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Features / Lecture in Progress

First Hand: Lecture in Progress asks creatives to share their experience of working in the industry

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Jiro Bevis

Lecture in Progress is a new venture started by It’s Nice That founder Will Hudson and launched last week on Kickstarter. Each week we’re going to share a couple of stories from the site that best demonstrates it plans to do.

Lecture in Progress will inspire and inform the next generation of creatives by demystifying the practical day-to-day workings of the creative world. One of the regular features is First Hand where creatives sharing their own experiences of working within the industry. In this article University of Leeds Graphic and Communication Design graduate Shannon Lea shares the lessons she’s learnt in her first twelve months since graduating.

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For the past year I’ve been working as a junior designer at North. Founded by Sean Perkins in 1995, North is responsible for some of the most significant identity design undertakings of the past 20 years. With projects including RAC, First Direct, Barbican, Land Registry, Telewest, The Royal Mint, Co-op and Tate — North is somewhat of an identity design behemoth.

After sending my portfolio to the studio in May 2015, by the end of June, a week after term finished, I’d begun working at North. The first lesson of working life I learnt was more to do with actually getting there; if you want a job straight out of uni, you can’t start applying soon enough. Of course this isn’t everyone’s aim. After university is one of the few times when you can easily try something new; whether that’s travelling the world, doing something altruistic or simply returning home to eat for free at your parents’. However, if a job straight out of uni is what you’re after, I found that portfolio pruning had to go hand in hand with university deadlines.

Know what you like. If you’ve interned before, sooner or later who’ll know whether you’re into big agencies, in-house teams or smaller studios. Before starting at North I’d done a year or so in industry as part of my course and I’d begun to think a smaller team setup was my thing. Time at North quickly confirmed this and it was simply luck that the job I wanted most was at a studio with what felt like exactly the right number of people. Being able to talk to everyone you’re working with, easily and in one space, makes a big difference – there’s also something pretty amazing about a small team of people carrying out such ludicrously big design jobs.

Listen (eavesdrop). I read somewhere that one of the worst things you can do is wear headphones at work. I’m not saying don’t ever throw on a podcast, but I learnt a lot more listening to the projects, people and discussions around me than to the dulcet tones of Ira Glass and This American Life. And whilst I’m sure your taste in music is great, that new project with loads of creative freedom isn’t going to go begging for long.

Learn extra. Young designers are increasingly adding more strings to their bow in terms of the additional skills they bring to their role; something I find a little intimidating to say the least. Whilst the hours of Photoshopping I’d put in at a previous internship came in useful quick, it dawned on me that a familiarity with animation would be a real help to what I do. Equally, I wish I had more skills that weren’t necessarily on the beaten design track.

Get good on the phone. I’m not the biggest fan of using the phone at work. It’s fine, I’ll do it, but I maintain the theory that if a landline seems a bit of a relic, odds are that you grew up with texting or MSN Messenger as your main means of contact. Obviously the phone is integral to any business, and it’s important you get comfortable using it; I guess I’m still learning that one myself. Often the phone is the best means of keeping a project moving along or clarifying a client’s feedback, and it’s way quicker than emailing.

Collate. Collecting the things you see and genuinely like isn’t to be underestimated. Even if it’s just a folder on your computer, keep it tailored and tight. When you see something on a blog, in a book or magazine just keep a record; creating an asset for yourself and any future projects.

Quantity and quality. I remember being pretty shocked by the speed everyone worked at when I first started. I still am. It’s not just the speed but the quality; the ease with which numerous design routes can be thought up, implemented and rolled out into a thorough, thoughtful and persuasive presentation is something I hugely respect and am still learning to work towards.

After what must now be nearly 400 days of working life, the thing I learnt early on and still continue to realise, is just how little I know. But I find it reassuring to learn something different on virtually every new project I work on. Even if this rate of learning decreases over time, with technology changing so quickly and design continually keeping pace, it’s reassuring to realise that as a designer the learning won’t stop anytime soon.

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Articles also in this series include Alex Ostrowski shares his notes for future founders, Callum Green on running COURT magazine alongside a full time job and Camberwell illustration graduate Alexander James Wood gives an honest appraisal on his first 12 months since graduating.

Check out this and other content on the free-to-view beta version of lectureinprogress.com. Lecture in Progress plan to launch the full site in January 2017, regularly adding new content that will only be available to members. To become a member and make this project a reality please back us on Kickstarter.