Design-students-and-graduates-finding-a-job

Design students and graduates – finding a job

Design-students-and-graduates-finding-a-job

It is particularly tough for those finishing their design education coming out into the workforce to find the first step on the career ladder. So here is my advice.

Ignore the negativity and rejection

There is a lot of negativity and bad experiences when starting out. Whether it be tutors saying how tough the ‘real world’ is, or hearing of the unemployment situation in the branch, or being unable to get even a reply to a job application. This bad experience can lead to you losing your motivation and belief in yourself. It’s very important to not allow this to happen.

Job searching basics

There is lots of advice on the internet for job searching for designers, use it. Don’t send anyone an email that is not personal. Do everything to find a contact name, compliment them on something in their portfolio website, something that shows you haven’t just copy pasted this email, along with hundreds of others.  A very busy person is far more likely to send you a personal message rather than a ‘thanks but no thanks’ copy paste reply, or just not reply.

If you get a reply, you can delicately ask for advice. Very apologetically ask if there was anything in your CV, application email or portfolio that could be improved. You won’t always get an answer, but good people hate turning applicants away. If they can give a bit of advice that may help someone, they often will.

Remember you just need one job. It is like finding a needle in a haystack, but if you don’t look for the needle, you definitely won’t find it. As a positive thought, if you haven’t been turned down by 200 applications, then you haven’t begun looking. Use that number as a positive target. Something to aim for. Five a day, every day, it will soon mount, and you will become better at it.

Worst case scenario

So what do you do if you still can’t get in. There comes a point where you have to work. Perhaps it is in a coffee shop, perhaps as an entry level trainee in a different area completely. You may well have the best time of your life and make friends for life. An odd thing is, you will be surprised how random opportunities can come your way in life. You may find there is a creative position within this company you never knew existed. There are creative jobs you would never have heard of until you are working for that chain of convenience stores, or bars. You are networking by accident.

I worked as a barman in London. I went on to start my own business as a blackboard artist, as a full time job. Something I would never have seen as a possibility. But I had the contacts and knowledge just from working in the branch to know how to do it. And what I didn’t know I learned on the hoof.

Be prepared

Another issue regarding the random nature of things, is after sending hundreds of CVs out, and working yourself into the ground trying to find a job in the design industry with no success, you could find yourself sitting at a dinner or in some other social situation, when during small talk someone says ‘oh we are looking for a designer, can you Photoshop?’. And before you know it, you have a job, without applying or being interviewed.

Now here is the important aspect of that scenario. Make sure the last design work you did, wasn’t what you did in college. Make sure you are still active. Have a website portfolio, or a blog that is active. Make sure you can show your enthusiasm for your area of expertise. Because you will be kicking yourself if an opportunity like that comes up unexpectedly and you blow it because you were not prepared.

Working for free

It’s a tough one. You need experience to get a job, how do you get experience. How do you build a portfolio that shows what you can do, without working for free? From my experience, the sort of people who would accept free work, are the worst people to work for. They are like sharks. They will never pay you at a later date when you are experienced. Their shark brain will go, ‘find another idiot to work for free’. They will not respect you, will not respect your work, and will almost certainly insist on doing something to the design which is so bad it means you can’t use it in your portfolio. There is also the argument that working for free for people demeans the industry you wish to work in.

Stay positive and keep learning

If you still can’t get a job in the design industry there are further options. Start up freelance is one of them. Another is to look at the different aspects of your work and work at it in your free time. Illustration or animation for example, or typography design, or motion graphics. Something that would have been hard to get to, and possibly too exhausting to work on in your free time as a designer as it is too similar to the day job. Working in a different field you are completely fresh to work on this in your free time. This can be incredibly rewarding and go on to you being able to work in your niche area later. Helps if you think of yourself as being like an out of work actor. Ignore anyone who uses the word ‘hobby’ to describe what you do.

Keep taking online courses to extend your skills. If you work in the web, get javascript, get php skills. In design, add typography design or motion graphics, take figure drawing classes, there’s always more to learn. Keep adding to your portfolio and good luck!

