Reflection: 18 months as a Junior Designer

It feels like yesterday, but 18 months ago I got the train to London with a suitcase and optimism… And I never left (although I definitely have more than a suitcase here now).

 Photo on 2014-11-14 at 13.27 #4B

After 3 years at Uni I thought I had done the hard part of learning… But I was wrong, so wrong! I obviously knew that I still had a lot to learn, but I learnt so much in my first 6 months in a studio!

My blog has been a record of my career in design for over 6 years now – from a clueless college student to a Junior Designer. This time last year I posted about 1 year after graduation and I thought it was about time to share again. So here it is – Reflection: 18 months as a Junior Designer: what I’ve learnt so far…

– How to learn (again): You will continue to learn your whole life, but there are so many different ways of learning. Learning in industry is completely different to University. A working environment is so fast paced and often you’re running whilst still learning how to walk. I don’t think University can ever really prepare graduates for the real working world, so I guess the best way is to just jump in at the deep end. It’s sink or swim!

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– How to send something to print: Press print? No, it’s not that easy. Firstly there’s how to set up a document for print: checking all of your images are linked properly (InDesign problems), the correct colour profile (CMYK not RGB), the correct DPI (72 looks great on screen… Not so much in print) and don’t forget exporting with the right bleed, crop marks etc – the list goes on! AND THEN you need to tell the printer what you want – the colours, paper stock

– How to check details (at least 5 times). Spelling, grammar, punctuation, names, website links, dates, fonts, colours, DPI, file sizes… These are all SO important. I’ll be honest, I feel a bit sick every time I send something to print/to a client because I just have a little feeling that something could be wrong. Sometimes you just have to hit send, otherwise you’d never get anything done… ha

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– Keyboard shortcuts: This is something I’ve really had to push myself with – practice makes perfect! It’s just one of those things that you pick up from watching others, and I am forever asking Jo and Natalie ‘How’d you do that?’ ‘Can you show me again?’. The shortcuts really make a difference to your speed too so are definitely worth it. I didn’t really think about it until my bosses son came into the studio for work experience and said ‘Wow you’re really fast.’ Then I realised that actually I probably save quite a lot of time over the span of a day. Every little helps! The only annoying thing about this is that across the Adobe programmes sometimes shortcuts are different. You get used to it though, so push yourself!

– How to write an email to a client: It sounds simple enough, but when you sit down to do it it’s quite a daunting task. You need to communicate several points eloquently and probably ask several questions without sounding like an idiot.

– How to estimate the time it will take you to do something: If I’m honest I’m still not really very good at this, depending what the task is. You’ll learn to assess the situation, prioritise and basically get shit done. Time is money after all. Sometimes great ideas take time, but they’re worth the money!

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– How to be organised: I thought I was already quite organised but actually I don’t think I really was. Working in a studio with so many different people, you will experience a variety of methods for keeping everything in order. Some will work, some people will be so unorganised it hurts your head. The best thing to do is to observe, assess and edit: take the best methods for yourself. I’m a list and post it notes kinda girl: if I write everything down it helps me to remember.

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– How to be a team member: When joining a studio, it’s not all about your work. I’ve heard a lot of people say ‘you could be the best designer in the world, but if you’re a dick nobody will want to work with you’. Designers are people-people and work in teams, so if you think you can just sit at a computer and not speak to anyone all day you’re in the wrong career. What fun would that be? You spend about 80% of your week with these people so you might as well make the most of it; make conversation, show an interest in people’s lives and send lots of cute animal gif emails (probs not to your boss though!). Those emails are important! 🙂 On the other hand, there are the deadline times. These can be stressful with tensions running high, but if everyone pulls together it doesn’t have to be that bad. Just do anything you can do to help; spellcheck, print documents or make tea. Sometimes I think we’re a bit like a (very weird) family. Everyone has a part to play in the day-to-day running of projects and of the studio in general. Which leads me on to…

– How to be a Junior: Until last month I was the youngest and least experienced member of the studio (a Junior interior designer just joined). As a Junior, I see my role to support and learn from my seniors. I don’t mind being asked to run an errand (pick up some paper or flowers) or to do ‘one of the shit jobs’ like organising the bookcase or cutting out tiny paper circles. Some people might see these tasks as ‘beneath them’, but sometimes these things just need to be done and that’s my role. Working with more experienced designers is a great opportunity to learn, whilst forming your own voice in the studio. I’m still working on finding the right balance of being respectful to my seniors and communicating my ideas. I’ll admit that I don’t always speak up enough, but that comes with confidence.

– How to be a designer: This might sound obvious, but being a designer is an art. How to know what a client will want, how to design to suit their tastes and needs and how to show them what they need if they don’t already know. Although I don’t really have that much experience, I am a designer and the client is (usually) not a designer. They are looking for my guidance and so that is what I offer them, even if they don’t agree!

I hope you found that interesting? Sometimes living in the present we forget how far we’ve come. Until I sat down and really thought about it, I didn’t realise how much I had learnt in my first 18 months. I still have so much to learn and a long way to go, but I’m feeling a bit more confident after writing this post. Thanks for listening guys 🙂

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4 Comments

  1. dannisawthis@gmail.com' 19/09/2015 / 3:20 pm

    Aaah this is a great post and thank you for sharing it. This is one I can very much relate to. I’ve been working as a designer for 8 years, but only in the last 18 months I’ve been working in a studio and I’ve been feeling all the pressures you’ve written about. Im glad we’re not alone, it does get easier and now most of these are second nature to me! Here’s to the next 18 months 🙂 xx

    • 28/09/2015 / 2:13 pm

      Thanks Danni – glad I’m not alone! Oh wow 8 years is such a long time – it must of been quite hard adjusting to being in a studio when you’re used to being on your own? Yes, it’s great when it becomes second nature. It’s really good to look back and remember what I’ve learnt and achieved in 18 months because it’s sometimes easy to forget… to the next 18 months indeed! *raises a glass* 🙂 xx

  2. katie_moody@hotmail.co.uk' 19/09/2015 / 3:25 pm

    I found this post really interesting! It’s been two and half years now since I started my role as a graphic designer and I can totally relate to your points – especially the sending to print one! I always get nervous, especially when you have like, 20,000 copies printed!! I’m an in-house designer so slightly different, but I’d love to work at an agency and get a bit more creative 🙂

    • 28/09/2015 / 2:10 pm

      Thanks Katie – glad I’m not alone on the print feelings. Eeeek 20,000 is a big number so congrats on that! I’d love to hear more about your role in-house and see what the differences are if you’d like to chat? I’ll drop you an email if you don’t mind? 🙂

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