Friday, 9 December 2011

A Thoughtful Presentation

A Thoughtful presentation on how to break into the industry
By Stuart Price from Thoughtful 08/12/11
Thoughtful is a collection of designers who host their baby Lost in the Forest (on of many creations I’m sure). Lost in the Forest is a concept driven at redesigning design education, which seems like a pretty hefty statement but what the guy goes on to talk about it highly useful and pretty much relative to the third year degree students currently.
There are lots of different opinions contained within the presentation and it is important not to overly analyse them, either you like what they say or you don’t the key is to take from the presentation what I think will relate to my own work and set of circumstances because everybody’s set of circumstances will be different.
The presentation dealt with the debate between convergent and divergent thinking. The idea that something has one specific answer such as 3x5 = 15 (convergent thinking) or something has more than one answer and can be mind mapped in a certain space of time (divergent thinking). Dr Peter Lovatt from Hertfordshire University found that dancing improves these methods of thinking and fifteen minutes of structured dancing will result in better convergent thinking whereas fifteen minutes of improvised dancing will result in better divergent thinking.
The presentation also answered some vital questions that undergraduates wish to know when going for interview etc. Persistence came up as a strong contender for most vital attribute – the people you are addressing in industry are busy, no matter how good you are you need to think about how you are going to show them how good you are. Remember that everything is not going to be given to you on a plate. Keep dialogues going with the people that you most resonate with, with the employers that will offer you most scope as a designer, but do not verge on stalkerish.
What is the preferred medium for first contact with a potential future employer? 78% of studios asked would prefer email, 18% preferred post and 4% preferred a walk in the office spontaneous approach. Adrian Shaughnessy was asked what he would like an email to look like – ‘it’s important to know about my studio and to show that they have done background research. Hello! At the start of an email is unprofessional, make an effort to find out exactly who it is that you need to be speaking to’. Additionally, big attachment such as a 10MB file is too big make your email concise and don’t let anything get in the way of being put to the bottom of the list. If your email doesn’t get a response 46% of studios advise to follow up with another email 3-4 days after the original contact. Adrian says to be open minded, when you graduate you start all over again, be prepared to learn, you never stop learning in the design industry. Keeping a neutral approach is the safest bet; talk about your work, including fonts etc could be a sticking point with design agencies if they don’t like the particular ones that you’ve used.
Expected contents of a first email – have a link to your personal website and a PDF of your work, the latter needs to be a labour of love, do not send an empty email. People would like different options to view your work and sticking to 5-7 projects is a good idea, keep your PDF to 5MB or below. Michael Johnsons advice was ‘the industry is very tough, be prepared for work experience and internships it is possible there is time to find out if you are any good and if you are any good it will happen’.
Leaving a small A5/A6 booklet of your portfolio behind to pass around the office is always a good idea; it keeps you and your work fresh in their memory. Portfolio no-no’s – spelling mistakes, place your work directly in front of the designer so it’s upside down to you, present to them and not to yourself. Patrick Bagalee says ‘it’s better to be interested than interesting; everything you do describes something about you.’ Think of yourself as a brand; meet as many people as you can. Presenting with a box allows illustrators to take work samples such as printed books etc.
Is there a preferred portfolio format? The studios questioned had no preference but a book with bound pages is a safe option. Stefan Sagmeister prefers 10-20 projects, remember that the person you are seeing has limited time, time for them is money. If you have anything that you are unsure about, leave it out, only take work that you are 100% confident in and 100% confident talking about.
Take advantage of the other facilities within the university institution, some are training athletes for the Olympics, some are undertaking cancer research, never think ‘what has this got to do with design?’ but ’what has design got to do with this?’, surround and immerse yourself in what you do. A designer will always judge you through their eyes.
How much information should accompany each project? 45% of studios want to see some information but keep it short and sweet also give credit where credit’s due. It will be obvious if you haven’t done all the work yourself. Potential employers like to see how you’ve arrived at the finished outcome so save sketches. Pentagons Paula Scher ‘find a place to work that is going to give you the broadest possible opportunities don’t think purely about money. What you do in the first twelve months doesn’t mean that is what you will be doing for the rest of your career. Making mistakes is all part of the process just own up to them and learn from them, then move on.’
How long should an interview last? 50% of studios preferred 15-30 minutes so practice and prepare for 30 minutes. Asking how long you’ve got on entering the room set boundaries and gives you a clue of what to edit if anything, it also looks pro active and professional. Employers are attracted to people with tremendous enthusiasm for life and people who are not scared of their imaginations. Adrian says that he is more interested in the designer sitting in front of him than the work he is presented with. Great ideas and good personality are equally important.
If you don’t give up and are relentless you will get a job in the design industry just don’t expect it within the first 18 months of graduating.
I suppose on reflection the presentation given by Stuart was probably more Graphic design orientated as he referred to Graphic designers a lot, but there is some really useful information provided on how to try and break into the industry and that will stay with me throughout the process. A great job Stuart, keep the hard work up!

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