 

Iain Cameron is a web designer, graphic designer and illustrator based in Copenhagen.

 

 

is-graphic-design-worth-studying

Is graphic design worth studying?

is-graphic-design-worth-studying

Is graphic design worth studying? Here are the pros and cons of a graphic designer of some decades. In the interests of letting you judge my opinions I studied graphic design but was kicked off my course before I finished it. Many years later, I taught myself via working alone and the internet. We are all different, I try and give  as balanced an answer as possible. But it’s just my opinion, make sure you seek others’ opinions too.

Is graphic design worth studying? Yes, education can only be good. You will always learn, meet good people, and see and experience things that you wouldn’t alone.

Is studying graphic design at college essential? Absolutely not. Unlike a lot of jobs, graphic design (and all the surrounding disciplines – illustration, web design, motion graphics) are measurable by your portfolio or showreel. It is easy to see what you can or can’t do, and the best degree in the world from the best university in the world, and all the charisma in the world, can’t hide that you aren’t a graphic designer to an employer.

Is the financial outlay as a graphic design student worth it? This question is related to whichever country you live in. If you are coming out with 40000 pounds/dollars plus worth of debt at the end of a graphic design course and your parents aren’t rich, my opinion is, no that’s not worth it. (Just my opinion)

graphic-design-educationBut every job advert I see requires a degree from a top design college? Yes that’s a slightly strange one. HR departments are a bit weird. A bit ‘Stepford wives’. If you have an interview with them they are like evangelists for the company, and when you start working at the company, it turns out nothing like what HR implied it was. And they don’t know anything about design, but they’ve all got a degree, so degrees must be special, and they write the job adverts… From my experience, you just blitz them with your portfolio website on your CV. It has never personally come up, and I’ve almost always gotten interviews for jobs I’ve applied to. Make sure you get someone else’s opinion on this too, for balance. There is a huge difference between an interview with an HR department, and an interview with a department head or business owner. HR interviews are the interviews of specialists in that field. The field of interviewing. Read up on how to get through an interview for that. For a department head or business owner, almost always all you’ve got to do, is ‘shut up, and listen’, while maintaining eye contact, looking fascinated at everything they say, and have one question at the end ready, just in case the egotistical so and sos stop talking about how amazing they are for thirty seconds. Smile and nod, smile and nod…

graphic-designer-job-advert

Can graphic design be learned? Absolutely. There are clear rules, and best practices with typography, colours, imagery, creativity, problem solving and the use of the industry standard software (Adobe for short). There are vastly differing parts to being a graphic designer or graphic artist. From an all rounder who can fit into any discipline between logo design, illustration, web design and motion graphics, to an absolute specialists in their niche, a font designer, packaging specialist, character designer. At least one part of it, you need to get a buzz off of the creative process that drives you forward to want to learn more, and make the mundane tasks worth it.

What skills are essential to know if graphic design is for you? The fact you are interested, shows you probably have it. You are visually oriented. Like aesthetically pleasing things. Like typography, the shape, and feel of the letters, a colour combination interests you, you like and admire nice design, are excited by being creative. You are maybe not happy with what you create, you are always striving to get better.  You don’t need to be the finished article to start learning. Somewhere in you there is a spark of passion for creativity. That spark of passion is your calling. You mustn’t want to be a graphic designer because it sounds cool. (trust me, no-one is ever impressed!) It’s all about the creative process, and the desire to get better. Other aspects that would be good, but not essential, a sense of, or an interest in business/commerce, an enjoyment of problem solving. An interest in people from a behavioural science viewpoint. If artists are the movie stars of the art world, graphic designers are the character actors. We shouldn’t be leaving our specialised mark. Our style is invisible. We bring the correct solution for each roll, for each job. It’s not about us.

