Inside Silk Pearce: Graphic design work placement
13 March 2018
“…employers are rarely worried about your grades and are much more interested in seeing exciting, unique ideas in a student’s portfolio”
Calum, a graphic design graduate from Falmouth University, joined us in the studio for a two-week placement. We were keen to find out why he chose a design pathway, what he was able to learn during his time with us, and how he’s found life in the industry since graduation. Here’s what he had to say…
Why did you choose graphic design?
I got into graphic design in a rather backwards manner. I studied Design and Technology at secondary school and became interested in Photoshop and video editing software. While learning how these skills could be utilised, I discovered graphic design and was inspired by its ability to help and entertain people, while solving real world problems using a variety of mediums. I continue to be interested in how graphic design can be part of an intelligent solution to a design problem.
Has your perception of the working in design changed since you graduated?
Yes, definitely. When you’re at university the sky is the limit in terms of the potential scope of an idea. Once I entered the ‘real world’ my ideas needed to become more realistic. Things like scale, materials and costs were something I had considered, but my ideas were never limited by them, when you’re dealing with real clients and real budgets suddenly that kind of thinking becomes essential.
I’ve certainly developed a sense of brevity. At university you’re given weeks to ponder a design problem, but in the industry you’re given one or two days to mull over a new brief. It can come as quite a shock. The deadlines are suddenly real, and someone is actually paying you to be efficient and concise.
I’ve been able to see designers working with clients first hand, and have come to understand how important it is to fulfill the client’s wishes – even when they don’t pick the design route the team was hoping for.
Would you recommend work placements to other design students?
I have done five placements now, and it always surprises me how every design studio feels completely unique. Each studio has a different atmosphere and a different approach to design, and by far the best thing is being able to experience all these different environments and meet some of the many lovely people in the industry.
From your perspective, what is the best kind of placement?
It’s one that gives you a wide variety of experience – from the exciting stuff to the realistic jobs. Obviously it’s great to learn what it’s like to work on a big branding project as part of a team, but I feel it’s equally important to take part in of some of the less glamorous jobs you’d be expected to do as a Junior Designer, such as running errands, typesetting content, helping with research, and making lots of tea!
What would you say you gained from your time at Silk Pearce?
Silk Pearce have given me valuable real world experience by allowing me to help out on several live projects. I have been trusted to work independently and make my own decisions, with the team always there to guide and encourage me.
How tough is it out there for graduates at the moment?
The design industry is very competitive. Agencies are flooded with emails from students and graduates, and it’s very hard for a young designer to stand out from the crowd. My solution to this was to send out design packages of physical work from one of my university projects. Designers won’t have time to trawl through hundreds of identical emails, but everyone likes getting something nice in the post!
Even if you manage to get a work placement, it’s essentially luck whether a job opportunity will arise while you’re there. Many of my fellow alumni have been doing placements at a variety of great design agencies, but very few have been able to find permanent employment. The solution is to keep doing placements, keep meeting people, keep gaining experience, and eventually you will get lucky.
What are the benefits of an internship or placement?
The real world experience you get from a work placement is incredibly important for a designer to grow and evolve, and gives you a change to work with other designers, artists, and clients.
As well as this, the design industry in this country is so close that everyone seems to know each other. The more placements you do the more you will be able to get to know people and help set yourself apart.
What would be your top tip for a student looking to take a graphic design degree?
It’s kind of cliché at this point because you hear it from lecturers a lot, but my advice would to be to use your time at university to be experimental and tackle the most challenging problems you can think of in an area you’re passionate about, without worrying about what will happen if they fail. I’ve been told by many lecturers and designers that employers are rarely worried about your grade, and are much more interested in seeing exciting, unique ideas in a student’s portfolio.
If you're interested in joining us for a placement, whether you're a graphic design student or graduate, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org