Student Designer Profile Chris Lissaman University of Derby

Christ student designerGraphic Design Student Chris Lissaman got in touch with me after seeing another graphic design student interview I did a while back and asked if he could do the same. I liked his work, so said yes.

1. What is you name and Design Portfolio URL?
Name: Chris Lissaman

2. What you are studying and where?
I’m studying BA(Hons) Graphic Design at the University of Derby, and I’m in my 2nd year.

3. Please could you share some of your favourite pieces of your work and talk me through them?
My projects are all start with a brief, and I research, develop and refine to a final design. The following projects have been set during my 2nd year and range from branding to app design.

Some of my design work:

This is a conceptual direct mail campaign for the children’s wellbeing charity, NSPCC. It was inspired by The Human Printer project, an experiment by QUAD as part of the Format photography festival. I noticed how even the nicest people insult their printer or complain about it despite the work it does and time it saves, and I wanted to highlight that by comparing it to the real abuse children receive.

front cover brochure design

spread 1 brochure design

spread 2 brochure design

spread 3 brochure design

spread 4 brochure design

back cover student brochure design

This self-written brief challenged me to use graphic design to tackle the issue of children not getting outdoors enough. Children are much more likely than previous generations to be inside the house all day, sat in front of screens such as TV, tablets, and smartphones. My idea was to create and app aimed at children that encouraged them not to use it! After educating youngster on healthy ways to live through a quiz format, the app would then pose challenges – such as to not use the app for the weekend – to be rewarded with in-game coins. This incentivised game-play is what I wanted and I’m really pleased with how the characters look!




The photography department at the University approached the graphic designers with a competition brief to design the visual identity for their end of year exhibitions under the name ‘New Light.’ It was mandatory that would be shown in an A5 photography postcard catalogue, which showcases a photo from every student in a publication that can be given to industry professionals, students, and the general public. My approach was to take the recognisable aperture shape and give it a contemporary feel that is clean, professional and eye-catching. I used this same approach for the cover design and continued it across a number of inside pages.

New light logo

New light

4. What are your favourite things about your course?
I’d say my favourite thing is that I enjoy the variety in the briefs we are given. Some of them are very particular and need a set outcome such as the photography catalogue, and some are self-written such as the Sketchimals project which I was free to create anything that met the brief.

5. What are your ambitions for the future?
I’d love to work for a graphic design studio, and I’m heading towards branding and corporate identity as an expertise. I’m getting married next summer so I’m looking to find a job straight away or my wife won’t be happy! It excites me to think I’ll be doing what I love for a living.

6. What other artists, designers or illustrators do you admire?
I’ve come across the design studio Ragged Edge Design, headed up by Max Ottigon, and I’m a big fan of their designs. I think it’s the clean and contemporary style that I aspire to create myself.

7. Do you read any design magazines or blogs that you would recommend to other student designers?

I occasionally buy magazines such as Computer Arts if I think a particular issue will help me get to grips with a new technique, but I mainly stick to flicking through the magazines in the University library – it’s cheaper that way! On Twitter I follow design:related (@designrelated) which often posts links to interesting things in the design world.

Learn to Design a Letterhead – Free Beginners Course

If you are just starting out in design or are thinking about learning, you might want to check out my FREE – Learn to Design a Letterhead Course.

In this free letterhead design course you will learn about

  • Common positioning of letterhead elements
  • How to sketch out your letterhead ideas
  • How to add small details that add that extra something to your design
  • Some tricks of the graphic design trade
  • How to get your letterhead ready for print

You will also get a downloadable pdf with each section that you can keep and use for reference.

By the end of the course you will be able to design a letterhead from sketch to sending it out for print

Visit to get free access to the course.

Design Graduates Clever CV Campaign Wins him his Dream Design Job

Ryan Mcleod Design Graduate's clever cv gets him his first design jobIn this interview Ryan MCleod talks about how he got his first design job through a clever cv campaign

Tara: Please can you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you work and the type of work you do?