Is graphic design boring? Absolutely. And it’s the most exciting job in the world. No job is exciting and brilliant all day every day. There are lots of mundane tasks, problems with clients, problems with bosses thinking they are designers… problems, problems, problems. You’ll learn to deal with it. Learn to love the clients you get along with, the bosses who respect your knowledge. You’ll love the buzz when it all comes together. When a client sends you a gift, for no reason other than gratitude. When you can see you have made an improvement. When there are sometimes enormous measurable improvements, that you are responsible for. There are a lot of great highs to go with the lows. And you’ll learn to set aside time for your own projects, where you are in charge… My not entirely serious article on graphic design being a boring subject for non designers.

How do I learn graphic design without going to college or university? I did it with a computer, the internet, Adobe software, mainly learning Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and to a lesser extent InDesign, and Lynda.com the education website. Also Google is your friend, and Youtube has an enormous amount of videos explaining design, software, and business practices. Spooner graphics has some great videos on his Youtube channel. I also learned web design at the same time. A bit of basic HTML, and CSS, and now I would recommend learning WordPress through using it. The web design aspect gives you the power of self publishing, and publishing others, which in turn builds a portfolio, which leads to employment. In addition to this I was also studying design around me, looking and learning to see what works and doesn’t and what are the latest design trends and developments. That part took me fully two years to get to grips with, and is a permanent ongoing process. That is the difference between a designer, and someone (a boss or client) who wants to play at designing something because they think it’s easy.

How long does it take to learn to become a graphic designer? In my opinion it takes a minimum of two years of study (whether in college or working alone) to train your eye to design to a professional level. I had an odd journey to becoming a graphic designer. Studied for two years, kicked out of art college and began learning again almost twenty years later. When I began learning again, one of the odd sensations I had was realising I had been better at it when I was a design student previously. I couldn’t explain how I knew this, ‘what had I known I now didn’t know’, was a very strange experience. Eventually I became aware I was as good as I had been, and better. The exact point of that was at the two year mark. I had presumed I still had some design training. Without practice it was all gone. A designer must keep working at their skills to maintain that ability.

I have a degree in marketing but wish I’d learned graphic design, have I messed up? An oddly precise question but one I have met a couple of times. You can learn graphic design, see the question on learning without going to college, and not only will you succeed, you will be a brilliant graphic designer. Any sort of business qualification together with graphic design will make you superb in the profession. Graphic design ought to be taught in the same colleges that teach business and marketing. When I was studying for my degree in graphic design, we had to have a second subject we’d study one day a week. The choice was ceramics or textiles. The art college that threw me out, were just time wasters.

Do I need to be a salesperson to work as a graphic designer? Yes and no. More for freelance designers, but still relevant. Depending on your personality type, this part may fill you with dread. What you don’t need to be is the stereotypical used-car salesperson. In a client meeting, you need to listen, ask a few questions which will be easy to you, as you’ll know design, and do what you say you’ll do in the meeting. They don’t need to want to go for a beer with you, or play a round of golf with you, just to trust you. Your portfolio that got you the meeting ought to generate that trust, and you being smart enough to turn up on time, and dressed nicely, ought to seal the deal! So not that hard really.

Does graphic design have a future? That’s a big question. Subject to Greta Thunberg’s ability to save the world, does any job have a future… To be less pessimistic, I believe graphic design does have a future. We now have the Fiverr Wix mentality whereby anyone can get a cheap logo, and a cheap and easy website. I’ve had quite a few clients come to me after failing to do their own websites and logo designs despite being told how easy it would be in the adverts. And the more businesses who have ‘done it themselves’ the more the need for companies to stand out from the competition with some special design that only a designer could create.

What should graphic designers do for the future?  Keep learning. And love to learn (it keeps you young) There are other disciplines closely related to graphic design, that a graphic designer’s brain is best suited for. From user experience, to analytics, to social media marketing, to motion graphics, writing a narrative for a brand, the whole marketing shebang. Eventually the name graphic design will go (it’s an awful name anyway) we are marketing creatives, or commercial artists (the old name was far better).

Whatever you choose to do, the very best of luck. Life is short. Enjoy it, do what you want to do. Also, all going well, there is room for more than one career in a life. Two ar three career changes are possible. You are not nailed down forever in any area.

