You've just finished your design degree; you've got top marks, great contacts and a whole lot of ambition. Time to relax for the summer, right? Very wrong. Speaking at day one of OFFSET, teachers Eamon Spelman, Nathan Fox and Matthew Edgar share their top tips to ensure you don't end up in the dumping ground.
Have a clear idea
"Students who do well in college aren't necessarily going to be a good designer when they're out in the industry," explains Eamon Spelman, a graphic design teacher based in the West of Ireland. "You need to have a definite idea – a previous student of mine decided to move to a different city every six months. She's now working in San Francisco with a whole host of experience."
Prepare to be criticised
"Go and talk to as many agencies as you can – even if it's just to look at your portfolio," continues Spelman. "You need to get as much criticism as you can. Get out as quickly as possible and see what's available. If they like your work, you might end up getting a phone call months later. Put your face out there – don't wait."
"Try and gain as much experience in whatever you want to do," says New York's School of Visual Arts teacher, Nathan Fox. "Go directly to a company that are producing the kind of work you want to be involved in or at least head in the direction of something that's linked. That's where you'll discover the kind of processes you'll be going through when it comes to industry work"
Avoid too much freelance
"I was offered a job as an assitant art director for a local newspaper," continues Fox. "But I dived into too many freelance gigs and didn't have time to commit. I would have learned so much more from that role, than trying to take on as many freelance projects as I could. Don't exhaust yourself – it's okay to say no sometimes. More work will come along."
Search outside your comfort zone
"What is it that you're interested in?" asks Fox. "There's no wrong answer but you have to figure out an answer that takes you forward. I've found that if you search outside of your own bounds, you're more likely to find the answer your looking for. Travel is a teacher, so try and immerse yourself in as many cultures as you can."
Be persistant and focused
"It's important to be as persistant as you can," explains Matthew Edgar, a graphic design teacher at Sheffield university. "Keep producing new work, even if it's not for a particular client. You need to hone in on your craft and you'll soon discover which direction it is that you want to head in."
Research agencies and clients
"You really need to know who it is that you're talking to," Edgar continues. "Research every company, every website, every potential client as much as you can. They'll notice you've gone the extra mile which could lead to lasting relationships. If you don't do your research, you'll end up looking incredibly unprofessional.
Don't take it personally
"This, for me, is the most important advice I could hand out," says Edgar. "You're going to get knocked back a lot but you must never take it personally. The design industry is a ruthless one but set-backs should make you want to work harder. Your big break may seem a million miles away, but you'll get there."
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Words: Sammy Maine
Illustrations: Tommy Parker
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