How Tim Smith got his dream design job

Working your way up the career ladder doesn't have to mean sacrificing your creativity. We meet Tim Smith, ustwo's new design specialist.

From redrawing Lego logos aged four to creating his first website at 14 and decorating the walls with graffiti at his high school, all Tim Smith has ever wanted to do is design. A few months ago, he waved goodbye to AllOfUs to take up a new post at digital design studio ustwo, in a promotion that enabled him to focus on doing what he does best - being creative.

What does your new role entail?

Traditionally, as designers progress in their career, they often begin to take on some managerial responsibilities beyond the day-to-day design work. While this is something I am interested in, I'd prefer to devote my time and energy more to design, rather than management. The role of design specialist is quite rare, with only one other at ustwo, so it's a great opportunity for me to help define it.

What attracted you to ustwo?

I feel that ustwo is probably the most exciting design agency around right now, both in the UK and globally, so that was a major draw. Mainly though, I think ustwo and I have a lot in common. I have quite a lot of experience in digital design, but also with games and illustration. With ustwo's design arm, its new games studio and the illustrative nature of ustwo's own creative IP, I felt my skillset matched theirs.

How did you get the job?

I've been a fan of ustwo for a number of years and I felt that we had a lot in common, so felt compelled to send them my website - sort of like how you feel the need to share a mixtape with someone with the same musical taste. Thankfully, they seemed to enjoy my work as much as I did theirs, so they invited me in for a chat. The offer of a job was never mentioned, so I thought it'd just be a meet and greet, and perhaps there'd be some freelance opportunities. One meeting turned into two and then three, and before I knew it I was offered the role of design specialist.

How did you first get into design?

Well, I started studying graphic design at uni in 2002, but I've been designing in some form or another nearly all my life. When I was four years old I would repeatedly redraw a logo I saw on a Lego astronaut mini figure, trying to replicate it. At 11 I began drawing a comic strip every day for three years, then at 14 I designed and built my first website. Throughout high school I could be found at life drawing classes, adding graffiti to the side of the school, making mosaics - all sorts. So, in a sense, I've never not been designing.

Any new things you'd like to work on?

I like to think of myself as an ideas man, I love coming up with innovative concepts. Big ideas that shake the industry a little are extremely exciting to me. ustwo calls its staff its 'fampany', and encourages us to come up with ideas and present them. I'm keen to have such an idea and bring it to ustwo to deliver to the world.

Any advice you'd give to people looking for a new creative role?

I've never got a job by responding to an ad - every job I've got has been through a direct, targeted and bespoke approach to the right agency. Choose carefully which agency you'd love to work for - chances are if you like their work, they will like yours. Take the bull by the horns and send over a tailored portfolio of work to them, or offer to come in for a chat. When they do have a position available, it'll be easier for them to consider you.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 220.

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