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AfterLife #7 – Gareth Dunn

For the final part of the Afterlife sessions we were lucky enough to have a talk from a graduate of the course Gareth Dunn who graduated the course in 2010. I found his talk really interesting as it showed where it can take you – it’s not just always about working for the big agencies is about the creating work that you want and for the clients that you want to work with. One of the most important things that I think I’m taking away from this is that it’s not just about working long hours and grafting it’s also about taking time to have fun and also take care of yourself. This is something that I know I struggle with getting the balance right and especially in the current climate taking time to switch off and recharge is has been hard. However, knowing this moving forward into the working world should help me to try and find the balance. 

I found Gareth’s work interesting seeing how his projects have been so collaborative with other creatives in other fields. This made me think of how we have worked with other creatives in the past, but this is something that I would like to do in the future working with animators, illustrators, makers have been something that I have been thinking about. Also hearing about how Gareth has done some work which is self-initiated made me think about the opportunities that I have wanted to do in the past but found myself with no confidence to ask. This is another thing that I’m hoping to work on now after hearing Gareth speak. 

Hearing about his passion project Open Studio showed me the passion that he has for portfolios and his tips for making a good portfolio are things that I am 100% going to be taking away from this talk today. I am going to take the opportunity to get someone to review portfolio through this scheme. 

  • Good ideas with good execution
  • Start with your CV when sending to clients in case ends up on Admin desk of company 
  • Practice what you preach – spend time designing your portfolio not just want goes in it
  • Less is really more. A smaller number of projects is better than a lot of alright ones.
  • Build a narrative through your portfolio. If able to create a link between projects will help when explaining and viewing the portfolio. 
  • Be honest with what you did – don’t be worried about including group projects as long as you state what you did. 
  • Include self-initiated projects 
  • Show your workings and ideation process – gives them an idea of how you work. 
  • Proofread, spellcheck and proofread again. 
  • Get feedback from people in industry and out. 
  • Keep on top of your portfolio – check every 3 months is a good idea just keeping things up to date

I have enjoyed these afterlife sessions and I think they have helped to prepared me for getting into industry and learn from what other have learnt. I think that I have gained some confidence in the fact that there are still jobs out there in the current climate as this was something I was worried about. I feel that I have learnt a lot about working in industry, what people look for in portfolio and how this style of degree can lead you down a variety of different paths. I am excited to see where my journey takes me for the rest of university and after graduation.


Afterlife #6 – Paul Felton

We were lucky enough to have a talk from Paul Felton today from Common Curiosity. I found the talk was really useful in how to tell a story visually and how it’s important that there is meaning behind it. As a studio they have been working remotely for year with Paul being based in Birmingham and his colleague Alex in London, this was interesting to learn because it shows that there is opportunities to make working in a separate city to the main studio work.

Also I really enjoyed seeing both the refined final work but also the development boards of the studio because this showed me again how much work goes into branding and development projects. Below are a few of the main points that I will take away from this talk;

  • Give it meaning. No matter what project your working on try and give meaning behind it, being able to tell a story particular with branding projects makes them more authentic.
  • Substance over style.
  • Always come back to the why in the project – why and what is the idea at the heart of the project.
  • Looking for a unique point about the company is key not just the USP of the product that the company sell.
  • Explain yourself – having the ability to clearly explain ideas and reasoning behind the design decisions is important. Whether that explain to tutor or client or creative director being able to explain is key.
  • Be Curious – the name of the studio common curiosity fuels this idea about design but being able to be curious about things will help with design and inspiration.
  • Absorb everything – not being just curious about design but other aspects of life nature, sport etc.
  • Curiosity can help when looking for work opportunities – for example knowing about a studio or particular designer can aid you when applying for a job.
  • Brain is mighty than the Apple – don’t always jump straight onto the computer using paper pens and sketchbooks to get ideas out on paper.
  • Be careful with certain places where you might find inspiration – you want to be setting trends rather than following them
  • Question everything – think about if what a client has asked for is what they actually need.
  • Challenge conventions
  • Working with words is important it’s not only about visuals.

Another part of this talk that I found interesting was that they have worked on stamp design for Royal Mail. Before hearing Paul speak I didn’t realise how much work went into design stamps to be printed the process of the development and refinement is massive it can take months to just perfect one stamp and the concept of the stamp.

I found that this talk has inspired me to think about my FMP further particular since I’m telling the story of rhythmic gymnastics and what that is and what it means to people. I think that the points covered in the talk can relate well to my project and help me to develop the why and meaning behind what I am trying to say.