 

sign writing copenhagen

Events’ signs and blackboards

sign writing copenhagen

Should you or your company in Copenhagen require a specialised event sign, on blackboard or any colour of signage, then please get in touch. A hand written bespoke sign adds a personalised touch to any event or occasion. These can be drafted in advance in Photoshop, then the final artwork created when the final design is okayed.

So whether for a wedding, birthday, conference, product launch, bar, restaurant, hotel or shop, I can add that special hand written touch, that a printed product can never reach.

blackboard artist

artist blackboards copenhagen

manet blackboard art

blackboard-artist-duval

blackboards-copenhagen

You can see more of my blackboard work here www.iaincameron.dk/design-portfolio/blackboard-and-mural-artist/
And see more of my graphic design work here. www.iaincameron.dk/design-portfolio-for-business/

 

freelance graphic designer

Freelance graphic designer – what I have learned

freelance graphic designer

Approaching eight years as a freelance graphic designer, what have I learned?

Love the business

Freelance graphic designer is a wonderful job where you get to meet fascinating people, with diverse businesses, all with their own unique business needs. Embrace it, love it.

Get an accountant

Taxes and bookwork never get easier, I have an accountant. I still hate the bit getting it ready for him. The rest of the freedom and peace of mind is worth it.

Imposter syndrome

Tell your imposter syndrome to get out. He, or she, is an imposter!

Never write an angry email

Just don’t. Calm down, pick up the phone, but never ever write an angry email.

Over dress

Don’t be the scruffiest person in the room at a meeting. Because ‘you are a creative’. You are a professional in business looking for other business people to trust you. Show respect for your potential client, and the industry you represent.

How to behave in a meeting

If in doubt as to how to behave in a business meeting. Very simple. Shut up, and listen. If you are concerned at having to become a smooth talking, salesperson with charm dripping off your tongue, and that isn’t who you are, relax, selling isn’t so one dimensional. If you are introverted or awkward socially, but are clearly passionate about design, you’ll be fine. Your portfolio must be in great shape and you must be and act reliable. Turn up on time for meetings, always do what you say you’ll do in a meeting. People like and trust honesty, passion and skill.

Dealing with clients

Clients are fantastic. Every one of them different from each other. Every client’s needs are different. Every client’s way of working is unique to them. Incredibly important to remember design is a service industry. We exist to serve others. To advise, come with ideas, direct, and by far the most important, to listen. If the client isn’t sure what they want, we need to ask the right questions. And react to what the client has said. Explaining clearly every step of the way, our thinking behind each decision, without falling into marketing jargon.

Creative side projects

It is important for your creative wellbeing to have some creative outlets just for yourself. These let you learn and be in charge of your creativity, and in turn, make you a better designer for your clients.

Making the jump into the freelance world

If you are considering making the jump into freelance design it may seem scary. There is a mental switch when you become freelance.  Becoming your own boss, and responsible for your own marketing. I recommend having some savings behind you. Too much savings though, and you might find yourself fiddling with that portfolio instead of getting out there and hustling for work. Nothing concentrates the mind like a bill that needs paying.

Good luck if you are starting out, high five for all fellow freelancers. And no that’s not me in the picture. This is me. And this is my portfolio.

 

 

web design superhero

All the power of WordPress in the best creative hands

web design superhero

‘All the power of WordPress in the best creative hands’ is my tag line. What it means is, WordPress has come so far in the last decade, it now does the heavy lifting of the web design process. Between themes, plugins, my skills in CSS, HTML and javascript, and on occasion using outside developers help, I can create a website using my other skills as a designer.

Combining these skills is what makes me a successful web designer. Having a love for the web, having a holistic understanding of all the areas of expertise needed in successful web design. From SEO to user experience, to understanding branding, and communication, to having a highly trained eye for quality design.

One of the key aspects of my web design process is the importance of the interactive element of the experience. This is why I don’t design in Photoshop for websites. Photoshop is flat, and motionless. I design my websites straight onto WordPress. WordPress for wireframes, for testing content to see how it works together. Building around my client’s content. Adding, removing, re-working, but always on a website, not in a fake web environment.

