Five talented design graduates, five talks, and five very different approaches. Last week, our Graphic Communication BAs got an incredible insight into the range of career paths that might await them when they graduate.
As part of #UoREnhancementWeek, we asked some of our alums to come back to the Department and give 20 minute talks about their experiences since graduation. With such an open brief we knew we’d see a range responses, but the diversity of what the students experienced couldn’t have been more marked. Our speakers covered such a range of visual approaches, client bases, budgets and presentational styles that it was hard to keep up. It was a great reminder that personal expression is at the core of what a designer has to offer, even if most their work is constrained (perhaps quite rightly) by client needs and practical realities.
I found the alumni talks really useful. It was great to see what people are doing now and how they got to where they are.
Sarah Carrington. Part 3 BA Graphic Communication
In offering advice and encouragement to the next generation of designers, the themes that emerged from the day were:
- Hard work and persistence pay off
- Play up a your genuine specialism in typography, it’s not that common in the industry.
- Make the most of the Real Jobs scheme, it’s your USP at interviews
- Think about what kind of specialism, sector, scale and working environment will really bring satisfaction at work (and at home).
Will Hicks spoke about his transition from practising designer (at Penguin, DK and, later, his own firm, Graphicks) to sales director. He’s still passionate about design, but hasn’t touched Adobe software for year. By embracing delegation, playing to the strength of his team and taking on a stream of recent Reading grads, he’s found a balance that keeps his staff satisfied and his clients coming back for more.
Hannah Smith felt like a designer in full swing, relishing the constant revolution in technology that changes both what we design and how we design it. With no meme left untouched, she raced through an introduction to cutting edge UX design overloaded with practical tips (get feedback all the time, ditch Photoshop for Sketch, usepanda.com, mobile first!) and really focussed examples that explored the minutiae and impact of good design (look out for the new checkout at asos.com soon, UI design with an exceptionally clear goal). It felt like a distillation of a whole years’ thinking in one 30 minute chunk. Amazing.
Rob Coomber managed to land his dream job as a wayfinder at Applied immediately after graduating, and he’s stayed there ever since. Rather than showing breadth in terms of graphic style or different kinds of design problem, Rob’s presentation demonstrated the breadth of experiences and scales that a wayfinding designer can enjoy. He’s pounded the rainy streets of the West End for the Legible London project, and sweltered in the heat of Dubai in the summer. In all instances, he’s looking at genuine user-focussed scenarios to identify and solve pinch points for tourists and locals alike. Rob is also an exemplar of the kind of calm, methodical, slightly droll approach that is often needed for success in this field.
Rebecca Kirby works in house as a senior designer for Scott Brownrigg, a large firm of architects. She painted a vivid picture of the kind of challenges that exist in convincing colleagues in a large organisation of the value of good design. By building great relationships and sticking to her guns on typographic detailing, she’s been able to ramp up the value that the firm places on graphic design. Taking on external commissions gives her the variety to counteract the brand consistency that flows through her standard project work (mainly proposals) and reaching out into environmental graphics has helped strengthen a connection with the studio’s architects.
Our final speaker, Tom Derrett , co-founder of daughter.is, stunned the group with a practical demonstration of the notion that a leader is defined by whether or not anyone actually follows them. He tore around the department with students in train, captivating the group with a real heart-on-sleeve tale of what it means to run your own studio, and which sacrifices are actually worth it in the long run (short answer, not your integrity). Tom’s visceral way of presenting ideas is something we remembered from his student days and it was a brilliant lesson in how to command an audience, without hiding behind a PowerPoint. Our course has a real focus on presentation skills these days, but Tom brought something that can’t really be taught. It just needs to be experienced.
Although we happen to be graphic communicators, we are, first and foremost, just communicators. Hearing this group of designers discuss how they found their feet in the industry was inspiring as much for the stories they told as for the work they shared.