Professional Practice: Job Applications & Interviews

The session today focused on writing job applications online and how to conduct yourself in an interview and what to expect. Though I have written job applications before and attended interviews I wanted to recap and get some more tips and advice for when I am looking in the design sector for a job. I found the session was really useful in terms of giving me things to think about when applying and getting an interview – especially the idea of using the STARR method to construct answers to questions. Below are bullet point of key things I got from the session.

  • Create a plan before starting to write a personal supporting statement. Always address key aspects or words used in the job advert/description.
  • If there is a word limit on a question make sure to stick to it. This is something that I already knew but thought it was important to write about as a reminder here.
  • Always support a statement with evidence. Having a story or example to back up any claims made is very important within the application process.
  • Research, Research, Research. – Doing your research into the job and company even person reading application is important.
  • Give plenty of time to complete application.
  • Always keep a copy if get called to interview is important to familiarise beforehand with what you wrote.
  • If unsuccessful ask for feedback and don’t be dishearten by it. Learn and continue to grow from it.
  • Interviews can vary in the format with they are conducted, lately mainly via video call due to pandemic.
  • Always consider questions that you want to ask them about the job or working environment.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the sector.
  • Reflect on roles and skills that you offer and can bring to the team.
  • Handling interview stress – prep what you can in advance, body language, eye contact are things to remember. Have a treat afterwards to reward yourself with – this can help.
  • STARR – Situation – Task – Approach – Result – Reflect.
  • Using the STARR method can help structure the answers to competency questions that you might get asked by the employer.
  • Reflection, Adaptability and Resilience are key things that employers are looking at right now.

Overall, I will use this points to help me in the long term when applying for jobs and attending interviews as I think they have taught me a few things I wasn’t aware of before.

Afterlife #5 – Gavin Leisfield

Today we had a talk from Gavin Leisfeild who is a partner at the studio Friendly Giants. Back in first year I went to visit LittleHawk studio where Gavin previously worked so it was interesting to seee what he has achieved three years on and have a reminder of how interesting his story is to becoming a designer and in the position he is in today.

I found listening to Gavin’s personal experience in the industry inspiring because he’s had the experience from going freelance to studio work and seeing the benefits to both. Hearing about Gavin’s progression into Friendly Giants made me think about how important it is to also give back to the community as designers and do projects that I’m interested in. They worked on a project where they produced a book called Christmas is cancelled and I thought that this was different from what we have heard spoken about in the past at previous afterlife talks.

As part of the presentation I found when Gavin talked us through the stages of working on a rebrand interesting to see the amount of work that goes into it. There is a huge amount refinement and development that happens but also research. This showed me that the working process I have now is similar to that of those working in the industry so this was really encouraging to see.

At the talk we were also joined by Maria and Kieran who have both recently started working for friendly giants and graduated from our course last year. It was useful to hear about how they have adapted to working life and hearing about the differences in the studio to university. It was also useful to get some tips on managing FMP and ISTD from them and how they thought that talking to people is the most useful thing. I think this is something that I’m already doing as I have daily chat with Meg about our work and bounce back ideas between each other. Overall I found this was really useful as a talk and has inspired me to keep working hard at my projects.

Professional Practice: Cvs & Covering Letters

The professional practice lecture this week went through Cv’s and Covering letter. This is something that I have done before during my second year and while on work placement but I thought that it was interesting to get more insight into tips when writing your CV.

  • Average time spent reading CV’s is 6.25 seconds
  • When CV is being used. Initial application for a role, as part of an application or speculative application.
  • 2/3 jobs in the UK are not advertised they are in the hidden jobs market. Through networking and word of mouth. Having a good up to date CV is useful in this instant – seeking out employment yourself.
  • There are different styles of CV’s. (Chronological (Trandtional CV) Skills-based CV) Skilled based CV are better if you haven’t got a huge amount of employment history – can showcase the skills. – transferable CV.
  • Creative CV always start with a transitional CV and then adapt to make more visual more appealing.
  • About identifying my brand and identity. – transfer able throughout all of the platforms that I use to communicate.
  • If the degree relevant to job applying for maybe consider adding in module topics from the degree – can help showcase skills.
  • A levels and GCSE are taking up one line rather than listing all of them. A-levels should be listed though.
  • Additional sections include Achievements and Interests. Only include something that’s relevant, don’t include something that’s not needed going to help.
  • Interest section – showcasing the well rounded person. Maybe not mentioned enjoy spending time with friends and family.
  • Relevant experience and employment are separate – most relevant at the top of the CV so that people can read it quickly.
  • Skills based CV is structured differently from traditional CV. The skills are grouped together and then evidenced the skills underneath based on employment.
  • Must Include: – Personal Details (link to platform you want the employer to see), personal profile, key skills and achievements – tailor to what you apply for, Education and academic qualifications, employment history, work experience/voluntary roles, Professional Qualifications & Interest.
  • Referees – should be asked before including them on the CV.
  • Make it graduate level – the first page should be impactful, tailored to the target audience, evidence based (examples included), Achievements highlighted, key words are important – matching what the employer in talking about. Bullet point not narrative and if using first person limited the amount of ‘I’ being used.
  • Personal Profile Section – Sit at the top of your CV. Tell them who you currently are (where currently studying) What’s your USP’s? and What are you hoping to achieve?
  • Everything should be backed up even in the Personal Profile section of the CV.
  • fte – full time equivalent
  • creative applications can be tailor to the job or company.
  • There is not certain way to do a CV.
  • Covering Letter/Email – adding narrative to the CV. Especially important in speculative approach when job hunting.
  • Intro – What are you applying for? Research towards the company. Briefly introduce yourself. How did you find the role? Why do you want to work for them?
  • 2nd Paragraph – Education has helped for the role? What experience do you have? What are relevant personal attributed? Examples are to be used just don’t regurgitate CV.
  • Closing paragraph – re iterate your desire for the role and highlight availability for interview. Welcome the oppitunity to discuss application further. End formally Yours sincerely (named) faithfully (unnamed.)

