Why design success is like becoming a Formula One driver

Louise Sloper emphasises the importance of thinking on your feet, loving your craft and most importantly, putting yourself out there.

This weekend I was watching the Formula One coverage, which featured a piece about the latest crop of young drivers trying to break into the top tier of competitive racing. The advice they were given was to have unabated passion and patience, and to never give up. Above all, they were told to always believe in and challenge themselves, no matter what setbacks they faced. Combining all this with raw talent, they would hopefully be rewarded with a precious F1 seat.

Sage advice for design graduates, too. It's no secret that our industry is hugely competitive, and jobs take hard work and determination to get, but a bit of self-belief in your own talent – and the confidence to talk about it, without descending into arrogance – goes a long way.

After judging 'Best in Show' at the D&AD New Blood exhibition last week, I went to chat to some of the lucky grads who had been selected to represent their colleges. Some students felt uncomfortable coming up to speak, or worse, treated it more as a social event than a chance to make contact with industry guests, many of whom were actively on the hunt for new talent. However, the students that were proactive and approached me were full of energy and excitement about what their futures held, and their enthusiasm was reciprocated with advice, contacts and a mutual love for our craft.

It wasn't just their work on show, but themselves as potential employees. If you love what you do, it shows. And employers respond well to that. Rather than just standing around waiting for someone to approach you at an industry event, take matters into your own hands to catch their attention.

Use some ingenuity, too. After the University of Ulster's work failed to arrive in time, they erected a sign saying that "the luck of the Irish had finally run out". Smart and quick thinking. A massive round of applause also goes to the grad team who, after their university failed to exhibit this year, independently set up shop directly outside the event. Ambitious, cheeky – but inspired. The attention that they received will stand them in good stead indeed.

On a side note, there was an excellent array of work in all manner of mediums this year. Standout students for me included typographer Stephen Flagg, graphic designer Lloyd Robertson, illustrator Cripsta and creative team, and Maddie Taylor and Tom Bartlett, to name but a few of the talented, budding creatives who exhibited at the event.

My greatest advice for the class of 2014 – and those of you still studying – is to make a concerted effort to go to events like New Blood, Glug and the Typographic Circle's 'Student Sessions'. Do your best to get seen. Network. Learn. Be humble, but be focused. And most importantly, keep pushing yourself and believe in your work.

Words: Louise Sloper Illustration: Zaneta Antosik

Louise Sloper is head of design at CHI&Partners, last year picking up awards including a Campaign Outdoor Hall of Fame, an Epica and an ADC. This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 230.