Kezia Hessam, BA Design for Art Direction
I've always been a fairly cautious person. Not as a person, but through my professional life. I put on a face that depicts some level of confidence, when in reality I've never convinced myself that I have that confidence. It may be hard for some people to admit that, whereas for others it's as easy as breathing.
The past couple of months I've been researching about the human paradigm, a phenomenon I came across that involves the subconscious mind. To my knowledge the best way I can describe this to you is by imagining humanity as an atom. We are all linked like the electrons of an atom and we emit both negative and positive energy. This in turn affects those around us as humans are always vibrating different energies.
I’ve discovered that this is because when we are born, we are nurtured by the environment around us. The early stages of our life are the foundations of what we will be like later on in life. Once we pass this stage, our subconscious level is unlikely to change. And it is because of this reason that some people are either very confident or not confident at all.
The answer to success is simple; change your subconscious paradigm.
By doing this, we have to surround ourselves with positive energy by being positive ourselves. You can’t let 30 failures push you down a pit, you have to find a reason to keep going, and by having positivity will you find success. You can be talented and have all the skills in the world, but only through pushing your boundaries will those skills show in the results.
Since beginning my placement year, I only received one call back for an internship with website magazine Cent. At first I was hesitant because my goal in life is to be a film designer and a publication internship wasn’t exactly ideal. However, I truly believe that it isn’t what you do that gets you anywhere, it is through the positive people you surround yourself with and starting from the bottom up, all the while with your end goal constantly in mind. I took up this internship and now I am working under a creative director who provides me with so many wonderful opportunities. I am also working as a production designer for an upcoming short film and I am freelancing as an art director for a fashion brand.
The only person who will push you is you and no one else. I have never created content that I love, but I know I can and I will. My goal at the end of this year is to have a visual identity that I can proudly say is my own. And my way of doing this is to face anything and everything that comes my way. So...
" Don't panic, take a deep breath... "
Ester Mejibovski and Marta Úrbez.
Back in May, we were volunteering for D&AD Festival, where we got the opportunity to get our portfolios reviewed. Without knowing, we were applying for a 3 month web design course in NYC, the WIX Design Playground. We were lucky to be 2 out of the 3 selected young designers to attend.
The programme was divided onto three projects: an online campaign for Tattly, a website for a local charity, and developing our own portfolio site. Besides that we had weekly workshops with people such as Adam J. Kurtz, Frankie Ratford from TheDesignKids, Jessica Walsh or Alexandra Zsigmond.
After having spent the summer in the sweatiest city in the world, we have asked each other some questions in order to reflect upon our experiences.
Ester: Having submitted my physical portfolio on friday and flown to New York City on sunday was a crazy experience. I got told that I will be a part of the WIX Design Playground only 2 weeks prior and I was not sure what the summer will have in store for me. Booking flights, finding a room and packing my life was chaotic but in the end worthwhile.
Marta: What has been your biggest or most valuable lesson?
There are a couple lessons that I have learned:
First, I used to think that web design has to be boring and functional. But t my own surprise I was proven wrong. After doing loads of research into existing websites from brilliant designers I found websites with the most inventive and amazing concepts. The future is digital and it can be really fun.
Secondly, I learned that whatever the brand, whatever its message and ethic, if it is big, it does consume you in a way. I did not know much about WIX previously to the program and I actually really love the product now. Especially for designers it provides a platform to create great websites without actual knowledge of code. However, it is a big brand and we did get too feel that. Whether that is in the most positive way, when we got nice gifts or when we had to make design work aligned to the brands identity.
Lastly, a very important one. Maybe this one is more of a general life lesson. I have looked up to a lot of designers before. For example, Stefan Sagmeister, whose talk I loved last year at D&Ad. I found big designers quiet inspiring and admirable. However, over the course of the program we had “famous” designers come in such as Jessica Walsh, Debbie Millman etc. And I was utterly disappointed. Their talks seemed quite dull and it seemed like they were more focused on their work being rather aesthetically pleasing than meaningful in any way. It seemed like the more famous the designer, the estranged they were from reality.