AfterLife #4 – Maris Latham

Today’s afterlife talk we heard from Maris who graduated from the course 2 years ago. I remember going to the graduation show when I was in first year and seeing her Final Major Project which inspired me then, so it was interesting to hear her speak today.

One of the main points I took from Maris’s talk was that it’s okay not to know what we want to do straight out of uni. Everyone has different pathways it’s not as simple as just going from A to B. I have started to think about this and although I know where I might like to end up nothing is set in stone. Hearing about all the fact that thinking about what the worse that can happen is something that I am definitely going to take away from this weeks talk. I always find myself thinking too much about situation and thinking like this will make it easier the long term. Also, keeping an eye out for something that I really and interested in was another point that has really hit home with me. Don’t just panic and think well I have to get a job straight away, keeping an eye out for something that you’re really interested in is important.

Another important point that I took from Maris was the idea of it’s okay to have a break as there is this perception that we must be producing top quality work all the time when in actual fact this can just lead to burn out which won’t be productive at all. I think I need to bear this in mind especially when working from home as it can be so super easy to just be working non stop.

A top tip that Maris gave was realising what your values are as a designer and what it is that makes you tick. If you’re doing work like this then your passionate about it and want to work on it and now in the final year of university is the time to do this. It was evident that Maris loved type and when seeing some of the personal project that she had completed it was clear. The important point I took away from this section of her talk was that passion project can help us play without expectation which can lead to unexpected opportunities in the long run.

I found this talk interesting as it from the perspective of an individual who has done the same course and is now working in local industry. Her advice on having fun now really has inspired me to do something that I’m passionate about in my final major project.

Afterlife #3 – James Greenfield – Studio Koto

I found today’s afterlife session really interesting from a branding point of view and inspiring to hear about James’s journey about finding his way through industry. He spoke about how at the start of his career he felt quite lost and not knowing where he wanted to go. This showed me that some of the feelings that I am experiencing right now are ok and they are normal for people graduating. Also, the fact that he moved away from the area of static design to learn motion and 3D again showed me that in this industry we are constantly learning, even once we graduate.

Hearing about the reasoning behind Studio Koto was also really interesting because I have noticed one thing about the designers that we have heard from so far and they all have these mantras which have helped them to aspire to work in the way they do. The idea that Koto is about the experience rather than the aesthetic is quite powerful and I think shows what a brand should be.

Throughout the presentation James used a lot of quotes to explain his thoughts and this was something that I found empowering. One of these was “The complete designer does not exist, be honest with yourself, not down on yourself” which he used to talk about how working as a team is really powerful as everyone has different strengths. One person might be really good at the detailing while other are stronger in the ideation concept stage. It was useful as well to hear about his branding work and how he’d describe is role as a brand creative director. I’ve always known branding was a complex area to design in as it’s much more than just a logo its something much greater. This has also got me thinking about my FMP which I am considering a branding project.

At the end of the presentation James spoke to us about what 5 things that he has learnt over the years, and again using quotes to explain these really helped me see them in my own practice and life. One in particular that jump at me was “Think progress not perfection” by Ryan Holliday this is something that I struggle with as I’ve always thought about perfection rather than seeing progress. This talk as inspired me to think about who I want to be as a designer and what I want todo. This industry is so wide and vast I know I need to think about it further.

