Things We Wish We Knew When Starting Our First Design Job

June 14th, 2018 in Design & Branding 5 minute read

So you’ve read our blog on how to nail the interview and you’ve bagged your first design job. Congratulations! Now what?

The Zeal Design Team share their experiences of taking their first steps into the creative industry and what they wish they knew when starting out.

Naomi: Asking questions isn’t just expected – it’s necessary and part of your role, don’t be frightened to do so!

I won’t lie here, you should be prepared to feel like a rabbit in full beam headlights for quite some time. You’ll likely encounter many scenarios where you don’t know how to complete a task because you need more information. Try not to panic. This is essentially what your job as a designer boils down to – problem solving!

As designers, we take a brief in order to establish the problem we are trying to solve. The more comprehensive the brief, the more bespoke and appropriate the solution (usually!). This briefing stage is where you can identify any blank spots that need filled in, ergo – question time!

Firstly, you should be asking yourself questions – “is this something I need to answer myself by exploring X, Y or Z?“, “can I google this and show some initiative?“, “is this a question that my client is paying me to answer for them!?“.

Secondly, sometimes questions you’ll have won’t be brief specific, they might be process or practice related. In this case – YES; you should ask about a company’s system or process for version control or file handover. It’s better to establish this knowledge as soon as possible so you don’t make life harder for yourself and others in the long run.

Lastly, when people begin to ask you the questions you once had don’t knock them back or make life difficult. Help them out and we’ll all get where we’re going faster!

Taaryn: Design is just one element to your job role.

Whilst I was retraining for a new career in graphic design, I dreamt about finally one day escaping the spreadsheets and account handling of my mundane job. I wish I knew this would never be the case!

Coming into a small design team at Zeal as a junior, you’re given a fair bit of responsibility and autonomy that you might not necessarily get in a bigger agency. Right from the outset, I was expected to manage my own time and workload, handle client communications and try to keep them happy, quote for jobs and see them through from start to finish, and keep work logs up to date.

Keeping on top of the business and admin side of things is an important part of the job. If organisation isn’t your strong point, show willing to learn! The sooner you get a handle on it, the easier your job will be.

Organise your Photoshop layers like your design hero is watching

Always keep in mind that someone else might need to come in and work with your file so name and group layers to make it easier for them. If someone opens your file and is greeted with hundreds of layers called “layer 1”, you’re going to get a well deserved kicking!

Oh and for the love of God, make sure you name your file with something that makes sense and save it in a logical place where it can be easily found later. If you’d have told me file management would be the bane of my life…

Nick: You need to be part designer, part salesperson.

When first starting out, I underestimated how much you need to sell your idea. I naively thought that if it was good design, people would be able to spot that and sign-off work. This isn’t the case at all. When presenting work for sign-off, you need to tell a story and align that story with the objectives of the project. Otherwise, you’re presenting a piece of art, not a piece of design that you’ve (hopefully) created to solve a specific problem.

You need to be curious and always absorbing.

I’ve never met a good designer that isn’t curious. Curious about design generally, but also the wider world and industries that aren’t their own. Inspiration is a fickle mistress, but being an inquisitive person leads to inspiration being found in the unlikeliest of places. It also allows you to learn new techniques, adapt to processes and understand a client’s industry far better if you enjoy the discovery and exploration that comes with throwing yourself head first into something you aren’t sure will work.

Pro: You’ll learn more in your 3 months in industry than your 3 years in university

As much as I loved my course, nothing can quite prepare you to hit the ground running in a fast-paced creative industry. There is the tendency upon your degree completion to think “MY GOD ITS OVER!”, but in reality, the journey has just begun. Whether it be email etiquette, project management, pitching ideas or client relations, everything seems to hit you all at once. This is where it is imperative to use your colleagues for help and guidance – they’ve likely seen it all before!

Every project is not your masterpiece

There will be projects within your first years in industry that will not excite you. You will probably not have the budget to express your full creative potential, but do not let that stifle your ambition. Smaller projects give you the time to get the intricate details right and force you to be pragmatic. Pick your battles wisely and be vigilant to spot opportunities and ideas that will allow your talent to flourish.

Enjoy the ride!

It’s taken countless hours of late nights, head scratching and Adobe crashes to get to the position you are in. You are then thrust into your first agency role and it can all seem a bit overwhelming. Remember to take a breather and enjoy the ride. The adage ‘choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’ could not be truer.

If you’d like to find out more about our design services then simply get in touch, and don’t worry we’ve come along way since then!

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