All together I really treasure this experience as I learned a lot of things now that I wouldn’t want to learn the hard way after actually graduating from university.
Marta: Best moment @Playground?
Ester: The best moment was definitely when Frankie Ratford came in for a talk. She was by far one of the “less” known personas visiting us. But she impacted me greatly. Especially in the beginning of the program, branding and commercial work seemed in the foreground. Being a designer did not seem that appealing anymore. Until Frankie. I did not know much about her. But she was the most easy- going and open person I have ever met. She was full of energy and she started telling us about how she wants to build a bridge between design students and design studios. She talked to us as if we were on the same level and really tried to help us with our goals individually. Just an amazing person to be honest overall.
In general, her life is insanely inspiring. When she is not back home in Australia she is travelling, giving talks and visiting studios while being the nicest person on this person.
Over all the summer experience was full of ups and downs. We spend quiet a lot of evenings in coffee shops around Manhattan stressing over our non-existing internships. But we also spend days visiting different gallery openings (my one and only access to any alcoholic beverages as I am underage) and meeting amazing photographers along the way. Actually, another lesson we had to learn the hard way was that if the way from A to B seems short on Google maps it will be an actual pilgrimage in real life. But we did walk past Katie Holmes, so no regrets. Lastly, I became really close friends with Marta which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she had a baby kitten in her Airbnb.
Marta: Looking back on it we had a really great summer. I still cant believe I got a full ride to go to NYC, live with a baby cat in Williamsburg, learn from great designers, and eat like there was no tomorrow. What I loved the most was trying really hard to infiltrate the NYC Arts scene - it kind of worked? (Not at all)
Ester: What have been your main lessons learnt?
Marta: First of all, that websites are actually great. I was an avid supporter of print and only print but I have discovered that websites are like printed matter - but ever changing, never finished, in movement, and so so so quick to do. Welcome to the 21st Century am I right! Secondly to work with people from all creative backgrounds, and specially to be patient and less precious with my work. Lastly, I learned to take what you are given and make the most of it. Even if the project is under a big brand... there is always ways to work around their guidelines (wink wink wink).
Ester: Have you formed a different opinion on your own goals?
Marta: I got a bit of a slap from reality (WOHOOO! round 1 done). It was good for some reasons, but bad because I don't want to become bitter about design, thats the feeling I get from a lot of experienced designers and quite frankly its a big fear of mine. I don't want to stop enjoying design and I really don't want to sell out. However, I have realised this is a very unrealistic expectation and that eventually (aka right now) I'd have to design for things I don't like in order to survive.
So my goals have not changed: I still want to enjoy design and I still want to learn from design, but now I'm allowing myself some breathing room.
Ester: Who has influenced you the most, and how?
Marta: Frankie Ratford too. WHAT A FUCKING STAR. She founded the design kids to help connect young designers with studios worldwide, and she's gone on a 6 year road trip because of it! She has organised design communities everywhere, helped countless young designers find their place within the industry, and encouraged studios to take on new designers and foster a comfortable space for their development. She is a force of nature and someone we need more of. I love her.
Ester: What were your best and worst moments?
Marta: Getting rejected by Debbie Millman was both the best and worst. It was really funny to be honest: After a lecture, I approached her (she was visiting for the day) with the biggest confidence I have had probably ever in my life. I handed her my beautifully lcc printed, lcc bound, blood sweat and tears portfolio publication - mostly because I wanted feedback on it, and a possible chance at asking for contacts.
She fully said she had absolutely no time to accept my portfolio and to please not give it to her. It took me by surprise, because at the moment I thought it would be better for her just to take it out of being polite-even if it will sit under a pile of other student portfolios. It was funny because I was in a circle full of people: my wix design mentor (who had not approved of this and wanted to kill me for a second), Ester who was dying of laughter, and Adam J. Kurtz who had said that my portfolio was good and I should give it to her. This was my first big rejection, what really buttered the pan for this year in industry. On the flip side, at the end of the summer she did look at my printed portfolio, and we had a 5 minute discussion about one single apostrophe. Great stuff.
