Sunday, 23 December 2012

No Other Way

Settling into my new junior role nicely, I have really enjoyed letting my various contacts know of my success. In reply to a feeble (and imminently fruitless) offer of employment from a recruitment agent, I really have reveled in the fact I can tell them "I'm alright, thanks" - and that I didn't need their help because I did it all myself... na na nana na. This is an incredible feeling.

Feeling settled and mostly secure, I have felt I can offer advice (and some of my secrets) to a friend just starting out on the placement scene. As a late starter, I feel that she does need my help in knowing where to/not to go and how it is etc. I would direct her to this site, but she knows me so well, I'd be spotted for sure. I have divulged secrets and contacts, with her, I never would have done before.

Previously, contacts were my only profit from doing internships; they are what I worked hard for. I worked for someone for next to nothing in order to be able to call them up and ask for a job later on. I have refused flatly to many friends/fellow graduates to give away important email addresses. I would really be kicking myself if they got a job before I did and I had helped them achieve it. I had to put number 1 first. But she is a very close friend, and I am feeling more secure where I am working and so it seems only right I should give her a helping hand.

Whilst listening to her woes over coffee, (I paid; she's working for free) I had an epiphany. A moment of clarity; of realisation - placements can be awful, long and tedious and often completely pointless, but now sat on my junior role pedastool - I realise; I could not have got this job any other way.

Recruitment agents seemed interested and keen, but gave up quickly and rarely found me anything at all, let alone anything suitable. Trawling through popular blogs and national newspapers led me to apply for jobs willy nilly, knowing thousands more suitable candidates would have applied, my sparse cv piled in amongst theirs. Freelance work was good and often enjoyable, but for every few weeks work I gained, I endured months of unemployment (which is not good for anyone's psyche).

My job was given to me without much fuss. I had come to this particular agency and worked hard. I had got along with them and somehow impressed them with my attitude and my work ethic, along with small evidence of my creative talent/style. I came back and did it all again a few months later. When it came to them needing a junior, I was remembered; simple as that. No trawling through job boards, no cover letter, no cv, no stressful interview with a scrutinising creative director and awkward, scary questions. Placement = job. Simple.

It couldn't have happened any other way, for me at least. But it's hard to believe this when you are 7 months into doing pointless placements and rarely enjoying yourself. That was placement 7 (ish) and the truth is it could have been any placement, really. I could have done that placement at any time and would have had a similar result. It is timing.

My advice to her was simple. It might take what seems like forever, and it will be hard, but hang in there, because one day someone will notice you and someone will remember you - and when the timing is right, you'll see that there was no other way it could have happened, and there is no where else you would want it to have happened. It is, without wanting to sound too philosophical, like finding which puzzle your piece fits in to. You have to open a few boxes, but eventually, you'll get there.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Big News

Similarly to my last post - I too have experienced an anti-climax in relation to my first job.

I went home to visit my family, with the biggest and happiest news I could give. I rehearsed how I would surprise them. I would tell them with a smile spanned across my face, as their expectant faces filled with joy and relief. Finally, what I have worked so hard for; what I have struggled for so long for has happened. I now have a proper job. They will embrace me with pride.

The reality was dissappointing and their reaction completely unexpected. I don't even think I got a "well-done". It has been so long that I think they already thought I had a job. I have been working, that much is true and freelance has been going well. But a permanent role is different. I felt like the boy that cried wolf and that I had been craving this attention, this congratulatory fan-fare but it was lost.

Ah well. I can still pat myself on the back and get myself a few drinks in to celebrate - or atleast at the end of the trial period.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

First Job

With a year of struggling to live on £100 a week in endless, dead-end placements - exhausted from working in excess of 40 hours, with a weekend job or bar work on the side - to be offered a permanent junior role with a decent salary is the ultimate achievement. The sense of relief and exasperation in your first proper wage packet is uncomparable. All your hard work has paid off. The expectation is that signing that contract is like the beginning of a beautiful marriage between you and your job (your first proper job!) - it should be the happiest day of your life - and not a decision to be taken lightly.

A friend recently confessed to me her regret at signing the contract for her permanent position. Having worked there several months beforehand, she knew what she was getting - with long hours, and backache from being hunched over a computer without a lunch break, she worked hard to maintain the full-time role; to convince the directors that she wanted the job. Having proved her worth and happily accepting the role, she settled into the permanent position to find the workload and hours have only got worse, and with no hope of it getting better, she's considering leaving. The honeymoon period is over. With her eyes on the prize, she had lost sight of what really mattered; that she was happy.

This regret can be avoided if you only take a job you are happy in and look forward to doing. A job that excites you and that has you skipping to the train station and into work every morning. A first full-time role should be carefully selected. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work in a variety of different places during my year on placement, to allow me to be sure of what I want to do and who I want to work for.

In doing a placement or a trial period for a full-time job, it is a time for the company make sure you are right for the job; but also for you to make sure that they are right for you. Ideally you should be in your first job long enough to warrant a level promotion, or a much higher salary at the next and so it is important to want to stay there and make all the hard work pay off. I went to University and struggled to become a graphic designer because it is important to me to do a job that I enjoy; I want to work somewhere that I love. If the job isn't up to scratch; you can find another. Don't make my friend's mistake and don't be tempted by the money alone. After all, it is not the money that is going to drag you into work everyday and keep a smile on your face.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Second Chances

I have been offered a job.

There is nothing more humbling than being asked back to an agency which you enjoyed working for and whose work you admire. But it made me think; what would have happened if I had stayed? Have I made my life more difficult by leaving?

When interning at this agency, the only thing that stopped me staying was money. It is always money. I enjoyed working there and felt I was needed in the operation of everything. I love their work and was proud to say I was interning there. The people were lovely and they have a great studio culture, but they paid so little I had to escape every 2 weeks to sign on, which I was always embarrassed to mention, but it had to be done. When I was offered freelance work, I took it, and took the plunge into looking for work over the summer, which has been a mixed experience.

Money will always be the motivation for me to leave a placement - even if it's going well. Perhaps sometimes you need to leave to be appreciated. A close friend of mine was offered a job shortly after attending an interview for freelance work, whilst still working for an agency that clearly take advantage of her. I think they knew that once being offered freelance money, they'd never get her back and would no longer be able to pay her the little amount she was on.

Similarly, when other people, of high design status, start offering you work, it gives you the confidence to demand more and expect better. You aren't an intern anymore. You could fill a junior designer's shoes, and should be paid accordingly.

It goes to show that in the end, if you impressed them with your attitude and your work, you will still be remembered, despite not being a pushover and working for next to nothing.

Every book I read about getting into the design industry explains that working for pennies gains you respect and people appreciate you and remember you for it - but I think being strong, independent and valuing yourself are more important and memorable traits.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Disappointment and Desperation

All through school I was a straight A student, with continual acknowledgement that I was "keen to please".  I still am, ofcourse. When offered placements or freelance work, I am always eager; ready to work for anything I am offered.

