It’s been a while but I’m finally bak with a new Career Inspiration interview. The aim of Career Inspiration is to help people looking for career ideas, a career change or simply an insight into what others do.
It’s very hard to know what you want to do in life and I’ve always loved finding out about what others do and the journey they took to get there. So, I hope you enjoy today’s interview with Natasha, a Graphic Designer in London.
Did you always know you wanted to become a graphic designer?
No, I always used to say that I wanted to be a fashion designer. When I was at secondary school that changed to radio presenter and then journalist, before I decided on Graphic Design after sixth form. At school I was always better at creative subjects like humanities and English, but was never really sure where I would go with it. The rest of my GCSE grades were mediocre B and Cs, but I achieved an A* in D&T: Graphic Products. That’s when I first started to wonder if maybe I should go into design…
What did you study at university and why?
When I picked my A-levels, English Lang, History and D&T: Graphic Products, I was planning to apply for journalism at University. But again, I was achieving my best in D&T and not doing so well in English Lang, so I saw that as a sign that maybe it was time to choose design for good. I applied for Graphic Design, but when I didn’t get accepted at the University I had my heart set on I didn’t want to settle and just go anywhere. Sometimes creative students go to college to do a Foundation course for 1 year to explore and build on their skills, but I knew that I wanted to do Graphic Design and so chose to do the 2 year BTEC course.
How did you go about getting an internship?
After Uni I was having a tough time adjusting to graduate life – internships and jobs are very competitive and often you can apply for 50 and never hear back from any. I had completed an internship for a couple of months and then headed back home to live with my parents which I found quite hard to adjust to. I was so used to being independent by then, and I was so hungry for a job and to get on with the rest of my life.
I started a blog back when I was in college and had continued to post throughout Uni and leaving Uni. After graduating I felt under pressure for my posts had to be cheery and positive because everyone on my course could see what I was up to (if they read it, they probably didn’t though ha) and I was desperate to be a success. The reality was the complete opposite – I was so unmotivated, borderline depressed and felt like I was never going to get anywhere. In the new year I decided that it was time to stop pretending and post a real insight into what I was experiencing as a graduate. It was horrible but therapeutic to write and I was so scared to post it, but I don’t regret it at all. Despite all my worries, everyone was so supportive and respected me for being honest.
A couple of days later I received an email asking me if I wanted to have a portfolio review at an agency in London – I was so excited, and tweeted about it. Through Twitter, a graduate from my University course had seen my blog post & wished me good luck for my interview. After a few messages of advice, she then asked if I would like to show my portfolio at her studio, seeing as I would be in London anyway. I said yes and the rest is history! In a way, I got a job through my blog.
I was offered a month internship and then at the end of the 4 weeks they asked me if I’d like to stay on on a freelance basis, which after a 3 month ‘probation’ turned into a permanent member of staff. 18 months later and I’m still there. I felt very lucky to have been offered a job on my 2nd internship. It’s all about luck really and being the right person in the right place at the right time. Taking the internship and moving to London was a big risk for me, and I spent the first 3 months of my experience sleeping on a friend’s sofa.
How important do you think internships are in your industry?
Internships are essential for the creative industry. I learnt so much in just 4 weeks. I loved my time at University but looking back, it didn’t prepare me for ‘the real world’. And I don’t think it could really – university is about learning from an education perspective, whereas internships offer learning on a different level. The atmosphere of a studio, speed of work and experience of other designers is all very important in the development of young creatives. Internships are priceless, however that doesn’t mean you should work for anything less than minimum wage and NEVER work for free! Even though you are learning, you’re still contributing to the team. If you wasn’t deserving of the opportunity then the studio wouldn’t want you, so you’re worth paying!
Please tell us about your current role.
Currently I’m a Junior Graphic Designer, part of a small graphics team working alongside an interior design team. As a junior my role is to support my seniors whilst learning.
What is a typical workday like?
There’s not really a ‘typical’ day, which is great because I like variety. As a studio we specialise in luxury brands, usually in a retail environment. The graphics team oversee and create branding, packaging, way finding, environmental graphics, strategy, print and web design. Throughout the day I could be brainstorming, attending meetings, sourcing images, designing pitches, choosing Pantone colours or papers, setting type, producing artwork or sending work to print. All of that plus emails, lots of tea and looking after the studio website and Social Media accounts. Usually I spend about 90% of my day at the screen, but sometimes I might go to Oxford Street for inspiration.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The main challenge is designing something fresh/new/exciting that also sits in line with the existing brand. Brands have quite strict guidelines that sometimes make it quite hard to be creative. My job is to design with these in mind, whilst challenging and trying to persuade the client to push their brand further. After you’ve worked with a brand for a while you start to get a feel for what they’re comfortable with or expecting from you. This can be good and bad, but we always try to put a wild card option into the mix!
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s an amazing feeling when you see something you’ve designed is actually real. My first live design work was for a beauty store in Russia, so I haven’t seen it in real life but I know it’s out there!
What advice would you give to others thinking of a career as a graphic designer?
Oh there’s so much advice I could give – I have written a series called BA(Hon)est on my blog, but for now… My main advice would be, be a sponge. Soak in the world around you; the people, design, culture and experiences – learn as much as you can. Being interested can open doors to unknown opportunities which is so exciting!
What keeps you motivated?
The feeling that I want to design something amazing. Everyday I browse Pinterest or It’s Nice That and find amazing work that makes me think ‘I wish I’d done that’ – so one day I hope someone will say that about my work! Inspiration is really important for fuelling that creative fire in my heart – as long as I’m inspired I’m motivated.
Does your blog, Graphique Fantastique, play a part in your career?
Yes I think it does – it’s definitely opened up doors and introduced me to some amazing people. My blog began as a record of my design work at college, but now I don’t really post any of my own design work due to legalities etc. I’d like to post more of my own creative things but it’s just finding the time to do them. Currently its about my journey from student to grad to ‘professional’ along with anything inspirational or London-y. As sad as it sounds, my blog is a part of me now and I wouldn’t have it any other way really. I can’t imagine where I’d be now without my blog… It’s kinda scary to think about actually.
What direction would you like to take your career in 2015?
I don’t know really, I’ve never really had a direction if I’m honest. But as long as I keep learning I’ll be happy!
Thank you so much to Natasha for taking the time to be a part of Career Inspiration. I hope you’ve all found the interview interesting and useful, I certainly have. I love Natasha’s passion for her job as well as her dedication to continue learning and developing upon her skills. I think it’s very easy to stop learning when you leave university but it’s important to ensure it doesn’t happen. You can continue learning through your work, online (free courses are a thing), reading or even with an evening course.