Overall it has been a crazy few months, and besides all of this, we did some wix websites!!
Here is Ester's Portfolio site: www.estermejibovski.com
Here are two of the websites Marta did: www.artejustice.org/ https://www.martaurbez.com/
Here is one we did together that got us over our design block: https://estermejibovski.wixsite.com/tattlydiy
Margarida Dias, BA Graphic and Media Design
So, here I find myself reliving the desperation and stress of the past month. The struggle is real but I believe I am slowly achieving the mechanisms of becoming immune to boredom or tension of being put, as I describe it, on the blacklist. For this situation I have not only tried to find the numerous reasons for not being able to find a placement but also I have compiled a list of things to do, in order, not to loose hope or my mind.
Number one: Sweat that stress
Working out is the first activity of my list, not only allows me to relieve stress but also keeps my mind of the reality in which I am living and it sure does something for my body.
Number two: Museum addict
I have developed a curious taste for exhibitions and so, my intent is to visit as many as I can until the end of the year. Not a cheap activity but is what Sundays and student discounts are made for.
Number three: Irony and self-love
Being on the "blacklist" is hard but my third step is to no be hard on myself. I will find something eventually or otherwise, someone will find one of my numerous emails on their mailbox.
Edoardo Buttinelli, BA Design for Art Direction
The more I walk on this uncertain path called "creative career", the more I realise that in order to learn more about your subject matter you have to look into yourself. The biggest challenge I ever found in studying this subject was learning how to deal with myself, which at our age is still a work in progress and can be very challenging. This year so far constitutes one of the biggest challenges I ever faced in University, mainly for the fact that it constitutes a test drive of what happens once you graduated and you are truly alone in the field. When you have a very limited contact with any friend or any colleague (because everyone you know is in London and you are in Southern Europe), when most of your conversations happen with your parents, you realise things in a extremely slower pace. You realise that you are sending emails to the wrong people after 2 months instead of 2 days. You realise that your emails are too long after 5 weeks instead of 1. You realise that you shouldn't hop on a train to another city just for an interview. And most importantly, you realise that maybe what you thought you really wanted back in April is not what you actually want, but the idea you had of it. As I said, you have to look inside to bring it outside.
By Alisa Welby — Design For Art Direction.
Lately, I am nothing but an e-mail bot. A coffee shop, macbook, email writing, remote freelancing, In-Designing, square-eyed, laptop ro-bot. I sent the first email back in June.
Only a few weeks in, I found the summer photography internship of my dreams. Well, not of my dreams, but it was acceptable enough to please my stubborn and picky self in strictly finding a not-so-overly-commercial type of internship. A way to get ahead and begin the placement year before Septembers even started. A way to experience interning as a photographer before I focus the rest of the year on graphic design. They told me I took beautiful photographs, and that being a graphic designer/art director was an added bonus. The internship fell through- they had a change of plans and needed to spend the summer shooting content abroad, so we came to an agreement that I’d ‘intern’ for them remotely, with the promise we’d reconnect come September.
June, July, August. Time passes slowly when you’re waiting for an e-mail. I was too scared to book any holidays abroad, or any shifts with a new job, because I kept being told I’d have new work in the coming week. My god, time passes slowly when you’re waiting for an e-mail.
I found myself, and still am to this day- waking up at 4am, because emails are on my mind. Have they replied? There’s never a reply. I am slowly going crazy. And when you do finally get one email that’s filled with slight hope, it’s only a matter of weeks or months of being strung along until it drops again.
Two months of waiting- stuck in limbo. The e-mail bot never ends. At the same time, I’ve got a handful of other e-mails from elsewhere that I’m still waiting to hear from. When September came, I was informed that the internship would now be pushed back until October. I manage to sit and twiddle my thumbs for one more month. And then October came, I was informed that the internship would now be pushed back until ‘November, but we can’t say for sure’. That e-mail was a pretty painful one to read.
