Advice for design graduates and young designers

Cliff BoobyerDesign agency Firedog has seen its fair share of interns pass through its studio doors. So how can you stand out and make a lasting impression? Managing Director Clifford Boobyer explains.

1) Be awesome in your approach – you are an expression of your own creative thinking
We get SO many emails with Dear Sir/Madam etc. We even get emails where a bunch of agencies are included in the “To” field. Urrgggggh. Do your research. Choose a selection of agencies that match your ambition and creative desires. Find out the Creative Director’s first name, heck, even their dog’s name. Make your approach highly personal, VERY quirky and very clever.

2) Talent is 20 per cent of the game
Believe it or not, being talented at design is a minute part of the picture. Talent can never work in isolation – we’ve all seen people at the top of their game, and they’re not THAT great. They’ve merely worked out what it takes to succeed. You have to be good with people and you have to be willing to learn.

3) Be nice, be humble…so much of what will set you apart is how much nicer you are than your competitors
We all like to work with laid back, genuine and kind people. Offer to make tea. Clean stuff up. Be useful. The message you’re putting out: “I’m really just happy to be here”. One of our current senior staff started day one by planting out our flower pots with new spring buds. Mental? Perhaps. Memorable? Certainly.

4) Speak up!
You will be remembered more for your attitude than your skills. Be sociable and ask questions. It’s difficult to leave the musty corner of the studio, but it’s vital for making an impression. Get involved in brainstorms and volunteer your thoughts. You’ll get some strange looks but don’t let this deter you. An internship is a test of your abilities and you’ll remain untested if you stay quiet.

5) Be positive and bounce back
Positivity is not only the smile on your face but also how you bounce back and take criticism. Good vibes are contagious and you can become known just by bringing a bit of energy back into a tired creative team. You’re going to get an awful lot of criticism in this business, from often rather unqualified people, so it’s a good idea to develop your Teflon-coating early on.

6) Be proactive
Shadow the big players – take the day’s brief back home and drum up some creative thinking. Great ideas don’t always have to be perfect. Just the fact they exist can spark something new in the team. However, be careful – agency owners are very precious about their own brand identity so expect fallout if you come in with a new agency logo or website.

7) Don’t stop learning
This applies to all designers. Suck up as much software knowledge as you can. Get into animation. Learn how to create in three dimensions. Produce a musical track. Get out there and read books, watch movies. Don’t be too concerned with developing a specialism at this point. Get involved in as many creative avenues as possible. It’s a good way of keeping your mind and your opportunities open. Creatively speaking, if you stop, you die.

8) Get physical
Don’t expect to sell your ideas via words. Paper is the great leveller. No matter how nuts, if you can illustrate your idea, you can most probably make it happen. Never go into a review with one idea – have at least a dozen so we can kill some off and let you have the rest to develop.

9) It’s going to be very hard
Agencies suffer the process of creative pitches. This is where we do our best work for absolutely nothing, then get told we never really mattered. So, get used to the pain. Your experience from university is far from reality – you will need to take the past effort used to deliver a project in three months and squeeze it into three days. You are going to have to tear a lot of stuff up and start again. And no matter how hard you work, someone will still rubbish your precious idea.

10) Have an exit plan
If you have been slogging at placements for a looooong time and you’re not getting any hint of a permanent position AND you’ve followed the above advice – then perhaps this just isn’t the job for you? There are far better ways to be making money if you are currently unhappy and it is not working out. Be brave, cut your ties and move on.

See the full version of this article on the Firedog website.

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