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Employer: How can I help my new graphic designer develop??

Discussion in 'Design Jobs & Employment Forum:' started by farmandpetplace, Feb 3, 2013.

  1. farmandpetplace

    farmandpetplace New Member

    Hi all,

    I have a freshly graduated graphic designer that has been with me for three months, and so far all is going well. However, I'd like to enable him to still develop his skills as a designer, and (as a non-designer) I'd like some ideas as to the best way of doing so?

    We normally encourage books, courses, lectures, conferences etc, but we don't have any design experience, so I'm a little bit unsure what would be appropriate?

    Of course, he has been asked the same question... but as he's just graduated, I thought input from some experienced folks would be of help.

    Any input would be gratefully received!


    - Paul
    p.s. Not sure if this is the appropriate section, forgive me if not.
  2. Paul Murray

    Paul Murray Moderator Staff Member

    What sort of skills are you looking to help him improve? Overall, I think the best thing to do is challenge him. I occasionally get projects come from clients in that scare the shit out of me, but (at the risk of sounding big-headed) I always seem to pull them off in the end. He's got the design skills, now he just needs to learn to apply them in different situations.
    farmandpetplace likes this.
  3. farmandpetplace

    farmandpetplace New Member

    Nothing in particular, I just think it's important to continue to develop throughout your career in any way you can. He was of the opinion that courses and books aren't particularly relevant now that he has graduated, and there aren't any design conferences as such.

    This goes against what I think, but I don't want to insist if he is correct, and there isn't much point?

    Do you have any examples of a project that you think would be a good challenge? Any conferences or books that you could recommend?

    We don't have any design experience in house (as you can probably tell), so forgive my naïvety. And thanks for replying!
  4. astrumdap

    astrumdap New Member

    We've faced the same problem recently though our designer probably needs more help than yours, have just bought this book which was recommended to me which might help yourself as well Know Your Onions: Graphic Design: Drew de Soto: Books and seems interesting so far. Also bought this one though waiting for it to arrive so can't say what it's like. In the end though it does come down to experience and as Paul says you've just got to take on the challenge and learn from it.
  5. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    This situation is why businesses shouldn't employ inexperienced designers as their sole creative. Yes they can do the creative bit BUT with no experienced designers to learn from or to help them develop, they can struggle.

    Why not find a local agency or print firm who employ a few designers and try and get him a couple of days a month shadowing a senior designer or studio manager?

    ARRIVALS Well-Known Member

    Can't argue with this.

    Designers generally learn through doing. So as he's your only designer, he'll be learning whilst working for you. Seems a big risk to me. I'd be worried that he doesn't seem to want to learn in his own time.
  7. Katedesign

    Katedesign Well-Known Member

    If you are expecting him to manage/buy print I would recommend that you ask your local printer nicely if he can go in and not just work with the designer but get some experience and learn from the people at the 'coal-face'. Hearing from a printer/press-operator/machine-minder/plate-maker what they grumble about will help him learn and mean that what he asks for from the printer will be less likely to annoy them.

    We had a design agency who insisted that an A4 solid colour went on the back of Conqueror CX paper. Used to take two weeks to dry... and the client would only give us a few days before it was needed...
  8. Theory Unit

    Theory Unit Member

    Well, I think it's great that you want to provide a development plan for him - not all employers care that much about their staff's professional development, despite the benefits they stand to gain.

    If he's graduated in graphic design then presumably he'll have a good gamut of skills and design knowledge to hand and he'll be embarking on his own research into avenues of design that interest him, extend his knowledge and his skills-base or in which he feels he needs improvement. I think it really has to come from him.

    It also depends on what he is currently designing for you, and if you require any new skills in the future that he doesn't currently possess, like motion graphics perhaps - there are courses available - depends on your business!
  9. bigdave

    bigdave Moderator Staff Member

    Agree with this. It makes a refreshing change that an employer want to help their staff better themselves. Unless of course, this need for development is due to a sudden awareness that he doesn't know quite as much as you'd hoped?..

    This is where problems start. As a new graduate who's not worked professionally along side other experienced designers before, he doesn't know what it is he doesn't know yet so he can't learn it.

    I'm not being awful about graduates getting jobs but I can't imagine there's a single designer who can look back at the work they produced unassisted in their first job and think it's as good as it could have been or is how they'd answer the same brief with a few years experience under their belt.
  10. gammerscreative

    gammerscreative New Member

    I wish my boss took the time to help develop my skills despite he isn't remotely a designer. Your a great boss to think of the people you employ. All I can say is encourage him to experiment when not busy. Take an old brief and get him to work on his own accord, his own ideas, his own way. I also echo Paul Murrays comment! Deep end is good!
  11. Dave L

    Dave L Well-Known Member

    Paul's right that you learn best when challenged to extend your skills (and technical guidance is readily available to anyone with an internet connection) but there's also a lot to be said for belonging to a community of professional designers (even one as informal as GDF) rather than working in isolation.
  12. farmandpetplace

    farmandpetplace New Member

    Thanks for all the feedback guys, it has been a great help.

    It isn't that we're not pleased with his work, or that he is struggling. I just think it's important to continue to develop. Plus he's ambitious, and I hope that by continuing to develop while he's working for us, we can retain him for longer. He has aspirations to move to a city and work with other designers in 2/3 years - which of course is going to help him develop the most, but selfishly doesn't help us. :)

    I think ultimately, he's right. He can learn best by designing and being challenged. But we have agreed a development plan that includes days from home for him to work on his own thing, develop his web design skills (using and working through relevant books (thanks for the recommendations BTW).

    Thanks again for the feedback, and by the way, more employers would be open to putting a plan together like this than you think. I managed to get a £5k course paid for my previous employer rather than a £1k pay increase, all I had to do was ask. You should try it! Just come prepared.
  13. Farmandpetplace - you seem like a really lovely employer and your young designer is lucky to have you.
    I don't have the perfect answer but a very general thing I'd suggest perhaps:

    -setting up a review system every 3 or 6 months.
    - for it make a list of KPI's (Key performance indicators)
    - these can be some from your designer (what he or she wishes to learn/acheive before the next review) and some from yourself the employer and you can discuss whats possible.

    I've heard of some agencies that send staff out for a talk/gallery visit now and then.
    There are also technical goals you could set up like Adobe ACE exams (these are exams in each peice of software).
    Perhaps give your designer a day once a month where you ask him to design anything he wants where he feels it would add value to your company (e.g. a promotional postcard, an animation for youtube etc for advertising the company) its a way of letting his/her imagination go free.

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