H #1: Post from Tees bit on the side

On our recent study trip to London one topic kept recurring – Personality. It’s not a new topic of discussion for those looking to get into industry but it seems to be ever more relevant. We often quote the industry adage ‘It’s 80% Personality, 20% Portfolio’ and given the experiences of the recent trip there’s no need to stop. Over the next few posts we’ll distill some of the insights which mean that whilst work will get you noticed, behaviour and attitude will get you the gig.

H is for HUNGER.
Drive. Desire. Ambition. Call it what you will, it’s the single biggest factor in your future success and happiness. If it’s not there and you can’t find it then do something else.

Hunger gives you grit
At 4 Designers Dave Palmer, co-founder and Creative Director at LOVE, talked about getting into industry and the determination needed to work through tough times, knock backs and uninspiring workplaces. Experiences which were fundamental in building his knowledge and motivation to found LOVE.

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It didn’t take Ex-Teessider and YCN award winner, Ant Jumratsilpa, 820 days but she estimates sending out over 100 CV’s when she first moved to London. From this she got a few appointments to show her portfolio, one of which was at Carter Wong. They liked her work but had no vacancies. It took her a while to land the first placement, but she’s now working at The Creative Corporation (They’ve just finished the latest Jimmy Page album cover). The truth is there’s a lot that can get in the way of your dream job – companies are not always hiring, you may not be right for the company or they may not be right for you. It’s your hunger that gets you through.

And once you’re working… the business side of design is hard work. Dave Palmer from LOVE explained why:

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Hunger to learn
Phil Carter’s talk at 4 designers explored this topic through the things he does outside of client work. We’ll look at some specific examples in a future post, but for now take-away his overall message ‘Design is not a job, it’s an addiction.’

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A useful aspect to meeting young designers was that we were able to discuss very recent routes into industry. Ollie Evill, a designer at SapientNitro, discussed his transition from University to industry. He reflected on his third year at University being his most valuable because he had changed his attitude and was hungry to learn. He described ‘pestering tutors’ with questions, exploring new processes and technologies and learning coding. That he was able to demonstrate a questioning, learning attitude in his portfolio (see his SK Black project) became a big reason he landed the opportunities he did. But it doesn’t stop there. When you get to industry you must remain eager and keen to learn, Dev Morgan, Studio Lead at ustwo, talked to students about that mindset being important from day one. Designers at ustwo must be able to work collaboratively, be open to learning and feed into the development of the entire studio. He thinks it’s about people who ‘don’t see distinctions between tasks’ and are able to do what needs to be done. Rob Varney, Design Director at Foolproof, echoed these ideas discussing the need for designers to not live in their own ‘zone’ and championing ‘looking over people’s shoulders.’ He said ‘you’ve got to get up from your chair and see what others are doing!’

Hunger makes you hunt
Ollie at SapientNitro commented that ‘you always need to be spotting opportunities’ in relation to how he found his first internship. After Uni he had taken some time to travel through Europe, finishing up in London for 10 days. Whilst in London he sent out CV’s to target companies and ended up being invited to a couple of interviews. He was offered an internship which meant he had to delay his flight by 3 months. Over a year and half later and I guess that he’s now cancelled the flight home.

Those that actively create opportunities will do the best. As mentioned in an earlier post the routes into industry are rich and varied. The advice from Dev Morgan at ustwo was ‘get in the room with people’ – this can happen at networking events, exhibitions, launches, cultural events, in the pub and even on study trips. Our own Jennifer Crewdson who now works at SapientNitro landed her break by being an active part of the D&AD New Blood exhibition. It’s clear that you can increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time through research and planning. If you can’t physically get in the room with people then be in their digital space. Jobs/opportunities are often posted on twitter, following the right people and managing your twitter feed keeps you in the know and means you can immediately pounce on opportunities when they come up. Bottom line you must actively hunt for opportunities to brush shoulders with people who matter.

So, who matters? Obviously your Nan, Dad or Aunty Flo matter, but unless you come from a family of designers they won’t be offering you a job. Some companies may have a recruitment contact or HR team and set ways to apply for internships etc. posted on their websites. For some opportunities you may have to get more creative – there’s no set rules on being noticed! Try to identify specific people. The Creative Director may not the best person to contact unless the company is quite small. Dave Palmer suggested trying to email a middleweight designer who can bring you to the attention of decision makers. Creative Directors and senior roles are often just too busy to notice – it’s nothing personal. If you want to get noticed you need to be exceptional; Dave Palmer from LOVE kindly asks that graduates stop sending him packets of Lovehearts.

Just one more thing…
With all this hunger you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s dog eat dog and according to this tongue-in-cheek comment from Chris at LOVE you’d be right:

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In the next post we’ll look at why this is not absolutely true…

from Tees bit on the side