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Regulars / The Graduates 2019

AI personality consultant to digital matte painter: The creative jobs you didn’t know existed

Our final advice piece as part of The Graduates 2018 is by It’s Nice That’s sister site, Lecture In Progress. Providing advice, insight and inspiration for the next generation of creatives, this week the Lecture in Progress team tells us about the range of creative jobs available to graduates, with a couple you maybe never knew existed.

For many of us, graduating was like entering a hazy, panic-tinted mist of the unknown. Of course, there were the star pupils, with a summer full of placements lined up, along with the rare few who seemed to know exactly what they were working towards. But for the rest of us, confronting a seemingly harmless question such as, “So, what’s next?” was another painful reminder of how clueless we really were.

Inevitably, one of the reasons for this is that the industry can be pretty opaque from the outside. Because other than the much-celebrated roles – be it illustrators, filmmakers or creative directors – there is a huge grey zone of jobs that get a lot less airtime. From project managers and producers to UX designers, it can be hard to understand what the work entails until we’re in a role ourselves. Added to that is the fact that the industry itself is in constant motion; new positions crop up all the time, in line with wider trends and new technologies. So how can you be expected to make sense of it all?

This is a conundrum Lecture in Progress set out to solve when it launched in 2017. As a platform that informs aspiring creatives about what to expect from the industry, we’ve spent a great many hours researching and interviewing inspiring characters from every corner of the creative world. Now with well over 80 roles in our repertoire, we’ve collected a fair few favourites along the way. Here we’re sharing just a few of those jobs and the people who do them – from the roles that truly surprised us to those that got us thinking about the future of work.

Curator of digital design

Natalie Kane

How do you exhibit an emoji? Or archive an online movement? These are just some of the dilemmas that come as part and parcel of Natalie Kane’s job, as The V&A’s curator of digital design. With no official training in curating, she carved out her path through various jobs within arts organisations and by proactively seeking out experience.

Working at the institution’s design, architecture and digital department, it’s Natalie’s job to think about how the museum collects, cares for and displays digital objects. Also looking after the Rapid Response Collecting display (that’s their collection of contemporary objects) the work extends to physical items that, in Natalie’s words, “were disseminated through online platforms.” This includes a Pussy Riot “pussyhat” worn at the Women’s March in Washington, 2017, and Katy Perry-branded eyelashes.

Macro Photographer

Levon Biss

When we asked macro photographer Levon Biss what he does for a living, he replied with quite possibly one of the best answers we’ve ever heard: “At the moment I spend 70 percent of my time by myself with dead insects.” That’s exactly what it sounds like: Levon makes a living creating close-up, jaw-dropping photos of insects with insane levels of detail.

He started out in commercial work, mostly photographing people such as Usain Bolt and French president Emmanuel Macron. And while he still dabbles in studio work, he’s definitely found his niche by specialising in macro photography. As a result, he’s kind of an expert in the field now; there’s not many people out there that have Australian mosquitoes especially hatched for them to photograph.

Material conservationist

Seetal Solanki

“Forget about whether a role exists of doesn’t exist” says Seetal Solanki, “More than anything, try to understand who you are as a designer…That takes a long time to develop, and it’s not something that you initially find out after graduating.”

Creatives like Seetal carved out a spot in industry for themselves where they couldn’t see themselves fitting into a cookie-cutter, pre-made job role. Founding her own studio in 2015, she now works on projects that aim to make sense of the world through its materials, with a client base that includes Nike, Nissan and Alexander McQueen.

Day to day, you might find her researching, running workshops and talks or physically experimenting – often alongside some incredible collaborators, from historians and anthropologists to plastic restorers.

Social media creative

James Parker

As a social media creative, James Parker makes a living from tweeting and posting on the web – drawing on a sharp eye for shareable content and talent for witty writing.

“You have to be on social media constantly… You need to understand first-hand what works and what doesn’t on each social platform,” he said when we quizzed him on it. But to give you an idea, last year James took aim at Kanye West on behalf of Burger King and ended up with two pretty special accolades: the most-liked tweet of all time from a brand, and a Cannes Lions award.

Head of culture and inclusion

Sereena Abassi

It’s no secret that the creative industry has a diversity issue. Whether it’s a lack of female and BAME representation in senior roles, to the absence of disabled creatives across the board, there’s still much work to be done to ensure equal opportunities and that everyone is accounted for.

One role that has grown out of a greater awareness of this issue is Sereena Abassi’s. Last year she was appointed head of culture and inclusion at M&C Saatchi to promote greater understanding of diversity within the company, while attracting a broader range of talent to its workforce.