During the summer I took a placement I just knew wasn't going to work out. I wasn't interested in the type of design they did, and if I am completely honest, I was desperate to get out of the house. The summer was a tough one, I couldn't get any work. I signed up with countless agencies and had many interviews for work, but in the end I took the placement because I had to - there was nothing else.

Sod's law is ofcourse, that once you are busy and settling in, something else comes up. I had an interview with a place I have been freelancing at since and I love it. It is the type of design that sparks the fire behind my eyes, and makes me sit on the edge of my office swivel chair. I knew it would be better and the interview went so well, that when she offered me to start the following Monday, I decided I would have to leave the placement and wander into greener pastures. Besides, the pay has been incredible - when you are at the bottom of your overdraft, one step from signing on, money really does speak to you and it's time to say good bye to being nice.

It was Thursday, and in an office where no one speaks a word all day and you eat lunch at your desk, reading bbc news, I had left it too late to say anything. I was bored there, the work they gave me was patronisingly easy; I was unchallenged and unmotivated. After an awkward Friday meeting of forced fun (with wine and crisps), I left for good. I put my door access card on the table and never returned.

I felt awful. I had let them down. The first week of a 4-week stint and I had bottled it for a better deal. I hate being a disappointment and I could just imagine the Monday morning meeting that followed... the bitchy remarks and what they might think of me. I am not that person, but I had to put myself first. If you have a gut feeling you have to follow it, and I did. I don't regret it, but ofcourse it means I can never go back there again. I have burnt that bridge, and if anyone person from that office talks to a potential employer of mine, I will be in trouble.

It is a risk worth taking, though. So I guess the moral here is not to take a placement unless you are truly "feeling it" but if an internship disappoints you, don't feel scared to do the same to them.
Internships are like relationships, sometimes you just have to be the one to call it off.

What I do regret, though is my awkwardness about it. I was frightened they wouldn't let me leave. I felt that it was too late to say anything and that my next opportunity would pass me by. I literally just slipped away without a word. I offered to finish the work I had started at home, and I apologised hoping I would be understood, but I never heard from them again. I didn't get paid either. But maybe I deserve that.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Tea Time: A follow up

Just one to get off my chest, but when speaking to a friend who has just embarked on the placement adventure she was complaining how boring it was, and that she was given nothing to do.

Having spent a year saving up for the wonderful opportunity of working with London's finest design agencies, I felt so disappointed for her. What a waste.

Instead, her supervisor barked at her to make the tea round - she happily obliged.

I just want to say to this supervisor (whom I have actually met), that coupled with the disappointing efforts to teach and advise my friend, the audacity to demand tea, would not have been met well with me.

Whatever the reason, to demand an intern to do the tea round is unfair and plainly rude. Espescially on the second day. Absolutely outrageous.

From the Other Side

One of my friends and fellow graduates has just been offered a full-time job. Our celebrations were much of an anti-climax, because she'd been working there for the best part of the year already. Seven or so months on a placement pennies, and she had had enough and demanded a proper wage. In a company, which has clearly seen better days, she is heavily relied upon and has a lot of responsibility. When offered the job her sense of relief was tarnished by the further heavy work load thrust upon her, and the tighter deadlines. With early starts and late nights; she needs a helping hand and was asking me if I knew anyone looking for a placement.

Seeing I was baffled, she began to explain that she could see the benefits of "cheap labour" from the other side. She needs an intern to image search for her all day, so she can get on with the real stuff. I was devastated; the cycle continues - and it all makes perfect sense. Small design agencies don't get paid a great deal, and where staff are heavily relied upon, such that she is, £100 a week is a small price to pay for the weight of work loaded off her.

Interns seek experience and guidance, and small agencies, like my friend's, just want cheap labour to make their lives easier. Whilst it is completely understandable and almost forgiveable, I am devastated that a year as an intern with bottled up resentment and false hope, she has come out of the fire to send someone back in. If you are going to learn anything on an internship, it is not going to come from image searching and making tea. These are two major signs of a dire internship. One where you will be led on with false promises and you should get out of there. If you don't learn anything, it isn't worth the bother, and they certainly don't deserve your efforts for the money they pay you; find an agency that does.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

End of a Job for Life

"It's worth noting another contemporary phenomenon: the end of a job for life. In the precarious world of tomorrow, we are all going to have to learn to find work where we can, to change careers if we need to, and to stay permanently flexible. A basic design education and a set of digital skills form a good grounding for this brave new world,"

Adrian Shaughnessy, How to be a Graphic Designer.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Working 9-5?

"The designer given an internship must use this primarily as a learning opportunity, but also as an unrivalled opportunity to impress," Adrian Shaughnessy, How to be a Graphic Designer.

This is fair enough. An internship in which a designer can showcase their skills by working on a real client brief should be an opportunity seized with every ounce of energy available to them but I can't help but blatantly disagree with the following outlandish statement. "Look for ways to make yourself indispensible...Design is about commitment: if you want to have a nine-to-five existence, get a job in a government tax office." Graphic design studios do offer a 9-5 existence, and the ones that insist on 16 hour days have poor time management and little respect for their staff. Choosing graphic design as a career does not mean I have chosen to design for love over money and it does not mean that I will put my work before my family & friends. Graphic design will not become my life.

Whilst Shaughnessy claims that doing worthwhile placements is likely to get you a job (because that's what they all say) if you become indispensible by being somewhat overly keen to impress and offering to do everything in the studio except offering to spit-shine the creative director's leather brogues. Or perhaps that wouldn't be too far.

Shaughnessy has brought me neatly back to my first ever post as Another Graduate. Tea. I did not and will not ever make tea for colleagues in a studio in which I am working for below minimum wage, in which I am the student. Not that it is beneath me, but I feel that by doing so I will be positioning myself below them; making myself the slave. I would turn an otherwise potentially healthy learning experience into a placement in which I am being taken advantage of; in which I am not getting the best out of the situation.

After all Shaughnessy notes:

"All experience is good experience but nobody should be exploited. Last time I looked, slavery had been abolished in most parts of the world; one or two studio bosses need to be reminded of this."

At the end of the day, this is a career path, and to some small extent, a lifestyle choice but I will not bend over backwards to please studios that shamelessly take advantage of graduate designers desperate for a career break. Sure I'll play the game, but I won't make the tea not for £2.50 an hour.


"Working alongside...sophisticated and articulate designers who have found their own voice...can be intimidating. Some young designers never get over the shock of working next to experienced designers and retreat into self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy" 

Adrian Shaugnessy, How to be a Graphic Designer... (2010)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Freelance Doubts

Becoming a Junior Designer was my aim; my finish line, but I am not finished yet. I had my first week as a Freelance Junior Designer and it was something of an eye-opener. Proper money and a genuine design brief meant that the pressure was on from the start.

