Help me plan ahead!


New Member
I am about to start my final year of my Uni course; the majority of it is pretty much do what you want to show what you can do with an end of year show. As I like branding and advertising I am creating a fictional company and creating everything from the logos to future forms of advertising (not necessarily posters etc). If you could help by answering my questions then this would be a great help!

1. I know that when I finish Uni, myself as well as a lot of other students are going to be looking for a job, so I really want to get ahead. Is there anything you can suggest that I do? Should I apply early and just show what work I currently have? (I expect this years work to be some of my best) or should I just wait and concentrate on Uni?!

2. I have been looking at jobs just to see what is out there, and a lot of the companies want you to have had experience; whilst I have had a little bit here and there, working full time at Uni and getting experience is a bit hard to do. Would this really matter or would they see 3 years at Uni as experience? Should I just apply anyway?

3. What would employers expect from someone fresh out of Uni?! Although I know Photoshop and Illustrator pretty well, we haven't been taught things like setting documents up for print, or how to display work or our work flow. Would employers expect to have to educate Junior Designers slightly?

4. I know money isn't the main thing but it is important; how much could I expect to get paid? I have seen jobs which pay pretty low (around £15,000 pa) considering the amount of education I had to go through to get there, whats the average I should be expecting?

5. How much should a portfolio contain? Although I have worked very hard at Uni, I personally think I only have about 10 decent thing which I would include in my portfolio; should I try and make some extra graphics such as re-designed or fictional logos just to show what I can do?!

Sorry if any of these questions seem a bit silly; we have yet to been taught much about what to expect in the real world as of yet, but I am going to be asking my tutors for advise since i personally don't feel confident to go out looking for a job yet!

Hi there!

I've been in your situation myself, and it is very hard to get a foot through the door, but if you really want it then just keep trying! I'll answer based on the experiences of myself and a few people I goes!

1) You can try early, but the majority of jobs advertised tend to be for immediate starts. You could get in touch with studios/companies with a view of just introducing yourself and getting some critique on your work. This could help you get remembered when they are hiring in future. It's never too early to network. Forums like this are a good start. If you don't have an online portfolio, I'd suggest doing that too. I don't have one live at the minute as one is being built for me, but this makes it easier to show your work to potential employers. You can show work that you currently have, but a lot of employers I've had contact with complain that student work is never 'commercially relevant'...i.e, too art-studenty and not real-world. They'll like to see your thought processes, sketches, inspirations, so a sketchbook or too could be worth being paired with your folio.

2) Yes, even junior level jobs say they want a couple of years experience, and this is where a lot of graduates trip up. Basically, they want to know you can do the job. It's not just about the actual design. Its deadlines, working within a budget, knowing how to set artwork to correct files, dealing with other creatives, dealing with clients, etc, etc, etc. Things that could help you with this are simple things such as doing a few freelance projects, getting a couple days here and there with a local printers and learning the ropes and so on...and on....and on!

3) A lot of designers I've come across, have correctly said that the software (i.e. Photoshop) are literally just a tool for the job. They can't make you creative. It's you controlling them. They want to see your creative fresh thinking. A company I once managed to get an interview with, said they weren't bothered about my level of software skills as they could teach me this within a few weeks. What they where concerned about is whether I could come up with new ideas....lots of them!

4) Depends on your location. More down south. Only just though. The majority of junior jobs I've seen tend to be between £12 and £17k... But recently, I've seen a HUGE increase in employers offering these roles as minimum wage....and of course, blaming the current economic crisis.

5) How long is a piece of string? Seriously though, whatever you're comfortable with! Don't put in so much that you'll make the interviewer fall asleep, but not too little, that you don't show off what you can do. Only put in your best bits, and make sure you can actually talk about your work confidently and with passion. My friend got hired not because of her portfolio, but simply becasue she's a good communicator. It just shows that its the whole package that counts, not JUST your portfolio. If you can't find any freelance projects, making a few fictional projects shouldn't be a problem, as long as you state this. Most uni projects are fictional anyway, so I've never understood the fuss around this!

Colleges and universities are notorious for churning out students with absolutely no clue whatsoever what the real world of design is like. I managed to get a couple of placements, and I can confirm that I learnt more in two weeks in a studio than I did in uni over a whole year. Uni give's you between a month and a year to complete projects, but this is rare in the real world....I was given projects that needed to be done yesterday, and if lucky, in one-hour or by the end of the afternoon!

Sorry for my dissertation!
Pinkdot has given you some wise words. . . .

I would recommend learning something about print and design before you leave uni. Many courses don't teach their students any proper computer skills and you do need to get some of these important skills under your belt. Know how and when to use Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, know about bleed and crops, be able to work fast and accurately, remember to spell check. If you can get some work experience in either a medium sized printers design studio or a medium design agency (perhaps work for free!) you will learn huge amounts. I recently spent 3 hours helping a student sort their file for printing. . . .

Or should I start my 'Tutorials for design students' business. . . .?
Thank you both of you for some great advice!

I think what I should do then is really work on my portfolio some more and really learn what I need to know before I apply anywhere as I guess it is quite essential! I may start apply before I actually finish Uni though to try and get a head start; I want to spend as little time as possible just job hunting between Uni and finding a job!

I have always thought about making an online portfolio; I know how to make a basic website in Flash so I might give it a go at some point, but in terms of showing off your work in a portfolio would a basic A3 print be ok or would it be ideal to have it backed onto foamboard as well and have it printed at a printers?!

We have one laser jet printer at our Uni, which is ok, but for my final project I want to get everything printed professionally. My main lecturer owns their own company so I guess they will be able to help me set it up for print?!

I have had some experienced at a small web based company before and a couple of months ago I did some work for a relatively well known sports car company; it was just editing photos but I guess that counts as something?
I may be wrong but I think its becoming generally expected that you do some kind of internship or part time unpaid placement within a design agency for 6-12 months before employers will realistically look at you with any interest.

Its a long hard road to get anywhere (im still slogging after 3 years) but eventually it'll be worth it.
So far I have about a month's experience at a web design company and a months experience as an in house designer at a car company.

I hope not all companies expect that sort of experience as there is just no way I can achieve that especially unpaid! That said someone from my class got a job without any experience and has meant they have decided not to bother getting a full degree; so maybe it varies from company to company?

I understand how important work experience is, but the bosses of these companies must have been in similar situations and must know that it is pretty difficult to get a degree and experience.

Apparently at the end of this year we put on an end of year show where employers walk around and take your business cards if they like your stuff; I hope the economic climate doesn't change that!
Your end of year show is your best shot at getting a job. If that doesnt work out there are always printers willing to take on artworkers with no experience. If you get a goodun they will spend time with you and allow you to do bits and pieces of design. Thats quite good because you get to put the swanky finished article it in your portfolio and when it comes to interviews, make out that you held a far more important role than you really did.

Just remember, what ever experience youve had, whenever youre writing about it always use the words 'spear head'! I dunno why but those words seems to go down really well! eg; I spear headed the rebranding of bobs chocolate shop. :icon_thumbup: Instantly you're a high flying designer! :icon_biggrin:
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