AfterLife #2 – Michael C Place – Studio Build

For today’s afterlife session we had Michael C Place who owns and is the creative director of Studio Build. I was inspired by his talk it has really got me thinking about where I want to be in the future and what I could achieve even without moving to London. One of the main points from his talk was the idea that you don’t have to be in London to design you don’t have to be in London to become a credible designer. This is something that has inspired me to think about what I can do in my area as a designer. Also Michael spoke about clients haven’t once asked are you based in London, as long as the work is good they won’t matter where you are based.

Hearing how Michael had found his way into the design industry really interested me because he had almost stumbled across it by accident. His influences came from music, that’s where his passion for design and creative stemmed from. This was another point that I thought was important was to look at influences not just from design but other areas of life. This is something that I have been told before on one of my own placements but hearing being said by another designer shown me how I need to continue to do this.

His work is really experimental and this is something that I found interesting. There is this perception sometimes that designer have to create pretty design but his work has started to inspire me to be more adventurous with some pieces of work. Also, I found it really interesting seeing the range of work the studio has done across the years and how they aren’t sector specific they have worked with a range of clients, everything from branding to exhibition design. Michael said that this has both its positive and negatives but gave them opportunities to design things they haven’t had the chance to design before. The saying “do good work for good people” stuck with me and will be something I aim to remember.

A really interesting point that Michael gave was to remember that design isn’t everything and it’s important to take a breathe and have a social life. Getting to the point of burnout will not help you or anyone. This is something that I think is really important especially right now in the current climate. Working from home it can become easy to just to slip and not take proper breaks.

This talk with Michael has really inspired me to think about my process, practice and future within this industry. Potential starting my own studio in the future is something I have thought about and hearing his advice on this has really helped me think about this, especially the idea about working for someone first before moving into venture like that.

AfterLife #1: Jack Renwick Studio

Jack Renwick & Susie McGowan

We were fortunate enough to have Jack Renwick and Susie McGowan from Jack Renwick Studio talk to us today as part of the afterlife series. I remember hearing Jack speak at the 4 designers conference back in first year and finding her work really inspiring. Her story of working really hard to get to where she is today shows me that perseverance is a key part to finding a place in this industry. Hearing her story again story just re-inspired me and got me thinking about myself as a designer.

Susie is one of the designers at the studio and hearing her perspective on work was interesting too. Her story of how she was picked up by jack really highlighted to me the importance of entering these competitions and young designer awards because that’s one way of networking other than messaging designers and studios.

Blood, Sweat and Tea was a mantra that Jack shared with us and I thought it was really inspiring as I think I too want to try and work by this. I think in a nutshell it tells me what might be needed as a designer. Below are bullet points of the notes I took thought out the talk.

  • Studio based in London Whitechapel
  • ideas first, pen and paper. Sharing everything is important in order to remember. Working in a team really helpful can share ideas others can help and feed into the project.
  • Has studio across the the world.
  • Studio culture is really important – adapted through covid – Friday nights are fun.
  • Really adapted in the covid life – social, health, culture, education minister.
  • Branding Agency

Tips for Project

  • Keep it simple – hardest thing to do. taking simple things are merging them together.
  • Get under the skin. – do your homework, can approach a problem if you don’t understand the problem. Understanding any history or connotations of the problem. Don’t always take the easy short cuts.
  • Make it Different – always thinking why that restriction? think about the message.
  • Don’t be precious – take feedback on the chin. Don’t start research by looking at Pinterest – start by looking at obersvations etc. Sometimes shit hits the fan.
  • See opportunity in everything – sometime you’ll be asked to work on projects that aren’t your thing but try see the poitnential in everything. You don’t know where things are gonna take you – what else can I do to help them.

Top Tips for Students

  • online talks, free online learning. remote internships, industry appetites to help, don’t ask – don’t get.
  • building a network – people in the industry are gear to help
  • changes a lot of their design process because they use google sides etc. Communication is harder making sure you know what everyone else is working on. Taken time to get used to. Making sure that your looking after the rest of the team. for jack.
  • Never gonna be the finished product at graduating stage continuing to develop and learn.
  • Clients tend to want to see 2/3 ideas – personal taste must go out the window. Don’t share anything you wouldn’t want in my portfolio.
  • Don’t take free placement or work because it’s not right to start.
  • Don’t be afraid everyone is human even designers. If you don’t ask you won’t get.
  • Make sure the skills are stronger.
  • People are being careful in taking people on because of the current times. The more desirable you can make yourself, constantly learning, making personal projects can help differentiate you.
  • Don’t let the pandemic be negative about the projects.
  • Use this time to really polish skills and projects.
  • Don’t care what people think. Confidence is important, show me a confident designer and ill show you an average designer. Nothing bad can happen.
  • Don’t be afraid
  • Personal Projects are really useful