As a web design consultant, or WordPress consultant, I know what is at the cutting edge of web design technology, together with I can use my marketing and design skills to create a professional, successful web presence. There’s a fine line between arrogance, and confidence. ‘All the power of WordPress in the best creative hands’, is the confidence of fifteen years work in web design. Twenty in graphic design. And still as enthused and motivated as the first time I connected via ftp all those years ago.

A selection from my web design portfolio.

 

shark apple jumping

Has Apple jumped the shark?

shark apple jumping

Has Apple jumped the shark? The phrase jumping the shark comes from an episode of the sitcom Happy Days, in which the Fonz, jumps a shark. The phrase means when you’ve run out of ideas.

There’s a new Apple computer out, just like there’s another one always around the corner. Apple are an exceptionally successful billion dollar company, for whom my opinion will be less than worthless. This new computer is getting some criticism as it is very expensive, is not aesthetically pleasing (the cheese grater), and comes with a (not included in the price) $1000 stand for the monitor.

I’m a graphic designer, one of our ‘traits’ is the love of all, or most things, Apple. Not all graphic designers, but a lot of us. Historically in the earlier, less successful Apple years, it was graphic designers that kept the computer selling part going.

Graphic designers are in the most part aesthetics driven, so it’s natural our tribe was drawn to the aesthetically pleasing and user friendly Mac.

I’m just me, just one graphic designer, I am writing this on my fourth Mac in over twenty years. Number three is still in use, and is sitting next to me, as is a very expensive Apple iPhone. But it will be my last iPhone. Possibly my last Apple product.

It struck me I’d paid a ridiculous amount of money for a telephone with a nice, but not professional camera on it. It didn’t sit well with me. Despite not being my first iPhone. I’m a grown up, I made the choice to purchase it, but after the event, I’ve regretted the purchase.

In a world facing a climate catastrophe, where bankers are pretty much universally loathed, hearing that Apple were introducing banking was also an eye opener.

In this world of finite resources, I can’t really justify any of this anymore. I’m not stamping my foot, I don’t for a second think Apple would care. But sometimes what we as individuals feel, is in fact something quite a lot of others feel.

If you lose the designers Apple, I’d say you are in serious trouble. And releasing a big screen TV monitor with a $1000 stand, is so not what the world, or just graphic designers need.

Everything has it’s time.

the art of logo design

The art of logo design

Generally speaking a successful company has a quality logo.

What are the components of a quality logo? What makes a logo work or not work? Why is it important?

A logo is often the first impression the world sees of a company. As with people, first impressions count. A logo is a communication tool.  It needs to be unique, it needs to stand out from the crowd, conversely it may need to fit in with perceived standards. It needs to be instantly recognisable. This is so once you’ve seen that logo somewhere, or have an interaction with the company, the next time you see it, you recognize the company’s ‘signature’, and are therefor aware you are with the same company or people. Brand recognition.

It needs to give trust, reassurance, make potential customers want to be part of it, or intrigued to find out more of the company.

It needs to be simple, clean and professional. It needs to work at a small size, or very large size. Ought to work in black and white or colour.

What it doesn’t need to do is describe what the company does. In fact with regard to the actual work of the company it is more likely to aspire to the values the company wishes to stand for, rather than a descriptive image of what the company does.

That’s quite a lot a logo needs to do.

Ultimately like almost all creative endeavors, a logo works or it doesn’t. You can have the best idea in the world, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, and you come up with something else. It takes hard work, creative thinking, research, intuition, reworking and reworking of ideas. Returning to earlier designs, and also a little bit of time needs to be spent with a finished design, to live with a design, to test it’s potential longevity.

Iain Cameron logo design

What’s my logo about? (top left) Just a font. No colour. But a memorable word shape always set on white. Minimal, discreet. I’m not selling me, it’s not about me, it’s my work for other clients that is important, that leads to others wishing to use my services. My designs are not about me, I am a facilitator of design for companies.

