What are employers looking for? How do I find a job? Am I ready? Luckily, desktop have collated thoughts and tips to help you navigate the interviews, internships, jobs and opportunities, with advice straight from the professionals.

 

1. Filler is a killer

Remember that your portfolio is your sales brochure or sales kit, so make sure it reflects you, your personality and your design skills. Get your work professionally photographed as a beautifully shot portfolio will enhance your work. Always know that you are the curator — your work is the art and your portfolio is the gallery.

“One of the things that doesn’t impress me is when designers design portfolios for their lecturers, or just to pass. They say, ‘My lecturer really likes this kind of thing, so that’s what I did,’ rather than being experimental, trying something new and pushing the ideas further. The skill-sets that impress me are designers that have thought about something completely differently. Instead of just producing a beautiful looking identity, they’ve thought about the way their clients’ customers are going to interact with the idea.” — Michaela Webb

“The one thing I have noticed as a weakness, which could be a result of the access and proliferation of information and inspiration, is that sometimes young designers struggle to think conceptually and generate genuine ideas. They get caught up with references and stylistic directions and jump immediately to the execution rather than cracking the big idea.” — Linda Jukic

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2. Meet and greet

“Don’t be the person who others wish to escape. Concentrate on being interested rather than interesting.” — Di Fleming, director of Accelerated Knowledge Technologies Pty Ltd

“Always share your ideas and listen to those around you. Your peers can be your greatest resource, and will most likely be the ones you are working with or for in a few years’ time.” — Holly Canham, AGDA student council

“Email can’t be the only way you make contact with potential employers. A few paragraphs outlining your positive attributes aren’t going make the required impression, especially at the start of your career when your cover letter is going to sound more like a desperate plea than an appealing prospect. You’ll make a much bigger impression by logging out, going outside, meeting people and smiling a lot.” — Josh Vann

“Attending creative events gives you the opportunity to learn about the industry from the outside-in, before you get to know it inside-out.” — John Palowski, freelance graphic designer 
and teacher at Shillington College

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3. Work for free

“I’m not saying I don’t want to get paid, ever.  I’m saying that I’d do the work with or without pay regardless, because it’s what I want to do.” — Tim Cruickshank

“Find out about all the options available to you in this world. Align yourself with people who inspire you. Try many flavours, taste the world, travel, question and never presume. Have fun and do as many internships as you can to get hands-on experience. It will eventually click for you.” — Vince Frost

“During my industry placement, I was lucky to work on a number of jobs: from branding to art direction to web, and fortunate to be assigned to some great clients, thus allowing me to create some memorable work. I was naive in feeling that I had learned enough, however, and now realise it was just one stepping stone towards my chosen goal.” — Jake Muir

“Only do internships at your dream studios or as stepping stones to specific goals you have. Never do an internship at any old place just for the sake of it.” — Brenton Craig, freelance graphic designer 
and teacher at Shillington College

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4. Sell your ideas

“A great portfolio will always get you through the door, but it’s the spark that accompanies the work that takes things forward. I’m always on the lookout for curious minds – the ones who never stop searching, have a thirst for knowledge, an ability to express opinions and an appetite for more. A good personal attitude will also help tip the scales.” — Jason Little

“If you want to step right into a job, you need to be able to quickly show that you can nail a particular skill or role. Long-term, a broader skillset and understanding of how it all works together is invaluable. In saying this, the more you can offer (and prove it) the greater chance of picking up work you have. Multi-skilling is future proofing ourselves though.” — Nathan Drabsch

“You need to show your own personality and point of view as a designer. Most studios don’t want someone who can just fit into that studio style. They want someone who can think on their own feet, bring their own style and new ideas to the studio.” — Brendan McKnight

“Make an elevator pitch for each piece in your portfolio. Don’t memorise verbatim, just know why you did what you did, and talk freely.” — Carlos Chavez, creative director of Studio Fellow 
and teacher at Shillington College

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5. Stay hungry

“Your typical studio has multiple projects and tasks happening simultaneously and, if someone is willing to put a hand up and help, it won’t be forgotten.” — Jason Little

“Throw your hands up and volunteer for pro bono design work. Use your powers for good, not evil. And you won’t be under cutting another designer because there wasn’t the budget for one to begin with.” — Simon Ashford

“Understand that work life is full of ups and downs. Take it in your stride and don’t despair. Let the fun be in the chasing of your dreams.” — David Ponce De Leon

“Use your energy to solve every design problem that comes your way to your best ability. Spend your valuable time working hard, developing good ideas and looking after yourself. Be responsible and think before you speak. Be considerate and start treating others the way you would like others to treat you.” — Yan Yan Candy Ng

“Leave your headphones at home. Tune into the invaluable daily studio chitchat instead.” — John Palowski, freelance graphic designer 
and teacher at Shillington College

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If you’d like to read more interviews, tips and tricks, The Graduate: A toolkit for starting your design career is available from desktop here (for iPad) or here (for all other devices) for a student budget-friendly $4.99!

 

2 Responses

  1. Tasha

    I’m currently doing pro bono/not for profit volunteer graphic design work at the moment and it’s great! I own the role as the graphic designer in the company and get to practice professional relations at the same time!

  2. Working for free or pro bono after graduating might make you scratch your head given that you (or your parents) spent a lot of money for you to graduate, but it’s essential for you to get some experience to give you a boost on getting a full-time job.

    Since “you need a job to gain experience, and you need experience to get a job” is one of the most frustrating catch-22s you’ll ever hear, so working for free is the easiest way to get experience.

    Just remember that you only need to do it for a short time, enough for you to garner what you need.

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