After showing my week’s work at the end of week catch-up, I was met with awe and praise, but I am always uncertain as to its sincerity. Surely if they had liked my work, they’d have invited me back soon to help with the same brief. Perhaps the praise was more that I had out-performed their expectations, (it being my first year out of University had been mentioned several times in the studio that week) rather than come up with some ground breaking ideas.

It didn’t go unnoticed to me that I was the only designer under 30 years old on the team; perhaps they had had bad experiences with juniors before. I was their wild card. I just hope that I did well. You can never really tell, like I say you never really know to what extent people are being genuine, especially if you barely know them, and you are unlikely to see them again.

I feel like I have made a gamble and lost. I have taken to jump into becoming Freelance, but with little work on the horizon, I am unsure whether I should take a step back and find alternative placements or whether I should now solely sell myself as freelance. I am lost and without guidance. With rent to pay, deposits to save for and increasing pressure from once-proud parents, I cannot afford spells of unemployment and I need to think of something fast.

I thought becoming a Junior designer was my goal, but it turns out it’s just one more hurdle in the everlasting obstacle course of graduate life. I yearn for a simple solution, a regular wage and a normal, life. Perhaps I have just chosen the wrong career.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Going it Alone

If you had asked me a year ago, when I was handing in my final work and putting up my degree show what I wanted to do next I would not have said freelance. I wanted a secure job where I could go to the same desk at the same office with the same people, Monday-Friday, 9-5. I wanted security and when you are young and new to design, you want to be looked after too, so freelance, where you are with different people every few days, in varying offices all over London, doesn't feel like the designer upbringing I had hoped for.

Despite this, I have found myself thrown into the pit of freelance, having to fend for myself. Thanks to the recruitment agency, I am finally being taken seriously and paid for it. I am finally a junior designer with one freelance client, but with sporadic work and last minute bookings I don't have the security that I longed for. However, it is a such a relief. Regardless of whether it is a proper job or not, my confidence has rocketed. I am no longer considered to be learning, or a student and I have gained the respect I have been wanting to receive since graduation.

Being a freelancer for the week, rather than a placement was a culture shock. Whilst I was given mostly the same tasks to do, I felt more confident in putting my ideas across and contributing to the task with the other designers. I felt like they would listen to me and consider my opinions. More importantly, though, I felt the pressure and by the end of the week (three-day week might I add) I was exhausted. My mind was burnt out. I found I was working harder; I wanted to earn my day rate.

Whilst I have made this crucial jump from placements to freelance work, I am still struggling financially because to begin with it is unlikely I will be inundated with requests for my services, yet I am positive. It is Sunday and I don't know if I am working tomorrow, or not and I certainly don't know if I am wanted back at the office I was at last week, but the point is I have made the step, I have taken the jump and now it is time to see if I will land on my feet.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Recruitment Agencies

With a year's experience under my belt and the new graduates soon to be released onto London's creative scene, I have been keen to apply for as many jobs as possible. With my sources for employment opportunities being mostly Design Week, Creative Review, The Guardian and other design blogs, I have found that inevitably, junior positions are often applied for through an agency. 

Last week I had my interview, or "portfolio review"with an agency, which I found really useful. Not only did it force me to pad out my portfolio with some industry work, but allowed me to gain another's view on it: someone with experience of employing juniors in this industry. She had an overview that whilst there weren't many junior positions around at the moment, there would be more soon and with a year's experience, she ensure me that it will not be long before I get "snapped up". 

Whilst she maintained she didn't often see people of my experience, as perhaps I am premature in my application, she highlighted what was good about my work and what it said to her about me. In going to an agency it is important to show what you want to do and have a portfolio that reflects you, as they will ideally try and find a place that suits you. 

As a consultant, she will send out my work to prospective agencies just to get a reaction, see if there is any work, and as an application for any junior positions that she sees my work fit for. She said, too she had a few agencies in mind when she saw my work, so I could target my cv-sending to agencies that would suit my work. It is I guess, like having an extra pair of hands to help with your applications, providing, ofcourse, she does what she says she will. 

I am new to the idea of recruitment agencies, but whilst I am a little sceptical, I am positive. It was nice to have a different perspective on the whole employment situation, with someone who I trust has some idea of what they are talking about. She also valued me as a freelance at the competitive rate of £80-£100 a day, which is a good deal more than what I am getting paid at the moment. Bargain, I'd say: let's see what she can do. 

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Real Graduate Catch Up

As design degree deadlines loom upon us, I expect soon-to-be graduates to look to their superiors in search of guidance. As a respected, regularly updated and simply, cool, design blog, It's Nice That is a popular source of graduate wisdom with its annual features showcasing the best of the year's graduates.  Whilst it is not the only example, I am focusing on it having known a handful of the selected graduates personally.

A selection of talented graduates are chosen from readers' submissions, showing a healthy cross-section of the creative industry with illustration, film, advertising, photography and visual communication. With the rising popularity of this blog the coverage a graduate can receive can be life changing with a feature on each graduate and a popular exhibition in which high-ranking design industry creatives attend.

For a soon-to-be graduate, I can imagine the Graduate Catch-Up featured each year can be either incredibly inspiring or intimidating reading. Each graduate recounts their year since graduating with endless freelance opportunities and widespread commissions, with not a mention of unpaid work, government help or persistent rejection. The Catch-Up gives a rose-tinted view into the lives of 12 talented individuals after graduation. Here is why you should not be intimidated:

Firstly, they are talented individuals, who are likely to have in addition to being selected and showcased, won competitions or gained alot of interest from their degree show. Not all graduates will be this talented and therefore won't have as much success. What the Catch-Up shows is what they consider to be the elite and so are already in effect successful.

With the coverage that The Graduates of It's Nice That recieve, it is unlikely that talented creatives could fail. After all the post-degree show hype has settled, they will still be reeping the benefits with offers of jobs or freelance opportunities, whilst the rest of the year's graduates have to source out their own.

Whilst many doors are opened with media coverage, it is up to the individual to act upon those opportunities before they go stale. Not all of the graduates had successes, whether or not this is highlighted in the Catch-Up. After all, each graduate will be shown in the best light and so rejections and lazy days at the dole office won't be brought up. It could be said that receiving such widespread attention from the design industry can be a blessing and a curse. Expectations are high as we read the Catch-Up and so the pressure is on to impress the readership further with positivity and hope, if not simply a success story. In a way the attention can make you lazy. Expecting the opportunities to come to you may mean less effort is made to create your own successes. The blog attention could also mean a premature ego boost, in which you feel you are too good for work experience or placements and perceive yourself as industry ready. The arrogance fueled by competition winning, high grades or positive attention can damage others' perceptions of you as you become too big for your designer high-tops. 

I urge soon-to-be graduates to read success stories but with the knowledge that embarking on a design career is not all roses and there will be times when you are pushed down repeatedly. I had a rose-tinted view of the future and I wish I had been prepared for the reality. As AnotherGraduate, I can prepare you for that.

