Recent Grad? Here's How to Get Noticed by a Design Studio

By: Christopher Edwards, Graphic Designer CookChick Design

Capturing the attention of a design studio is a challenge—and it’s supposed to be. Every year a plethora of new graduate designers enter the industry, all with the next chapter on their mind, making the task of getting yourself out there a daunting one. I spoke to like minded junior designers at design studios about what advice they would give to emerging creatives wanting to get noticed. Here are a few tips to help you make a lasting impression.

Research

Finding a studio you will fit into is a project in itself, so set time aside to really study your options. Contemplate the size of a studio, the work they produce and the opportunities that they offer, as all these factors will make a huge impact further along in the process. Learn about your favourite studios, digest their website, find them on social media and then give them a call (consider calling before sending an email to help put you on their radar.)

Portfolio

Make it Personal

Making a first impression will always start with an opening statement about yourself. A well-thought out message showing you have an understanding of the prospective employer, who they work for and how you’ll fit in is far more important than an impersonal generic bio.

Be Relevant

When preparing the all important portfolio, give serious consideration to what studio you are applying. Sending your portfolio to a digital agency but only having analogue projects may create a disconnect.

Tom Green, Junior Designer at Eden Spiekermann in Berlin explained, “For branding studios it’s always good to show your work has branding context, vice versa with packaging. It does create problems when someone applies with loads of really cool visual design without context as it leads agencies to question if you’ll fit in on a day to day basis.”

If you don’t have any suitable projects, try to show how you are making an effort to adjust to that discipline with online courses or side projects.

Passion Project

When you graduate you need to be able to sit in front of professionals and talk about your work. Working on a project that you are passionate about will transfer through the way you talk about it. In my experience I have been completely infatuated by the craft beer industry since the coming together of art and beer. By designing a beer in my portfolio, I was able to shift that passion to talking about that side of me.

Hayley Flavell, Junior Designer at Elmwood in Leeds felt this was a huge factor to her also “Passion is what my design directors were looking for from new designers, so make sure you have plenty of it when talking about your work.”

More importantly above all else, a passion project is fun! By becoming personally invested in a project that you are genuinely excited about, you will give it a different edge. Hayley admitted that this is the prime time to not worry about the seriousness of a project and to simply have fun with it. “University is the only time in your life as a designer you’ll be free from budget constraints and annoying clients!”

Portfolio Reviews

Students can become quite isolated when focusing on the later stages of a project due to the pressures and anxieties of work. Being able to talk about your work and receive constructive criticism is an invaluable skill. Mario Pimenta, Junior Designer at JKR in London felt his strongest asset to making a breakthrough into industry was by taking opportunities such as portfolio reviews. “The earlier you get to having your work evaluated, the earlier you’ll start to progress. Sometimes it can be quite daunting to show what you do as after all designing is quite a personal thing. I feel I built up my confidence by going to portfolio reviews and getting critiques on my work.”

Hayley attributed her confidence when talking through her work to the initial process of presenting to professionals. “I was really nervous talking through what was a half finished portfolio. I tried my best to be chatty, eager for advice and willing to take anything on board. I soon realized it was knowing how to talk about the over arching idea for each of my projects and less about the design.”

Perseverance

Always remember, studios are busy places and the design industry is a fast moving one. If it doesn’t happen straight away, don’t lose sight of who you are and where you want to be.

Quotes by:

  • Chris Edwards, Junior Designer at CookChick Design, in Brighton.
  • Tom Green, Junior Designer at Eden Spiekermann, in Berlin.
  • Hayley Flavell, Junior Designer at Elmwood, in Leeds.
  • Mario Pimenta, Junior Designer at JKR, in London.

Christopher Edwards
Christopher Edwards is a Graphic Designer at CookChick Design, a creative branding & packaging studio based in Brighton, UK.