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.