Monday, 14 May 2012


Whilst interning you are essentially self-employed. You liaise with agencies to arrange time with them in which you will be either on placement or freelance, depending on your experience. You arrange how much you will be paid and what will be expected of you: your working hours, lunches, potential for future employment.

It is important that every one knows where they stand.

Everybody needs to know where their next meal is coming from and so it is essential that things are booked a little bit in advance. This varies between people. For me, I like to be a placement ahead. I go to a placement knowing where I will be in the next one. After a while this becomes a luxury, but it is the ideal, espescially when they are short.

For agencies, it is wise to book a few months ahead, students can be fickle and unreliable, dropping opportunities for better ones. I am certain they all have a pool of graduates where they go to in emergencies.

For one agency I was certain I become the "fall-back".

I was only ever given vague timings of placement opportunities, confirmation would never materialise and I would book something else. Opportunities were missed repeatedly. With their funny mid-month timings and insistance on a four-week stint I assumed they had found someone better each time. I felt like I was their back up- so they were mine.

Simply, I felt disrespected. I wasn't treated like a colleague. I was treated like a student desperate to work with them. Unfortunately for them, I am not foolish enough to think they'd offer me a job and i was not willing to let other people down last minute for them. The brutal truth is graduate placements are not important and often overlooked and so is their communication. Not being a priority doesn't mean you shouldn't demand respect.

I never got to go on this placement because of poor communication and bad management and through no fault of my own. In the final confirmation of cancellation from them, they blamed me for misreading emails when it was clearly too little communication, too late. I have learnt from this experience the importance of following up emails with phone calls. After all, talking to someone over the phone is more likely to get you a clear answer, without waiting days in between messages and forgetting to respond.

I wanted to tell them that they had disrespected me and that I would never consider working for them again. Despite their design work's reputation, their liaising with potential colleagues is abysmal. I felt like I was just another graduate, which is exactly how I shouldn't feel. Instead of telling them this ofcourse, I bit my lip and thanked them for the opportunity.

Monday, 30 April 2012

Nothing Special

I started a placement a few months ago at an agency I had never heard of and despite their 'legacy' they produce fairly standard work, which you probably would never have seen. After three solid days on image-search errands, I was convinced I would walk out. The pay was awful and I realised with the maount I spent on travel I would be financially better off on the dole, but I did stay.

Two months later and I was in love with the place. When I tell people about the internship I say it was nothing special, which is exactly why it struck a chord with me. The standard of work was something I could match and beat, my colleagues were fun and didn't take it all too seriously and work that I did will be printed, which other than a few price flashes and minor tweaks, is a first for me.

I was needed and appreciated. If you have done a few placements you will know that finding a studio with people you get on with and work within in your batting range is a rarity. It is somewhere I could see myself working; happily. It is a shame I had to leave because of other commitments, but hopefully I could go back.

I think what I really liked about it was that every one made their own tea, and didn't make a fuss about it or offer any one else tea. I drank tea all day and didn't feel guilty or pressured into making others; the perfect placement?

Catching Up

This week I have returned to a placement. It was a rare Monday where I didn't dread walking into the studio.

Returning to a placement is nice because you know what to expect of them, and they know what to expect of you. Simply feeling comfortable around your temporary colleagues and knowing your place within the environment is so important to feeling at home and usually it can take a few weeks to get settled, (if you are even still there by then). It is a situation, which many take for granted, and yet sometimes, aside from a good wage, this is all an intern really wants; to feel at home.

When offered to come back to a placement I was honoured. Convinced I had done a good job  knowing I had sufficiently impressed this particular agency, I practically jumped at the chance to return. It has take me eight placements to get to this stage and being an agency I admire I etched the dates in my diary.

Trouble is, by booking ahead to go back to a placement, I worry that I have prevented the organic developments of potential employment from blossoming. After all I am going back to an agency I know wouldn't offer me a job, atleast not a permanent well paid job. Maybe I could stay, but not on these wages.

I often get the impression that at some placements you could stay forever (if you could afford to).  Pure laziness on the agency's part means that it is easier to get you back in again, or keep you on. They can't be bothered to find another graduate and after all they know you can do the job and they get on with you so why not ask you to stay. Legal issues prevent people from paying below minimum wage for more than four consecutive weeks, but after bringing that up with another placement, who I worked with for two months, I am certain they couldn't care less.

I wish there was more legal help or guidance, with pay in particular. If my only threat to an agency that underpays me is that I will leave, how will they ever learn if another graduate replaces me easily enough.

Agencies take advantage of the fact that you are desperate for a job and like me now, simply too tired to keep bouncing from one office desk to the next. I know I am worth more than what I am paid and I will not settle at an agency until they agree with me.

It could take me a while.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

So Much Left to Learn

Butcher's Hook is a design studio in London's Portobello formed by soon-to-be graduates of Kingston University and LCC in response to a D&AD brief in which students are encouraged to Make Their Mark
It was featured on Creative Review's blog this morning.

By providing 'design for the local community' with a pledge to spend at least 10% of their time working on community projects, the students have started their own design agency and they haven't even left college yet.

Whilst Creative Review seem impressed by the students' ambitious move away from the computer screen to find their own work, it is clear these graduates haven't ventured into industry yet. Whilst I am happy to celebrate the initiative and drive that these students clearly have and I do not deny their talent and bravery, I am rather cynical of its potential. With 6 months experience, I am struggling to find a job in London and, like many graduates, have considered setting out on my own. What has prevented me from doing anything more than mildly pondering over the thought, is my lack of knowledge and experience. 

Working on your own, or in a small team requires flawless Mac skills, impeccable design skills and not to mention bravery and confidence. It is also worth considering that client liaison skills can not be forged over night and the time and attention this occupies should not be underestimated. I once worked with an agency that was not much more than a year old and I didn't see them design anything all week. The agency was made up of just the two of them, and whilst their work is impressive and their client list respectable, they spent almost the entire day liaising with clients, organising the next week's schedule and discussing production. Whilst I have nothing good in terms of design to show from that placement, I can't deny I came out much more knowledgeable and more certain that I wasn't ready for that yet. The two of them had at least 8 years experience from a top London design agency, which not only prepared them for production and project management alongside design, but no doubt aided their client list too.

For me, The Butcher's Hook epitomises what is wrong with graduates. University teaches ideas, a little in the way of typographic principle and basic Adobe operation skills. Most importantly, university teaches arrogance. It wasn't until I started my first placement, I realised how little I actually knew. Idealistic tutors cherish the students' naivete and love for design, and keep from them what the reality is like. My biggest fear about starting out on my own would be the lack of good projects, which is something well-established agencies can provide you with. On your own, a new and unreliable studio, you lack the knowledge and experience that can get you good clients with impressive budgets. Low budget work can be dull to design and the project management and client liaison can become stressful. Designing on a budget is harder. Students only design ideas and don't often have to worry about the production costs and client needs. I would be interested to see what local community work these graduates get at Butcher's Hook, and whether they have the stamina and love for design to keep it going. I wish them good luck, but wouldn't encourage other graduates to do the same. Never underestimate how much you have left to learn. 

