The Creative Powerhouses | Designed in London


Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of listening to a brand new podcast from Designed in London – a group of three female graphic designers / creatives from you guessed it, London, talking about going through the third year of university and graduation in general. I was probably always going to love it due to my fascination with talking to students and also the lovely Natasha being involved but hey, I have to say it was one of the best things I’ve listened to in a hell of a long time and I had so many thoughts from it that I thought I’d add my own comments in a blog post – guest speaker next time please guys?! Soofiya (who has strangely been an inspiration of mine since my third year) and Sherida (a new girl crush because just look at the website) are the other ladies involved and they are humorous, thought-provoking and perhaps a little hell-bent on Pentagram. What could you not love about three women talking design? Let’s get started by listening to the podcast below. As I may have already said, it’s funny, inspiring and absolutely bloody useful so grab a cuppa or listen on a journey and laugh out loud on the tube like a wally as I did!

So hopefully you’ve taken my advice and you’re now feeling very enlightened – it’s great right?! I love to listen and chat to those with hindsight, those who can reflect on a time that you went through in your life and provoke thoughts of “yes, I felt exactly like this.” I strongly feel like this subject isn’t talked about enough and rather than us talking about it to the people that matter we just tend to go on about it to the others who have also already been through it. Alumni need to get back into their universities and give insight to their peers, letting them know it’s all going to be okay and as the ladies say “nobody is going to die.” Obviously putting it out their to the world like this or via writing blog posts is also a great tactic. My old university is pretty good at getting us oldies involved (it’s like we can’t leave!) but is this the norm everywhere else? Let me know if you still get involved with exhibitions and projects at your university as I’m quite intrigued to know if everyone still has this sense of community or if we are just strange. One of the most inspiring days I had as a student was listening to those from the year above me talk about their latest ventures in the real world and actually it was great to hear it with honesty.

I think the main point of me posting about this subject is that I have so many things I want to add, I could go on and on for hours about this topic and I’m perplexed as to why I haven’t discussed it on here yet. If there is one thing that I want to do with this blog, it’s to support those coming into the design world and let people know that there is a wave of people ready to give you advice and help you along the way. Before I start rambling even more about how wonderful these women are, here are a few of things that I wish I could say to a third year me / some of the other people on my course and to any of you too.

Look at your year as a community. You’re not competition unless you make it that way and you never know how others will influence your progress as a designer.

You’re all likely to be competing a little but guess what, that IS the real world so it never hurts to learn it early. That being said, I find I automatically go to design studios and collectives created by different designers so why not think of your peers as those who you will potentially be working with in the future. It really is a common occurrence nowadays, especially with starting a business being a little tough right now.

The design world is definitely all about who you know. Not in a rich, elitist way (okay, maybe sometimes) but more so in a being a nice person is everything way. The connections you build along the way are vital into shaping you as a person and although someone may not be ‘useful’ to you at first, they damn well may be in the future. They could also be a helpful figure to someone else you know, which can only improve your standing as a person to talk to and connect with. The one thing I’ve learnt is that first impressions are everything and anyone that has left a bad one on me certainly won’t be called upon in the future. You never know where someone will end up later on down the line so always be kind and curious about their practise and never think you are above anyone else.

Your university life is the start of these relationships and making friends that will last a lifetime is key to having a support network if life doesn’t go your way. Everyone from your university will go down different routes. I know lots of people working directly in Graphic Design as well as some that have gone down other paths like I have, still maintaining an interest in the practicalities of the trade but choosing to learn other sides of the industry. This is what forms the design community and university is where that community starts.

Your degree show isn’t important but organising it is. 

I completely agree with the ladies about the ‘hype’ around your degree show. I do know people that got a job through my own but most are not in said job now as it wasn’t actually right for them so who really cares? Don’t put pressure on yourself to be that person, as realistically it might not be the right move for you and better things could be round the corner. Just have a laugh and a good time with your peers to celebrate all of your hard work, anything else is a bonus. It is good practise to get used to talking about your work though so do that to everyone and anyone who is interested although my top piece of advice is not to jump on people. Be available, say hello but don’t bombard people with everything about your project. I can assure you they will ask if they want to know more.

One of things I do absolutely think helped me gain so many skills was helping to organise the degree show. Yes you hate life, yes you’ve not slept in weeks and yes a little party sounds good right now, but I can assure you rewards come for those who get stuck in. I can hand on heart thank my degree show for giving me my absolute best friends after university life and actually allowing me to have more time with my lecturers which has turned out to be invaluable. I was already organised before third year but I became the queen of being organised over the degree show and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be proud of what we achieved whilst also being able to relay the skills I developed as valid experience for potential jobs.
Your grade doesn’t really matter.

I have been to SO many talks and workshops since graduating where the big boss has said they don’t even bother looking at CV’s and everything is all about the quality of the portfolio, your personality and the way you present your work. That being said I know how I felt at the time and getting a first was like the icing on the cake, to show all my hard work had paid off,  it was more of a personal battle as opposed to something I thought would benefit me on the jobs market. Just try your absolute best and don’t worry if things don’t quite go your way as creatively nobody cares about how an institution grades your work.
It is completely okay not to rush into anything.

Coming out of university is hard, you can’t deny the fact that lots of people, including your mates, are going for the same jobs. This rush to be the first to get into anywhere and brag about it isn’t necessary. Take the time to consider where you’d like to be and be selective about it if you’re in a position to do so. There is absolutely no point in being stuck in a job you despise, even if just for six months. There also isn’t any value in taking internships that don’t add value to your own skill set, so pick carefully and don’t be vulnerable to agencies looking to take advantage of graduates who will work for free. Just like the ladies said, this culture has to stop and we’re the only ones who can change it. You are always worth something and a paid internship for giving up your time, even at minimum wage, is the least any company can do.

I’m also an avid believer in learning other parts of the trade first. I’m quite honest about the fact that I don’t want to work for someone else when it comes to graphic design and illustration and I’m currently developing my skills in other things I’m passionate about such as writing. I’m making lots of connections, immersing myself in the design culture, learning about PR, marketing and social media so if my life ever does go down a freelance route, I will be bloody ready and I won’t make the mistakes I commonly see others making.

Don’t be afraid. 

Your tutors might be harsh on you. God knows I ended up in tears after a few crits and I genuinely has fear of them during second year, but once I got over them they pushed me to be like f*** you / actually I could do that better and I’m definitely a more confident, self assured person because of them. Give your tutors stick back (in a good way), they crave that passion and dedication from you and they’re just setting you up for the world of rejection you are genuinely about to enter. Rejection is good, it makes you fight harder. This also leads me to the end of the post. Don’t be afraid to enter the world all guns blazing. Don’t be afraid to chill and do things in your own time. Don’t be afraid to just do you and everything will work out absolutely fine. Don’t be afraid to make podcasts or write or explore other options, you don’t owe anyone else an explanation for your chosen journey after studying.

Got any thoughts? Get involved in the conversation and if you do use the #DiLDN hashtag so the gals (and me) can follow the conversation.

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