Not just bound to the office, a lot of Sereena’s time is spent broadening her network, talking on panels, organising events and holding training sessions. Most recently she’s been focusing on male mental health, as a way of opening up a wider conversation about gender disparity.

AI personality designer

Georgia Lewis-Anderson

How do you make a robot sound British? According to Georgia, the basics include a little sarcasm, some weather chat and a remarkable ability to say one thing whilst meaning another.

With a background in journalism and an interest in emerging tech, Georgia now works as a conversation designer, and spends most of her time thinking about how to shape experimental interactions between humans and machines.

In 2015, Georgia ended up at Microsoft where she worked on creating the British personality for their personal digital assistant Cortana after replying to a pretty mysterious-sounding ad for a “pop-culture writer”. She was later headhunted by Google, and is now putting together a Radio 4 documentary exploring the limits of AI’s creativity.

As you can imagine, Georgia’s is still an emerging field, and even came as a surprise to her: “I didn’t realise I was interested in it to be honest, I just liked reading The New Scientist,” she told us.

Digital matte painter

Charlotte Tyson

We’ve probably all fantasised about becoming a movie star at one point in our lives. But those of us with ropey acting skills can rejoice in the fact that there are other ways to see yourself on the silver screen. Just ask digital matte painter Charlotte Tyson.

In the past year, she’s created backgrounds for blockbuster films like The Great Gatsby, Mary Poppins Returns and The Avengers. One of her shots was even part of the last US Super Bowl trailer. "It felt exhilarating realising how many people had cast their eyes on my work!” she remembers.

Plus, the VFX and post-production industries are absolutely booming right now – so much so that studios are struggling to find enough talent to fill the demand, let alone a diversity of candidates. “I stood out because so few women were VFX artists then,” Charlotte told us, emphasising that your point of difference can also become a valuable asset to a company.

Governmental service designer

Raj Panjwani

Service design is one of those slightly mysterious roles that sits alongside UX, UI and CX design. But without getting too bogged down in the various definitions, a service designer will create systems to improve the experience for a user.

In Raj Panjwani’s case this has meant working with the Ministry of Defence to optimise the way a new inmate enters a prison, or finding ways to recruit more teachers across the UK, for the Department of Education. Having worked in graphic design for many years, he switched to his current role out of a desire to create things that are truly useful and accessible.

As Raj points out, his job is part of an increasing number of creative positions set within traditionally non-creative companies. Since UK Government launched its digital service or GDS (a team of design thinkers improving services for the public) in 2010, creative roles have continued to crop up across various departments.

Multi-hyphenate

Emma Gannon

Something that’s been hard to ignore over the past couple of years is a trend towards flexible and multidisciplinary work. And it’s not just something that creatives themselves are wanting more of. In our Insight Report into how grads are finding work, we discovered that many clients and employers are also seeking out broader skill sets.

Reclaiming the idea of a Jack of all trades, Emma Gannon has built a solid reputation as an author, columnist and founder of blockbuster podcast CTRL ALT DELETE. As a spearhead for the rise of the “slashie” or multi-hyphenate creative, last year she released a book dedicated to the topic, packed full of advice for anyone wanting to establish a self-styled career.

Starting out in PR, with ambitions of becoming a journalist, Emma began writing and podcasting from her bedroom. But it wasn’t long before she was working with The Huffington Post, eventually moving on to become Glamour’s social media editor. Now self-employed, she’s combined all of her expertise without needing to focus on one single specialism.

AR makeup artist

Ines Marzat

Ok, so VR makeup artist isn’t Ines Marzat’s sole job, but it is an incredibly impressive facet of her work as an art director and 3D artist. Alongside a pioneering group of digital artists, including Johanna Jaskowska and Allan Berger, her weird and wonderful AR filters are pushing the boundaries of beauty and selfie culture.

Cutting her teeth as a graphic designer, Ines launched her career in advertising, where she became acquainted with CGI and 3D-design programmes. Since going freelance in 2017, she’s been able to fully indulge her interest in “fantastic versions of reality”, seeing viral success for her Instagram and Snapchat filters, as well as attracting clients like Nike.

It might not be an established line of work as yet, but our prediction is that Ines is paving the way for plenty more AR-based roles within the design, fashion and beauty industries.

If you’re after more advice and insight into creative work and careers, check out Lecture In Progress, It’s Nice That’s sister company. Standard membership is free and includes exclusive offers and promotions.