Monday, 2 April 2012

Reality Check

It was my second visit to the Job Centre today.

Whilst I am a little worried that they might try and find me work as a sales assistant rather than a graphic designer, I have been pleased with how productive it has made me. I noticed that, when my advisor pulled two job options out of his database, that perhaps I have been too fussy. I've been wandering along going from placement to placement in the city's leading design agencies hoping they will offer me a job; but why would they if they have a queue of graduates better than me? Normally, I just slave away all day on placement and when they don't ask me to stay I am dissappointed, walking away with only an a3 sheet of work. From most placements I have nothing to show at all.

Today however, after my visit to the Job Centre, I spent my afternoon applying for jobs. It sounds ridiculous now, but I hadn't been applying for jobs and yet I was waiting for one to come and land in my lap. Admittedly, the whole Job Seeker's situation does worry me. I hate the constant threat of having to look for work that they suggest, espescially when I'm just sat there thinking, God no, not there. I have been doing placements mostly with agencies whose work I love and I really respect but when I get a job, it might not necessarily be the case that I enjoy every minute; but atleast I will be paid.

I would love to just wander around London's top agencies volunteering my services, just so I can look at inspiring design and be surrounded by talented designers. But the likelihood is this will not be my destiny; I can not be fussy about where I work. Espescially with the Job Centre on my case.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Asking for help.

As a new graduate, I am beginning life standing on my own two feet. Unusually, I have little help from my parents in the way of finances, but I don't mind this. In fact I take pride in the fact that I can do this by myself; I am independent.

Recently, however, after an expensive Christmas, several friends' birthdays, a belated lavish graduation and several poorly paid placements, I have been forced to ask for help; I have signed on.

I have known for a while that underpaid placements can be topped up a little with help from Jobseeker's Allowance. By doing work experience you are continually striving to get a full-time job. Yet, pride has stopped me from signing on. I had more readily taken on a weekend job, as well as casual catering work and poorly paid freelance, before admitting that financially, I am in dire straits and I need help. Having made that first step, I feel silly for feeling too proud to do it sooner, but I'm not exactly thrilled about it either.

The Job Centre is one of the most depressing places on earth. It is filled with people who have lost their jobs, or never had one; who consequently have low self esteem and little ambition. The staff are slow and assume you are undeserving; probably laughing inside at my insistence at getting a job related to my degree. Atleast I have a degree, I guess.

In order to receive Job Seeker's allowance, I have to attend an interview every two weeks, to ensure that I am looking for work. Going to interviews whilst on placement is something I have always avoided, and I think it is because I would have to tell someone (usually the creative director) where I was going for an "interview" in order to get the time off, I have been too ashamed to sign on. My family depend on government help and I resent that their lack of financial stability has had an effect on me. But at the end of the day, if the help is there, you should take it.

Going to interviews every two weeks is also a sure-fire way to give your current placement the impression that you are unreliable and not taking it seriously. I don't even go to the doctors during the week to avoid asking for time off, let alone attend an interview in order to get £60 a week. At a time when you are trying to impress, it seems that Job Seeker's only hinders any progress you might make in a placement; you're definately not going to shine when you're asking for time off every other week. My bank statement has convinced me though, that it no longer matters what people think about me. As long as I do work hard, I am entitled to wander off for a morning to make sure I can pay for the roof over my head. After all if they didn't want me to take the time off, all the have to do is pay me that little bit more (minimum wage), which is nothing to them.

However, having a fortnightly interview with an advisor whom will help me search for a job, could be a positive thing. Instead of wandering along from placement to placement I am now urged to apply for 'a real job'. Instead of waiting for the job to come to me, I am going out there to get it. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

White Lies

For a graduate, experience at relevant agencies can really distinguish you from others, espescially for placements and for junior design positions, I have noticed a strong trend for those needing graduates with 1-2 years experience.

When a friend recently told me that after being on the dole since graduation with sporadic and short placements over the Summer, he was giving up and going to work a bar job until july, when he'll start looking for graphic design jobs again, I was a little lost. By then, he assumes that he will have enough experience to get a job, without actually doing any internships. This, I assume, is because he's planning some little white lies on his cv. Perhaps sporadic placements between August 2011 and August 2012 can just be rephrased as "I have been on placements solidly since graduation" and with an adequate list of good agencies to hand, who would doubt such a confident answer.

Obviously, with a lack of experience all will become clear if he does get a job, that perhaps he does know little about agencies and has less design experience. But essentially names on a CV: it's all words and no substance. So what if you've been at Pearlfisher, where's your work?

His admission has really spurred me on to find work that I have stolen from agencies and find out if I can tweak it or use it. Without evidence of placements showing myself blossoming into a young professional designer, I may as well have been behind a bar for the last 8 months and not be wallowing in debt. This is why short placements that give you nothing but cutting out to do and errands to run make me angry. It is so important that you get something physcially from the placement, or atleast make something they did your own, because without proof, you have nothing.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Know your Place

Knowing your place in an agency is hard. Each agency is different with different hierarchies and systems. It often takes the first week just to figure out what role everyone plays. Your own role, as an intern is submissive, you get told what to do. But I have been at agencies where I have had to bite my lip.

Working in the industry you are working with people who are supposedly much more experienced than you and much more knowledgable and so I often assume that by the time I get something, for example a board for a presentation, to mount, that everything has been checked. This was I figured out after 10 A1 mounted boards found their way to the bin, wrong to assume. After a week at this particular agency I decided that rather than remounting everything after mistakes had been spotted, to have a look for them myself. Whilst I don't want to seem like a know it all, I also don't want to waste my time and energy assuming that they have done their job properly.

As an intern, I usually find myself sitting in on briefings in projects I will be helping out on rather than being briefed myself. In this case, you are sitting in on the ongoing discussions about the work, watching it progress. I was at one agency, where I felt like they were using me as a person who prints and cuts, and goes to Sainsbury's rather than to my full potential, and so it angered me when I could see a project I was briefly helping on, going wrong. I had to bite my lip in case I told the account handler what I really thought of her attempts at copy-writing, and nodded non-commitally.

In highlighting problems that have been missed due to computer error, or because it had been rushed and everyone is busy is acceptable because you are highlighting in order to save time for everyone and it has clearly been a mistake. I found that I was being heralded as having an eye for detail and perhaps I will be remembered for that, rather than for being dim enough to let obvious mistakes run through the plotter wasting time and money, (despite it not being my fault they were there in the first place).

When it comes to creativity, I find, it is best to keep my mouth shut. With a room full of people more eperienced than you, you can rarely criticise. I find it is best to word every thing positively so as to not make it seem like I am arrogant or think I am better than them. I am yet to find an agency that actually takes on board any suggestions I have anyway.

After all, what do I know, I am only an intern.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Being in an office 9-5 all week, makes Friday a cause for celebration. I have been to many agencies that have some sort of Friday Tradition.