I think I’ve perfected the art of writing e-mails by now. Of all the studios and magazines I’ve contacted, this is only one of many examples from recent experiences. I’ve realised that the creative industry is one with serious commitment issues-- no-one can promise you anything, no-one can secure you anything, and no-one can tell you anything until the very, very last minute. They’re also great at ignoring e-mails.
Marie Alberto, BA (Hons) Design for Art Direction
The waiting game.
It could be a day, a week, or several months before receiving any replies from people or studios you have contacted... and sometimes, unfortunately never.
But you just 'gotta' wait... patiently. Patiently... which means in reality, checking mails every seconds and hours.
During that period of wait, I have depicted mail situations in three parts:
The first one
In the morning, at lunch, tea time, dinner time and before bed. You know this moment when you check your mails and you hear a *ting* followed by a small vibration from your phone? Then, your heart goes faster and faster? And then, you start thinking about all the possibilities of studios who might have replied you. And then, you don't really want to look because you are a bit scared and excited. And then, you realise that what you have actually received is... An ad from easyJet.
The second one
In the morning, at lunch and tea time. 3 messaged received. Name of the studio 'Re: Application...' : Unfortunately, we're not currently looking for any interns. I would suggest to be grateful to have received this kind of mail, as they would normally just ignore your e-mail.
In the morning, at lunch and tea time. 1 messaged received. Name of the studio 'Re: Application...' : Could you come in tomorrow? Wait... Tomorrow???? Is my portfolio ready? Review it and add up missing things today. Do I know much about the company? Research before bed time. Should I ask to re-schedule the meeting? NO, you might miss an opportunity.
The third one
In the morning and tea time. 2 messaged received. 'Dear (insert name)...' : At the moment I don't have anything that you could help us with... We currently don't have much projects at the moment...
In the morning and tea time. 1 messaged received. 'Dear (insert name)...' : I'd be grateful if you confirm that...
Finally, a creative fell in love with your projects and wants to take you on board!
All in all, waiting is part of the DPS process. You learn to wait. You learn to strive. You learn to be determined. You learn to improvise. You learn to be grateful. You learn to bounce back. You learn to persist and move forward.
A little note: Follow-up whatever e-mails you have sent and received. Follow-up for whatever reason. Follow-up. Follow-up. Follow-up. Chances are they might have put you on read and flagged you or just... you know the rest.
Illustration and Visual Media
Quest for Work Experience.
I wanted to be a game artist, but the skillset wasn’t there yet. “What to do? Anything and everything in between. Do an online CGI course! In the meantime, do some other artsy activity.”, - I thought to myself and set out on a quest to find a job placement.
The London Book Fair!
It was very good idea to volunteer, and DPS gives you a good excuse to be cheeky and inquisitive and to ask around, whether people need any illustrators in their publishing houses. I went and asked the people in the illustrator’s zone, how did they get there. They said that you just have to apply in time and pay a fee for a wall space and\or a table. Also it is useful to ask publishers from other countries if they need illustrators. The first time I actually needed business cards and regretted not having printed them in time. Have a portfolio on the ready and print some business cards with a link to it.
ComicCon is no longer purely for entertainment! I found out that many story writers are looking to hook up with artists in order to create comics. There are also comic zines you could submit your illustrations and sequential comics to. At ELCAF you can find out about big and small publishers not only from UK, but from all over the world. The most interesting are usually the small independent ones, but often they don’t have enough work to employ interns. Never hurts to ask though!
Even just going to talks, giving talks or staying in an AirBnB with a creative person can help expand your network of art connections. I once stayed in the house hosted by a professional illustrator, which gave me some idea of the workflow of a creative professional.
Other than that, I'm still sending email, still waiting, like many of us on DPS.
Marie Alberto, BA (Hons) Design for Art Direction
Before applying to any internships, Instagram, Linked In and Google were (and are still) my first choices to look into.
