How selling an iMac got me a design job

Joel MacDonald is a graphic designer at Aberdeen's Wired Studio. He explains how tenacity and smart networking got him there.

Joel MacDonald joined creative design and digital agency Wired Studio in February this year. We retrace his steps into the industry and find out more about his role.

How did you get into the design world?

When I was 10, I had the chance to see how a newspaper was made. Watching the process of someone laying out the page and typesetting the story had me hooked. I went on to study graphic design at Gray's School of Art and managed to get a fantastic six-month placement within the university's in-house design team in my third year. After I graduated I got experience with various studios in Aberdeen, which helped me get to know people in the local design industry.

What were you doing before you joined Wired Studio?

I worked at an Apple store for two years after graduating, where I once sold an iMac to the vice president of a large oil and gas service company. We spoke a lot about my background, including what I wanted to do with my life, and he ended up offering me a position in his marketing team as a graphic designer. I spent two years there before the opportunity came up to join Wired and get back into an agency environment.

What attracted you to the job – and Wired as a place of work?

The team is young, ambitious and passionate about design. They get under the skin of their customers to really understand their business, then create materials that push the boundaries, stand out and generate a positive result. It's also a small studio, so I felt my input would have a greater impact than it would if I joined a large, established studio.

What do you do in this new role?

It's the classic each-day-is-different scenario. Being part of a small team, I get involved in project management, planning and, of course, design. I've just been given my first account to look after, so I'm looking forward to learning new skills and handling clients face-to-face.

Has it all gone smoothly so far?

There were a few close calls that we've caught on proofs just before they went to print, but there's been nothing major yet.

Any unexpected perks?

The weekly tea-making and hold-your-breath leaderboard, as well as the drawer that gets filled with biscuits and soup!

What advice would you give to someone hoping to win a similar job?

Get to know a lot of people in the design industry. After I graduated, I called every studio in Aberdeen to get a name of someone I could talk to. I then emailed or phoned them to ask if they could look over my work and if they had anything available. At the time, I struggled to get in anywhere full time. But they gave me feedback on my portfolio and some of them gave me a week or two in their studio for experience. I still speak to them regularly, whether it's for advice on my career or to grab a beer after work.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 229.