One agency had an office picnic affair where everyone bought in food and we shared it. It was lovely to share and eat together, espescially when most of the week lunch times were skipped, or rushed, eating poised above your keyboard. However, I felt alot of pressure to bring in something really nice, yet I didn't have the money and after presenting my shop bought cake (which cost me a fortune), I realised it was no where near the calibre of what everyone else had bought; homebaked flans and cakes, shop bought produce from the likes of M&S, Paul and an Italian Deli... Rather than making me feel included it made me feel inadequate. I took three-quarters of my cake home and ate it alone. My cake wasn't good enough for them and neither was I.

Another agency were more inclusive with a voucher-fuelled trip to a popular burger chain restaurant in which I felt more included and not too guilty. If I am invited out to eat at lunch, I often ignore the mundane sandwiches in my bag and grab my coat, but if an agency is a little more on the flush side, or my colleagues for the week are used to the finer things in life, then I have to decline.

A friend of mine is always insistent that you should do everything with everyone, so as to be as social as possible and get every opportunity to make friends with your short-term colleagues. I agree in that I always feel more confident and included in an agency where I have gone out for after work drinks or food but with a limited overdraft and placement opportunities dwindling I can not physically reach for my money. I think I have lost hope that these small gestures will eventually get me a job. A few drinks here and there is a small price to pay for an agency to like and appreciate having you around and want you to stay longer, but on the wages they are paying you, you can barely afford to eat at all.

Money troubles leave me with a dilemma everytime I am invited out by an agency and to be honest I base my decision on how nice they are to me and whether or not I actually want to go for a drink with them, rather than whether I think it will get me anywhere or not. After all you don't want to be sat around a table with the creative director you don't like at a placement you hate because after a few drinks, you might tell them what you really think.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Last Days

Each Placement has a last day. Sometimes they are sad, because you're just settling in and getting to know everyone and then you have to leave. Sometimes they can't come soon enough.

Interns are expected to give gifts as a way of saying thank you to their resident design agency. Sweets, cakes or pastries, are well respected gifts. Other examples I have heard of are drawings, customised tea towels and plants; the latter I am assuming was some last ditch attempt to make the agency remember her well after the placement was over. As if a creative director will be looking over to the plant when wandering who to call up for a junior position. Seems a little desperate to me.

I find the whole ritual a little strange because, espescially if you are working for them for free, it is more of an opportunity in which you would expect them to say thank you to you, but never mind. Of all my placements I have rarely given a gift. I'll be honest, sometimes I think it is plain not deserved. After all, my pennies are precious and I am not going to fork out on presents for an agency who has pretty much trodden all over me for 4 weeks.

However, if you have had a good time and you do want them to think you are a nice person, it is a good idea to leave a little something behind. For me, chocolate usually does the trick and atleast you get to enjoy it too.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Times are Hard

This economic recession isn't doing any favours for any graduate anywhere, but I hadn't really noticed it's effect on the design industry until recently.

Previously, I had thought that design agencies would be in high demand due to companies that are struggling needing rebranding, new packaging or some sort of promotional boost whether it be in-store or online. Graphic designers are useful at boosting sales, so we are useful in the recession. Turns out alot of agencies are struggling and these are the ones who can find little work themselves. These agencies couldn't afford to take on an intern with no work to offer them; that's fair enough.

The Big Ones are worried. Even the agencies where work flow is high and the money is rolling in don't think it wise to take on a junior, and some Big Ones (not all) don't pay graduates either (after all it is a privelage to be asked there.)

Junior designers are a massive risk. They might not know Adobe well enough, they won't execute anything to the standard of a Mid-weight and certainly couldn't do it as fast. If anything it's like raising a child. It is not unheard of either to lose a newly obtained Junior Designer post because the company realises that it has taken too big a risk. Even if you did prove yourself, there's always going to be a designer that has more experience and is faster than you.

I think it is a crying shame that finances affect creativity like this. Companies, in order to make the most out of their design team, need to do things fast and well, and a Junior isn't ready for that yet. Despite the all important supposed youth and energy that we are meant to bring into the design process. Who needs New Blood anyway. We're not good enough yet. Besides, at this rate I'm not even going to be able to bring youth and energy to the table.

Monday, 6 February 2012

The Student

We have many names; the intern, graduate, placement but one I find derogatory: student. Interns are all of different levels and personalities but if we all have one thing in common it is that we are not students; we are graduates. 

I did not pay to go to university for three hard years to walk into the working world as a student. When do we not become a student? Junior designer for me is a long way off, and granted I am still learning but I am not a student; a student is someone still studying at a school. By calling me a student you are making me directly comparable to a first or second-year, and often people assume I am still at school. Pure ignorance allows people to think you walk into a job straight away and I find this really frustrating when it comes from the industry itself. 

I guess one of the reasons I am writing this blog is to show people how it isn't always easy. At College, the ex-students that come in to talk to you are the successful ones. They are the ones that the tutors have remembered and were probably the ones that did well at college anyway, so if you are mediocre or forgettable, like myself, these are the wrong people to take advice from. It is rare that people who find it hard to succeed are the ones to give advice, but it is valuable. It is the testing things you need to know about, not the happily ever after. Not yet anyway. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Keeping Linked-In

London is a small place and I often find myself avoiding eye contact with an old class mate on the opposite platform. Bumping in to old classmates is an opportunity to see what every one else is up to. Eeveryone is Oh so interested in what agency you are with, they are even more interested in telling you how much they are earning and how easily they got their job/placement. 

Social networking sites and linked-in are bad enough at rubbing in your face that others have a job, despite you thinking the you are better than them at College. If university taught me one thing and one thing only it was arrogance. I thought I was up there. I was better than the rest, I could have thought of that idea, could have done designed that better, could get that job or that placement. I thought I would atleast get a yellow pencil! 

Being given the chance to prove that I am better than the fifty or so others, however, I am not doing so well. 

There is nothing worse for my self confidence than hearing of the successes of others. Espescially since I consider most of the agencies taken over by my classmates as now out of bounds. Which is a shame, because they are some really good agencies. (Damn them.)

Well, atleast that's one more stamp saved. 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Black Listed.

The creative industry is like a small country village, where every one knows every one else. Graphic designers, illustrators, photographers & advertisers all went to College together, they had the same teachers, the same friends; they go drinking together. 

Espescially in the case of working in London; you have to be careful. 

At design agencies I am always on my best behaviour, because I am conscious that I want people to like me, or atleast not dislike me. An internship is kind of like a really long and horrendous interview, and you wouldn't say anything to annoy an interviewer, would you? 

A friend of mine took advantage of a design agency and I fear he will regret it greatly. After arranging at short notice and short-term placement, because another agency let him down, he turned up late, had an extended lunch break and after two days announced he wouldn't be there for the rest of the week because he was heading home for a few days; family holiday. The agency had to sack him; they 'employ' alot of people from the same universities (and we all know eachother) so to set an example they had to be firm. My main fear though, is that his name will now be blacklisted among the design world. His name will go around like a dirty chinese whisper, and finding further placements will become hard. My friend has also set a poor example to the agency for students from our course, which is dissappointing. 

