I revisited the BA Graphic Communications course today as a former student, to talk to the current 3rd year class about what I've been up to since graduating. I did the usual rushed ramble through a bunch of projects, but then I thought it would be good to summarise into some key things that I've learned or that have worked for me since I left. Here they are:
It’s about showing that you have a passion, giving people an insight into what motivates you. After an interview or portfolio review, you want to be remembered as ‘the one with the great idea’ or ‘the one with the collection of…’ or whatever magical spark it is that you possess. Take an active interest in what other people are working on, and their ideas. They'll like that, and it's a good opportunity to start some new conversations.
Have a read of Russell Davies 2006 blog 'How to be interesting'.
Don’t offer to make the tea
You have trained for countless years, perfected your portfolio, spent months stalking the studios you dream of working with; When you actually do talk to them about an internship, or maybe even a job, don’t present yourself as anything less than a junior among equals.
Whilst its true that a number of interns are expected to run errands, mount presentation boards and so on, most are still taken on based on their creative talents and the promise of what they may be able to offer when they’re not doing the menial tasks. Make tea, sure, but do it as a valued part of the team. Also, there’s evidence that people’s starting salaries can have a major impact on their longer-term financial situation. So don’t let yours start at ‘tea monkey’ level!
Take a look at Major Players' 2014 Salary Survey.
There’s so much pressure now to make everything as glossy as possible so that it can look good on a tumblr blog somewhere. But I remember how much longer things took to finesse when I was still getting to grips with my software. And often it would turn out that I was just polishing the wrong idea.
Sketching is amazing for blasting out ideas quickly and iteratively - and if you’re clear with it, it can often convey the thinking just as well as the finished product. Make sure you’re fully explored the range of possibilities before dedicating time to the awesome final piece.
Keep your psds tidy
Colour profiles, trapping, bleeds, half-pixels, grid lines, layer names, folder structures. The designer in control of these things is in control of their destiny. Leave a trail of immaculate files behind you and you will be invited back to every place you intern in. Carry it through to any coding or site architecture you do and you'll unwittingly be creating a neat, fast-loading and accessible experience, without even trying!
Have a look at ustwo's Pixel Perfect Precision handbook.
Don’t be afraid of change
The creative career path isn’t really one that you can plan in advance - new opportunities present themselves, or grow out of old ones, seemingly at random. Some of the decisions I’ve taken have been pretty tough and they left me in a few financial tight spots at times, but they’ve turned into new awesome things. I’ve learned a little bit more about what I’m looking for and what I want to do, on nearly every project I’ve worked on. So if opportunities present themselves, or if you’re wondering whether to go and actively look for some, go for it.