I would (and still) note down the studios I found interesting from Instagram and then research in depth through LinkedIn for their academic and career path in order for me to expand a bit more my internship lists and then Google to look at their experiences and interviews they made for magazines or websites.
Research, research, research.
Research the studio you want to work and intern for.
This is what we are all currently doing.
Research the exact person you are applying to (and if you are brave enough, call the studio and ask).
It's a changing game for the e-mails, I promise you!
Research about the company (and see if it suits with your values) and remember the key elements (Who? What? When? Where? And also, How? could be useful too).
You don't need to remember everything as they will present you their company on the day of the interview but it's good to come up and relate to what they are talking about. (ex: your interviewer presents a book and you know what that book is about because your research it last night, then show your enthusiasm!!!)
Research about the person who will interview you.
If you have social media accounts, use them. Stalk the person who will interview you (it's kind of fun and bit creepy but cool!). On Instagram or LinkedIn, you would discover their work, their inspirations and moodboard, where they studied, where they worked, what job position they have now etc... Could be interesting! Luckily that person could have been in the same university as you, or know a tutor that they had many years ago (could be a great conversation!)
Research the location of your interview, in advance.
I have noticed that in London, many of the studios are hidden behind yards or inside of houses. Make sure you visit the studio few days before or arrive 30mins prior to the interview in order for you to not get lost and be late to the meeting.
Marie Alberto, BA (Hons) Design for Art Direction
I came to conclusion that no matter the plan we make today, it would unlikely go the way we want.
After long awaited five months (since late June) within three interviews have been cancelled, I have finally made it to the front of my dream studio’s door bell.
Carrying my massive portfolio box on my shoulder, I took a breath five times before ringing the studio’s door bell. My hands are tensed. Someone answers.
Few stairs and minutes later.
A lady welcomes me halfway on the stairs with a lovely smile, shakes my hand and invites me to enter the studio. She is the producer. Before she opens the door, I said to myself ‘this is it, I waited so long and now I am here’. She opened the door. My eyes browsed the white room. A small table, two comfy chairs, a meeting area. On my right were placed five personalised desks with computers. On the side, shelves with tones of publications and references triggered my curiosity. On the corners of the room, big green plants covered the empty space. At that very moment, I felt grateful. The woman introduced me to the art director that I followed for months on Instagram and to my new desk for the day. I dropped my bags, sat and discussed about the weather, my academic path, and all of the things you would expect from a first encounter.
10 minutes later.
I have been asked two interesting admin tasks to do for the day.
Two hours later.
The creative director arrives and enters the door.
An hour and snacks later.
I take my lunch break and comes back to work on the tasks behind the computer again.
The creative director is ready to leave. I grabbed the chance to ask her for a portfolio review as it was the reason why I came for. No chance. She had to leave.
Tasks perfectly executed on time, and even did more than I was asked for.
No portfolio review.
What have I done wrong? Nothing. At least, from that day, they know my name. They know my name.
here to edit.
Marie Alberto, (Hons) Design for Art Direction
I guess the rule number one is to know yourself. We are often influenced by various things and people. We deliberately choose different approach when making something, thus it can be easy to loose ourselves in someone else’s shadow.
In terms of searching a studio, I would say it is important to know yourself in order to know what you would be looking for. Know your personality and try to meet HR, producer, art director or even creative director (and see/feel if you could work along with them), know your taste and the company’s taste, your values and the company’s values, your work ethic and the company’s work ethic.
The attention you would receive from a big or a small studio can be quite different. So beware. Although, you wouldn’t know the environment of the studio until you visit the studio and meet the people working there.
You may want to consider applying on anything and everywhere but before that, look out for what you don’t like and pick up what you like. You can like anything but you can’t like everything. But at the end of the day, for the risk-takers, just try everything and loose nothing.
No matter what the size of the company, what matters is a good energy and that you must feel comfortable with your new design teammates.
NB: It is important to know yourself when applying to studios as the internships might land you to a real job after your final year.
(Once again, this blog post is written by a picky person)