Ofcourse, small-village gossip can be good for getting placements. Many agencies I have been to are more interested in where you have been, than what you have done, and I am fairly certain they just give their friend at that agency a call to see if you're worth the bother. As long as you work hard and be nice to people, (as championed by Anthony Burrill) you will be fine. 

Networking is also very key to cracking this industry and it is not something I am very good at. I have been told that it is a good idea to leave every placement with atleast two contacts. I have another friend who goes around the office in the last week of her placements and gets email addresses from anyone that will give her one. This has enabled her to get into some of the top agencies in London. She has her heart set on getting a placement at one particular agency and I think by doing this, she could very well get it. 

Monday, 30 January 2012

First Days.

For me the first day is always the worst.

My first challenge is arriving on time (should London transport permit) without getting lost. I often get confused between agencies in the same area and not realise I am going the wrong way from the station, until it's too late.

First impression: this is an intern who clearly has no sense of direction, looks flustered after walking for ten minutes in the cold, and clearly isn't suited to Mondays (which I am not). First impressions are so important, yet being a person who takes a while to warm to others, and whom people often don't understand at first, I rarely feel at home until about 3 weeks in, that's if I'm lucky enough to be on an internship that lasts that long.

I then spend the rest of my day familiarising myself with the all too familiar Shared Server, which for every agency is different and yet startlingly the same; it's hard the remember the differences when you're rushing to save a document. With designers being so anal, you know they'll despise you if you leave it on the desktop, or put the job number in wrong. I am yet to be confronted about this though, so perhaps this is one of my talents.

On a serious note, though, the first day is hard because it is a reminder that I am unsettled.

I haven't found my design home yet. In a few weeks, I'll be at another agency and then palmed off onto another after that. I don't belong anywhere. The only career I can think to compare it to is that of a whore. Although her moments of contact with people are more passionate and intense than that of an intern's.

It is nice to meet so many new people and I do love a good chat, but you know that they won't remember you and the likelihood is this relationship won't last longer than the placement itself. It accentuates one of the sad facts of life; that most of the people you meet are just passing acquaintances and you probably won't see them again.

With internships, by not being asked to stay on, it feels like a form of rejection. You have had your few weeks (or days!) to prove yourself and you haven't, so... onto the next one. With many agencies churning out interns like tinned beans from a factory, you don't feel that important. Each rejection knocks away at your self confidence and will continue doing so until an agency wants to keep you. Until then, it's back on the shelf.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Home Time

Every placement I have been on has been very clear about the working hours. Usually it's 9-6, with an hour for lunch, to something to that effect. I rarely see a lunch break and certainly not one for an hour. Most of the studios I have been to sustain themselves on a liquid lunch poised in front of their Mac.

At the end of the day, it is always really awkward leaving. Home time comes and goes, and the entire studio continues working; tight deadlines or just a preference to avoid the commuter rush lead to late nights for most designers and account managers. I always find myself leaving a customary 15 minutes later than home-time, even if I haven't got anything left to do, just so that I don't appear eager to leave.

I have heard stories about friends interning, whom have felt obliged to stay up with their studio and work into the early hours of the morning. When I was a student I only did this on maybe two-three occassions, and the time management failure was no fault of my own. I pride myself in being able to do the amount of work in the set amount of time, and so resent that people are seen as more hard working if they stay later. If a studio needed me around until 5am because of some important new business pitch the following morning, I'd question how organised and well prepared the studio actually are. After all, this isn't something they are new to.

At the end of the day, my health and sanity comes before the agency's need to have well mounted presentation boards for a meeting the following morning. As an intern, I have never felt that integral to a project where I have felt that they couldn't possibly do it without me and perhaps it would be nice to feel like that; then I might stay. But as it stands, you'll be lucky to catch me in the studio twenty minutes after home time.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


I have worked for free.

I convinced myself that, when I had nothing else lined up, it was important for me to keep busy and invest my time in something real. I have worked on a few free freelancing projects but one in particular sticks out.

I was once working on a project where a lady was working on a new business venture. She wanted logo and pack designs done for her new beauty products. With a name already decided upon, we worked for days in her kitchen establishing a logo design and how it might work on packaging and other elements. When we came to presenting our ideas to her marketing guru, he looked at what we had done and in response googled the name of the brand and highlighted the first image and said, "well, how about you do something like that?". Perhaps he should have hired google image to design his logo for him then.

They didn't value our work and they didn't value us as designers. By saying that you don't require payment you are saying your work isn't good enough to be paid for and this is a dangerous element to have in someone's mind when they're looking at your work. They don't respect you. When I knew he thought an image search was more productive than my hours spent on designs for that logo, I knew I wasn't being appreciated.

A friend had a similar experience when she had a placement at a major packaging design agency. Because she wasn't being paid, the work she was given reflected that fact. She explained that they almost didn't care what she did because they weren't paying for her to be there. If you are paid, even just a little, they put you on an actual project that a client will see, your efforts are valued.

In addition to this, I recently took advice from a freelancer at an agency I was interning with, that you should never do mates rates. You should either do work for friends for free or for full rate, (whatever that is as an intern). By working for free, you can do it in your own time, at your own pace and they are grateful for your efforts. By charging them, they almost feel they can get more out of you than if you did it for free and may demand you spend more time on it, etc. With other commitments likely to overshadow this work, I decided that I would do it for free - espescially if it is only your Mac skills they really want.

I am happy to do work for friends for free, but where agencies are concerned, I am not a charity and if you're making money on the work that I do; then I should too. If you don't value your own work, then who will?

Friday, 27 January 2012

For Love or Money?

Interning and money are not mutually exclusive. Contrary to popular belief, many internships are paid (albeit not much, but paid nonetheless). But life without some payment is hard. London travel isn't cheap and living in London can be a huge expense if you're not cheeky enough to be claiming housing benefit alongside your placements.

As a graduate, you are a skilled worker, you have learnt (although, not mastered) a trade and you expect to be paid atleast minimum wage. If I knew I was going to spend a year on £150 a week, with weeks of unemployment in between placements, spending my days counting pennies, I'd have probably gone to work in retail after school and not bothered with university at all. Where is the motivation to rack up a huge debt, with little gain?

A friend once said to me all I cared about was money, but this isn't true. I intern becaue I have a passion for design but money issues keep me awake at night. I'm not looking for sympathy, I know that there are many other people in my position, but this is why it is of importance. Money will be the reason that I could fail and I don't want that to happen. Money has already dictated too many events in my life; I want to control this.

