How to Get a Job as a Graphic Designer

Just the other day I received a question on Twitter from Adam at Design4Love:

“Hi.. how are you? Do you have any tips for me how to get into the UK design industry (Other than sending applications to agencies). Thanks!”

Which got me thinking about how difficult it was for me and some of the fellow graphic design students I studied with to get a job in the design industry back in 1999 (yes that long ago!) straight out of design college. I snapped up a job with a Central London design agency in Soho within 2 weeks of leaving college but looking back it wasn’t really the right job for me then. Though just 13 months later I changed positions and worked for a great design agency based in London Bridge and learned a huge amount as well as working on lots of different types of projects as a designer.

Anyway competition was fierce then BUT the amount of graphic design and other design courses available in art colleges and universities up and down the college has grown hugely since then.

So here are a few tips on (like Adam asked) “how to get into the UK Design industry”

The Portfolio:
Having a great design portfolio is a must. To be honest your design portfolio is the most important thing on this list, its what you’ll mainly be judged on. It must be well presented and include at least 6 or more design projects. Think about the kind of work the agency your applying to does and try to tailor your portfolio towards that. For example if they specialise in corporate identity and branding work try to include work of this kind.

Be ready to talk about your design work, what inspired you, why you approached the project in the way you did, even choice of typeface, colours, imagery etc. Show them some of your sketchs and development work, some agencies what to see your scribbles more than the finished work as it shows your design process and how you think!

Before taking your portfolio along to job interviews, make sure you show it to a people (tutors, other design students) talk them through it, get them to ask you questions about your design work and respond with suitable answers. This will get you used to talking people through your portfolio, making you a more prepared for the interview.

Work Experience:
Offer to do some work experience with a design company who’s work you really admire (for free if you have to!), even if its just a week then spend that week wowing them, making the tea, producing great work, take an interest in everything relating to that design company. It is a good way to get your foot in the door but also don’t be too pushy or cocky, you might think your a great designer but remember there is a big difference between design college and the real world!

If the company really like you during your work experience they might offer you a full time job!

Finding Work:
Send your portfolio as a PDF etc to as many design companies (that your interested in) as possible, then after a few days give them a quick call to check they have received it.

Another alternative and one that worked for me is to approach a design recruitment agency. I contacted Major Players (there are many others!) when looking for a new graphic design position. They interviewed me and I took them through my portfolio and skills set, based on this they then contacted me when suitable jobs became available. This worked very well as they got me a new job within 2 weeks.

Dress code:
There isn’t one as such. Wear what your comfortable in but also look like you have made some sort of effort! That said I wouldn’t recommend turning up in a suit! Remember what you wear can be seen as a reflection of yourself and your design style or preferences.

Behaviour:
Be yourself, be calm and open to discussing your work and the work of the design agency. Remember to ask questions about what work they produce and what your role would be. One thing I found useful was to ask if someone could take you around the studio, afterall that is where you’ll be working if you get the job and you need to see what sort of environment you’ll be working in. It also easier to ask questions as you move around and see how they work.

Research:
Remember to do some research on the company that is interviewing you, as they are likely to ask you what made you apply for a job with them, what sort of work do they produce, what awards have they won (if any), why do you want to work for them in particular?

Keep trying:
Above all keep trying and keep looking at ways to improve your portfolio. If you go for an interview and they don’t give you a job, don’t worry, your work just might not be suitable for that particular design agency.

So hope this has helped, good luck!

Dot Design is a small freelance graphic design agency based in Devon. Established in 2006 Dot Design provides an effective, professional (and friendly) graphic design service. By using other freelance designers when needed we cut back on the costs of a traditional design agency, meaning we are able to greatly reduce costs to our clients.
Dot Design is owned and run by Gareth Coxon who has 8 years professional design experience – 5 years working for two different design agencies in London and now 3 years working in the South West.
We work with businesses all over the UK and Internationally – from small start-ups through to medium sized and larger companies. We don’t use pretentious designer talk and we keep all aspects as simple and straight forward as possible. We will work with you and we understand that no one knows your business like you do.
Dot Design provide you with high quality, well thought through design and tackle each project with fresh enthusiasm and professionalism. We really enjoy what we do as do our clients, just see our testimonials!
We believe successful design should have a strong idea, be distinctive, memorable, simple and communicate the clients requirements. Any project large or small has the same opportunity for great design!

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