While a hand written signature was considered, my first name is an issue outside of Scotland. Iain. That first letter is an ‘i’ for ice cream, not an ‘l’ for lettuce, as it may appear. Clarity was important. Hand written would have added to the confusion.

Colour would distract from my portfolio. So in some ways a logo is a system of elimination. There is always a great one there for every company. Unless like me discretion is a deliberate choice. It’s a process of peeling back the layers until you find it.

A picture paints a thousand words.

A detailed case study of one of my logo designs.

My graphic design page which has many logo designs.

web design 2019

A web designer’s digital guide for 2019 and beyond

web design 2019

Web design in 2019

WordPress is still king of the CMS. Web design has stabilised. We know what works. In the beginning with the first websites there were technical reasons websites looked the way they did. Also a considerable amount of the first websites were designed by very technically minded people. Not so visually orientated. Bit by bit visually orientated designers got to take charge and UX standards were developed, websites have a common look now. Being responsive is a given. And while there will always be developments in web design, there will be no dramatic changes as there have been in the past.

This means brands need to do something to stand out. And if it’s not the website design, it needs to be the story telling.

SEO in 2019

SEO has developed in the last few years. There is a simple rule now for search engine optimisation, quality content over quantity or attempts at gaming SEO.

More and more of my websites have a few articles that are read many thousands of times per week, and eighty percent of the other blog content is virtually ignored.

So go back, and update the heavily read content from time to time. Re-post. Have a look at the older content that is not being read. Could it be improved, re-written, could a number of ‘failed’ posts be combined to create one successful, entertaining or enlightening post? If not, bin the dead wood, and concentrate on creating quality content in your niche.

One of the ways Google measure the quality is from, amongst other things, how long any visitors spend on the page. If people read it, Google will show it to more people.

Social media in 2019

Facebook is the tough one. The giddy highs of organic reach are a thing of the distant past. It’s a struggle to reach your own audience irrespective of the quality of your content. Facebook wants your money on sponsored posts.

Instagram still offers better value for money (for now), depending on your market. Linkedin is very niche. Twitter is very much hit or miss. I’ve noticed clients and companies I admire closing Facebook pages. I’m not sure it is so much Facebook that’s the problem, as being too thinly spread. It may be best to just concentrate on one social media you are comfortable in.

My advice, be ready for new social media companies appearing. There is so much more to develop in the social media world, it’s only a decade old. When new platforms appear, jump on them. The early period is where there will be the greatest results.

Iain Cameron is a web designer, graphic designer and illustrator. Here’s my portfolio.

rolling stones warhol

Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol, the greatest commissioning letter ever

rolling stones warhol

The ultimate commissioning letter. Two successful, wealthy, talented artists, at the height of their powers. Mick Jagger and Andy Warhol.

The advice from Jagger. Offered, with self depreciation.

“In my short sweet experience, the more complicated the format of the album, e.g. more complex than pages or fold-out, the more fucked up the reproduction and agonising the delays.”

For a short letter, he goes into real detail to explain what he doesn’t want, and why there are issues with complicated designs.

Then he jumps back, a creative person aware of a creative brain’s response to demands, ‘But having said that, I leave it to your capable hands…’

‘And please write back saying how much you would like’. Not ‘paid’. How much would you like. Not negotiating, not trying to claim ‘we haven’t much budget’. ‘How much would you like’. You decide your worth.

‘Here are two boxes of material you can use’, presumably photos, and negatives. Oh ‘and the record’. Almost a throwaway. Not listen to our brilliance, and be inspired by our magic. Just ‘…and the record’.

There are lots of creative people in the world. Not so many who can weaponise it for enormous success and financial reward, without compromising their art. Amongst all the  myths and debauchery of both artists, the sex, the drugs, the rock n roll. Two very intelligent, disciplined, very smart business brains. Skilled in social communication, and respectful of others’ talent. As well as creative geniuses.

 

 

logo design web design

SCOOP case study: Logo development and process