November 10, 2021

9 top tips for design graduates

University is great at building up core design skills such as how to follow a grid or think conceptually, but it’s only when you actually start working with real clients and experienced designers that you begin to learn the day to day skills that a degree may not provide. Below are a few pointers from our Senior Graphic Designer, Andy, to get you off to a great start.  

1) Ask Questions

You may feel like you’re being a pain by asking lots of questions to other members of the team, but please don’t be afraid to do so. The more you ask the more you learn, and they’ll much prefer a job done correctly to one that’s not. If your question is software related and there’s no one free to help, why not try googling the answer?

2) Brush up on your artworking

The most common weakness among graduates, and I was exactly the same, is that degree courses don’t teach enough good artworking practices. I was surprised at quite how much I learned in my first few weeks in the industry. Take notes and keep honing your skills, and you’ll pick it up in no time.

3) Create, design and make

The jobs you’re given when starting off in the agency environment may not be the most exciting, however, these are crucial in developing key skills for later in your career. That being said, it can often be frustrating not having that creative license. That’s where I’d encourage anyone, not just those starting out, to set and explore their own personal projects. Whether this is a made-up branding project or practising a new skill such as motion or illustration, the freedom to create without any client constraints can lead to exciting and unexpected results which can only benefit you and the company you work for. You’ll also satisfy your own creative urges by having the flexibility to explore your own ideas.   

4) Speak up

A new project has come into the studio and the team are brainstorming ideas. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts as even the so-called ‘bad ideas’ may trigger other avenues to explore and develop. This is also good for building confidence and great practice for when you need to explain an idea or process to clients. 

5) Be inspired

It’s impossible for designers to be constantly inspired at their desks, so in your free time get out and immerse yourself in different cultural experiences. This might be something as normal as heading into town and seeing various billboard designs, reading the menu at your favourite restaurant which uses a cool typeface, or being directed around the local museum with some great wayfinding. When time is short grab a coffee and make a Pinterest board or flick through your favourite design book. The more you experience, the easier it will be to come up with creative and relevant design solutions.   

6) Stay up to date 

In an ever-changing industry, it’s vital to keep up to date with the latest trends and software developments. Sign up to design blogs such as Creative Review to hear what other agencies and designers are getting up to, or follow your favourite agencies and designers on social.   

7) Speed up

At University you’re given a whole term to complete a project, which is amazing at the time in terms of developing ideas to their full potential, but in the real world, you won’t be afforded this luxury. Tight client deadlines mean you’ll have to work faster and more efficiently which might be a struggle at first. The good news is that this only becomes easier as you get more experienced.   

8) Keep learning

As technology changes, the need for designers to learn and adapt is ever-present. Fortunately in the digital age, tutorials and online courses are only a click away. Even the most senior professionals are always learning, so if you find an awesome new animation technique for example, share it with your colleagues. Design agencies thrive off a sharing culture. 

9) Don’t give up

If you’re struggling to get a full-time job please don’t give up. The design industry is competitive and often there’s a little bit of luck in when you apply and whether or not your personality fits with the rest of the team. If you’re lacking experience and can’t get a placement, why not approach a local charity to help them out and boost your portfolio at the same time?

If you’re a design graduate or new to the industry I hope you’ve found this article of some use. My final tip is to stay humble, don’t stand still and good luck!

We’re always looking out for talented individuals to develop our team so why not get in touch and see what placement or vacancy opportunities we have on offer.