I have noticed that people that succeed in the design industry are likely to be those that can intern for free for the longest. My need for money can almost be mistaken as a lack of enthusiasm. I can only stay at an unpaid placement for one week. Someone who is getting financial help will be able to stay longer, and this is mistaken as being more enthusiastic and impresses creative directors and company managers. For me, money overides my passion. I could want to stay somewhere in the hope that a job will become available in the next few months, but it is a financial risk I am not able to take.

Money is an issue that will keep me on my toes for my whole life, but I did do a degree in graphic design in order to, one day, be able to keep my head above water. I want a town house in Richmond, with a big garden, I want holidays abroad, I want things for my children I never had when I was growing up. I am patient, however, and trust that I am doing the right things in order to build my (financially stable) future.  It just takes time, and ofcourse, money.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

I've Lost My Design Libido

My portfolio hasn't been changed or been added to since the day it was marked. Working a 6-day week, I have found it impossible to build up enough enthusiasm and energy to pull my pen and sketchbook from my desk drawer and work on self inititiated projects.

Many interns are forced to work additional days at bars, clubs, cafes or shops because they cannot support themselves on the wages of an internship alone and yet interviewers expect you to 'find the time' to add to their portfolio. After an entire week spent in front of a Mac, the last thing you want to do on your day off is design, espescially when you have your food shopping to do!

I wish I had the enthusiasm I had when I was a student. If anything, doing design internships has led to a sharp decrease in my design libido. I used to stay up all night, pen in hand, but now I just roll over and enjoy my sleep. Without interesting projects to work on, I can see that I may soon lose my love for design. But without the time or the energy, how do I keep the passion alive?

Dog Eat Dog

In the summer, graduates descended upon London in their hundreds like a flock of seagulls to an abandoned tray of sauce endrenched chips on the seaside promenade.

With so many graphic designers looking for junior positions and placements at London's design agencies, it is no surprise that it becomes increasingly hard to find a job as positions get filled and graduates get 'snapped up'. To stand out you must have a Unique Selling Point (USP).

When you go for an interview it is often clear that your USP is dependent on your university. You are all the same pedigree; taught the same things and trained the same way. With courses averaging on 100 students each, it is hard to stand out from one another. Your class mates are your competition. You are the same breed, heading for the same agencies.

With opportunities becoming scarcer I have noticed friends, fellow graphic design graduates, and other creative associates have become increasingly more shady about their current placement, how much they're earning and how long they will stay there for. It is impossible to get an email address off of them from a previous placements and similarly I won't give mine away, because they are my competition. If my only USP is my pedigree, then amongst my university's breed, it's dog eat dog. Right now, I feel like a cowering Jack Russell protecting its only half-chewed bone from a mass of blood-thirsty pit bulls.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Wall

Since graduation I have barely been able to scratch my nose in between design placements, part time work and cleaning up after my batchelor housemates. However, with a week of nothing ahead of me, an empty sketchbook that hasn't been opened since the summer of post-graduate optimism and an inbox littered with rejections and "constructive criticism" I have started to question what I am really doing.

I have been running for months and I am exhausted, but it is only now I take a break, I realise that I don't know where I am running to. I have been to design agency after design agency, interview after interview with no idea of what is coming next. I realise that the need for money and paying my rent has been more of a priority for me than my passion for design and desire for self-improvement. I never really thought it would take me this long to find a job, and I am not sure how much longer I can do it for. Taking a step back is important to gain perspective, but now the seeds of self-doubt have been sown, it's going to be hard to rekindle the enthusiasm I once showed for design internships.

Long distance runners know it as "The Wall". Whatever it is for design interns, I have hit it.
I have hit it hard.

Another Graduate

Another graduate is on Twitter.

Along with this blog I will anonymously expose my experiences as just another graphic design intern, struggling to get a job in London.

Follow and recommend me to your fellow graduates and design agencies.
I could be on my way to you next.

I would also be interested to hear your stories via Twitter or e-mail

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


To be an intern is to often be unimportant and overlooked. Where you are positioned within the office is key to how involved you will feel and a slight hint at how the agency wants you to feel. My heart sank when I started a placement where I was sat in the same room as a freelance photographer and the kitchen, with a wall seperating us from the designers. No prizes for guessing what they wanted me to do.

Often studios have a centralised layout, which is nice as everyone can get to know eachother well. It's nice as long as you are in the centre too. My experience has been that outside the circle of designers often lies a few Macs reserved for the temporary; the freelancers and the interns. Facing the wall, away from the rest of the office, it is hard to add your two cents without feeling like you're a nosy parker. It is impossible to make friends and if an account manager doesn't bother you with some pointless errand, you could go a whole day without talking to a soul.

As an intern you yearn to find an agency that will accept you as part of the furniture, but in some agencies you feel like an outsider from the offset. You don't belong. Outcast to the edges you work facing the wall, like a school boy in the naughty corner. You're an intern and that is all you will ever be. One week, Two; a month if you're lucky. Then onto the next one.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Whose Work is it Anyway?

A design intern's role can vary from running minor errands and making tea to tweaking designs but on rare occassions, a design intern is given the opportunity to design; the opportunity to create something from nothing; to research and generate ideas independently for a genuine paying client. When this happens, it is the perfect opportunity to impress, not just this agency but others too. This work will lead to an actual product so you want to keep the evidence. You want proof that you did it and after a good full week working on it, you want to take it home.

Confidentiality agreements state that you will infact be sued and left penniless, having to busk on the Southbank as a caricature artist because no design agency will have you, should you dare tell anyone about their work in progress. Despite this threat, every intern will spend their last day e-mailing main files, linked images and psds to their own e-mail address hoping that no one will notice.

Stealing work is important. A placement is more than just a name on your cv, you want to be able to say; "I did this". You need to be able to show what you can do; your work. Sure I won't show anyone but I want it anyway. After all it is mine.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tea Time?

I don't make tea.

I said this to a friend over coffee. After almost projecting her frothy latte all over my face, she looked at me in shock. Tea making is a right of passage all designers must go through in order to be accepted within a design agency, she claimed. I don't think so.

Tea making is demeaning. It is a process by which you are saying to everyone in that studio (who doesn't already know it) that you are the newbie; you're the student, the learner; you're time isn't worth the same as theirs. You are marking yourself as their slave. This is dramatic, but I find the fact that interns have to work long hours at half minimum wage, just to get by after slaving away at University for four solid and painful years is demeaning enough. They should be making me tea.

I have made a conscious effort not to make tea and sometimes I do worry that it will cost me a permanent job. Tea offering is a way of offering friendship. By declining others (I couldn't possibly accept with no intention of returning the favour) and not setting foot near the studio kitchen for the entirerity of my stint at design agencies, I am preventing the start of conversations, of potential friendships and future employment.

I will not succumb, though. I am stubborn and I insist that it will be my talents as a designer that will win me a job. I will bowl over creative directors with my innovative ideas, rather than my satisfying brew. Unless I am wrong and that tea is the only way to a design studio's heart. If you can guarantee me a job for a cup of tea, then call me Polly. How do you like it, again?