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.