Sunday, October 19, 2014

Working in the Design Industry


Now that summer is over, it's time to blog again. During summer, like most people, I traveled. My highlight was probably the US, where I had the chance to observe design elements very different from Europe's design style.
But other than observing, I also had the chance to experience work as a Junior Graphic Designer at E+ Magazine, a Graphic Design Intern at Lulu Liu luxury fashion brand and a Digital Designer at Blue Inc & Officers Club retail brands, where I am currently still working.

So what is it like working in the industry? To be honest, I'm not quite sure yet. I started just a couple of months ago, and there are still lots of things for me to learn. But what I can do, is write down my experiences from these past months, and maybe they will be useful to you as well.
At least I hope so! :-)

E+ Magazine

It's hard to find a job/internship/work experience, if you never had one before. Many say, you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. This is absolutely true, especially in London and other metropolitan cities, where competition is much bigger and harder. So while I was looking for a graphic designer job/internship, I did freelance jobs, to build my CV & Portfolio, and to gain experience. Still, I had little knowledge of business, and had no experience at working in a corporate environment.
If I'd give any advice, it would be to get involved at your university. Attend classes and do your work. Your tutor might just be the key to get you a job, but for that you'll need to work hard, give a good impression, perhaps volunteer. (To be continued in another post...)

I'm very lucky to be a student at London College of Communication. Our institute has many contacts and can offer many possibilities for us to gain experience. E+ Magazine, was a work experience opportunity with art director Scott King who has previously worked as art director for i-D Magazine and creative director for Sleazenation Magazines.
This is how it went: there were meetings on a weekly basis with work brought from home and minimum talk. Scott would lay out the design guidelines, and we, the junior designers had to test them and do the work. The art director would make the big decisions and we would pay attention to the details. Once we showed our works, he would either approve or disapprove, and we'd move on.
Another thing I noticed, is the slight tension between designers and non-designers, which I guess could be true for any field. In our case there were the journalists and the designers, and it was quite clear some journalists showed distrust towards our knowledge and skills. One of the journalists was especially worried about losing control over the design that would frame their articles. Note that this was the very first time they involved designers for help.
I'm still quite puzzled by this, and am not sure why this sort of tension occurs. Since I have perceived art and design valuable since I was very little, it's a bit harder for me to understand how others view this field and where this distrust comes from. If you, however have any comments on this, please do let me know below this post, in e-mail or any other medium. I would love to hear your opinion.

Lulu Liu

Since most of the internships I applied for during the year rejected me mainly because I wasn't available full-time, I thought I might have a greater shot in the summer. I strongly recommend using social media to your advantage and talking to many people if you're looking for an internship. Even though Lulu Liu could be found on many job boards I found them through facebook.
Lulu Liu is a high end fashion brand based in Shoreditch. They form two small teams mainly out of interns, but whatever they do, they aim to be professional. The teams consist of a fashion designer team and a marketing team. At Lulu Liu I did some tag designs, a lookbook and invitation designs, but my main task was to provide graphic content for social media platforms internationally.

I have to say, unpaid internships have their cons and pros. There is still a chance to get paid, as proven by some paid interns, which means you need to be loyal and hardworking. This sparks a competition between all interns, but this only makes everyone do their best, and being an unpaid intern still creates a more relaxed and friendly environment.
During this internship I noticed the same thing as before with E+ Magazine, where the PR intern showed fear of losing control over the designs. In this case, that intern wanted to control every element of the design. I learned, that in the corporate world designs are approved by non-designers, which resulted in the other intern rejecting more than half of my work for weeks. Luckily, a fashion designer with past graphic design experience stepped in and approved most of that work later on.
In the end, this internship was incredibly valuable, where the PR intern helped me to speed up work and learn to let go of unapproved work, as well as taking less pride in them and if necessary, change the designs in a way that still satisfies myself. The fashion/graphic designer intern taught me a bit more about graphic design as well and I had the amazing chance to attend the fashion show at London Fashion Week.

Here is an example of what I produced at Lulu Liu. Click here for more.

Blue Inc

How did I go from unpaid internship to a designer job that actually pays more than minimum wage? My answer here again, is social media. More specifically, LinkedIn. If you don't have an account, go now and make one...and add me! :D
This all is kind of a funny story, because I have worked in a Blue Inc store next to my college before, which meant I already knew the brand and customers in person. Bonus points for the interview! In this company I'm surrounded mainly by native English speakers, which improved my English, especially in understanding jokes. Other than that, I have experienced sitting in meetings and presenting/defending designs. I also have a manager, who needs to approve of all the work I produce, and there are so many more tasks apart from my basic responsibilities, that I've learned to re-prioritize everything in short notice, sometimes more than once a day.

I started to believe it's impossible to work in industry next to being a full-time student, but there seems to be a trick to it. I started at Blue Inc during summer, full-time, and only switched to part-time when college started. Not all companies will do this, so I feel quite lucky and thankful for this as well. My work is valued and my capabilities trusted.
My main responsibility is designing the homepage (web, mobile, app) and e-mail designs for Officers Club weekly, as well as occasionally doing press material, affiliate banners, landing pages (men, women, boys), social media content and lookbook for Blue Inc and Officers Club. As I am still working in this company, I can't write about my experience in an overall analytical flashback. But I'm still in my trial period, so fingers crossed and hope that I can keep this job for a long time.