Industry advice for graphic designers and illustrators from IDEA School of Design Grad 2016 alumni to the class of 2019

Industry advice for graphic designers and illustrators from IDEA School of Design Grad 2016 alumni to the class of 2019

Thank you to IDEA School of Design Grad 2016 alumni Virginie Menard, Stephanie Brennan, Maria Centola, Benjamin T. Stone and Lera Nyukalova (shown above) for their words of wisdom to Grad 2019 as they approach the final weeks of their 8 week industry practicums in agencies and studios across Vancouver and embark on their careers in visual communication.

Meet the next generation of promising creative professionals at the IDEA 2019 Grad Show – Harbour Centre Lobby in downtown Vancouver, April 8th–12th, 2019.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get discouraged if you don’t get the opportunities you really want right away, but it’s important to keep trying. Even when things don’t seem to go your way, if you keep on persisting, it’ll eventually sort itself out.
— Virginie Menard, Vancouver-based illustrator and designer
Always, always, ALWAYS get a signed contract!!

Not all jobs are worth it. It’s ok to be picky about clients and job offers even as a junior.

Use every opportunity to flex your creative muscles and make the work that you want. Think of the “boring” tasks as challenges. Creating a simple Facebook cover photo for a brand? Get creative and make a collage. Developing an internal email? Take your time, blow everyone away, and make sure it’s the last internal email that gets requested from you. Etc, etc. You’ll have fun, improve your skills, be more proud of your work, and probably get promoted to more exciting opportunities.

Do passion projects!
— Stephanie Brennan, Graphic Designer, Aritzia (Vancouver)
IDEA does an amazing job at preparing us for the industry (honestly, I am so grateful because they made us incredibly work-ready) but your first few jobs are going to be really tough.

It may be a hard thing to do but try and figure out what element or area of design/illustration you enjoy the most. I don’t just mean that in the industry you want to work in but what you most enjoy about the process because your day to day is the part you will have to work through. Knowing where you want to take your career will help you make the most of your time in the first few formative years. Look at the people you admire and their careers, and try to understand why you are drawn to them.

There is the usual advice to ask loads of questions and don’t feel afraid to but I’m sure you’ve heard that before. There are a few things I learnt the hard way.

One is to really try and spend time getting to know your coworkers – that can make a huge difference when working together and when asking for advice. Go out for drinks together, go to an event, bond with them outside work.

Another thing I am still working on is being a sales person for yourself, it’s not enough to just do your work. You should think about giving input into meetings, being confident when talking about your work, highlight the work that you’ve done and how it helps the end product. I know at first this may feel fake but the people who are managing you don’t have time or oversight to know what you have done along the way. It is part of your job to go after the opportunities and then remind them about those things you are doing. Be aggressive and go after projects you want. You bring a lot to the table, you have knowledge and experience that the seniors don’t have. Know your strengths and emphasise them.

Lastly one thing I learned the hard way was how I am perceived by coming in as an intern and then getting hired as a full time designer. I had got stuck in being a junior, and focusing on the day to day. I think that let them see me as a junior and has stunted my growth. If I could go back I would start proving myself from the beginning, and see myself as a mid-weight. Show them I’m more than a junior and they might have given me more opportunities. Of course there will be times when there’s not a lot of work in the studio, try and use that time to ask creative directors if there are things that you can do to help the company. Check in with the team and listen to what their needs are and you’ll be prepared to say yes when an opportunity arises. Don’t let yourself stay in the comfort of being a junior.

Have fun! You’ll be learning really quickly and moving fast, so enjoy it.
— Maria Centola, Junior Digital Designer, Sennep (London)
I cannot overstate the value of being polite and courteous with clients, be it in person or over the internet. For many it will be obvious advice, however, it has been my continued experience that being pleasant to work with is as much a reason people will choose to work with you as the quality of your work. It is a privilege to contribute our work to the world and treating clients with respect and gratitude for the opportunity to do what we do is worth remembering.

I wish the grads the best of luck!
— Benjamin T. Stone, Designer, PUBLIC Architecture + Communication (Vancouver)
Basic things - don’t be a jerk, be humble, work hard, learn to manage your time, listen to critique carefully, never take it personally, respect all the people around you.

Something more specific I learned - The best thing is to figure out what you like and the good way to do it is to spend the first few years working on different projects and at different companies. It is good to be employed by one company for many years but to get the most experience and understanding of what you want to do with your career try out different places. I found that it’s best to understand the industry, meet new people and make long term connections. In several years you will find yourself surrounded by friends working in many different studios who know you and can recommend you. It’s is a great pleasure to start a new project when you are close with a bunch of people there because you worked with them in the past. Also changing companies will help you feel challenged. Every time I start a new project I’m not sure of the expectations and therefore try to do my best. This way I always learn and grow and never become lazy. Also, your reputation follows you so don’t develop bad habits.

Once you know what you like to do and have a strong network in the industry it’s good to start looking for a long term position. For the artist, 2-3 years in one place is a good time to grow a career.
— Lera Nyukalova, Designer at Atomic Cartoons (Vancouver)
The 2nd Bachelor of Design Grad Opening Gala is tonight! Show runs through April 8th-12th, 2019

The 2nd Bachelor of Design Grad Opening Gala is tonight! Show runs through April 8th-12th, 2019

IDEA Grad 2021 prints a letterpress poster at Vancouver’s Porchlight Press for sustainable design course

IDEA Grad 2021 prints a letterpress poster at Vancouver’s Porchlight Press for sustainable design course