Ryan: I work for a full service digital agency called Equator in Glasgow, Scotland ( We do a whole host of digital media based work like websites, campaigns, social media stuff and apps. I’m part of the design team who work on all the concepts and visuals covering a few disciplines but mainly graphic and interaction design. We work with a whole range of companies across many sectors including hotels, energy, financial and consumer goods.

Tara: You got yourself noticed by creating a really clever promotion to  get yourself a job out of University, please could you explain what you did and  how you came up with the idea?

Ryan: After graduating from my undergraduate degree (Interactive Media Design) I decided that I wanted to stay in academia for another year and do a Masters in Design. It was early in my masters year that I decided my next step would be into the industry of digital design so I decided to craft myself a CV and associated campaign. Before I started coming up with ideas or creating designs, I sat down and wrote out all the elements I needed to consider in my application:

  • I wanted a job doing digital design
  • I wanted to stay in Scotland
  • I wanted to aim high and work for the best company possible
  • I needed something that would catch an employer’s attention
  • I needed to create something memorable
  • My campaign had to have the flexibility to be customised for each job
  • The job had to start in September after I had finished my Masters of Design

Taking all this into consideration I started to brainstorm some ideas. I wanted to create an application that was memorable and I felt the best way to do this would be through a physical object. So that even if I didn’t get the job, they would keep the object and I would be kept at the back of their minds until the future. So I decided to go with an object that every office has lots of and something people use multiple times a day, a mug but I couldn’t write my CV and qualifications on a mug. I decided to make my entire application digital as it would be easier to customise and I already had an online portfolio. I sent out the mug with a card inside that said ‘The countdown has begun’ with a URL and a password. The URL revealed a countdown timer, which counted down to the point at which I finished my masters and was available for employment. Once the password was entered it revealed my customised covering letter with the company logo and links to my portfolio, CV, twitter, blog and contact details. I had planned to roll this out across several agencies but in the end the campaign worked first time and landed me a job at Equator, the biggest digital agency in Scotland.

Tara: You have now created a guide for design students and graduates looking for work please could you tell me a bit about it and why you created it?

Ryan: It’s an aim of Equator to influence design education and help students be better prepared when graduating and as a graduate of Art College I feel I have a bit of a responsibility to share the knowledge I have gained working in industry. As part of this objective I have been guest lecturing and tutoring on the Digital Interaction Design course at Dundee University. As part of this I have tried to give the students an insight into agency life and an overview of the processes we use on a daily basis. During one of the Q&A sessions I had I noticed a lot questions about CVs and self promotion. So I decided the best way to help the students would be to create a simple guide to creating a creative CV. Initially the guide was only intended for the students I was working with but I soon saw the potential it had to help anyone looking for employment in the creative industries. After uploading the document to slideshare and emailing it out to all the design courses in the UK there has been
nearly 10,000 views, nearly 400 downloads, 220 facebook likes and 150 tweets about it.

Tara: Both you and the company you work for are trying to have an impact on design in education, please could tell me what sort of things you are doing?

Ryan: Equator have been working with a couple of other Universities, sending in members of the design team to talk to the students about industry life and tutoring the students through creative briefs as part of their course work. This work and the CV guide are starting points in having a positive impact on design education and something which Equator is aiming to build upon in the future. In terms of the guides, I have already created a second guide on inspiration that will be getting released shortly and I have been speaking to more students about what kinds of guides they would like to see next. The plan is to develop a site to showcase all these guides and create a useful resource for students, graduates and anyone else who might be interested.

Tara: Where can people find out more about you and connect with you?


Graduate in Graphic Design versus the Mature Designer the Challenges

graduate designer anology climbing up a mountain

With the economy in the state its in, being a graduate in graphic design at the moment must be very difficult. At any financial time good or bad, getting that first elusive design job is always the hardest, it’s the chicken and egg thing, everyone wants design experience but how to you get it if you have only just graduated. In this blog an anonymous graduate graphic designer shares his/her problems of trying to get a Graphic Design Job in London.

So is it easier for the more mature designer than the graphic design graduate?

I think perhaps the problem can be almost as bad for the older designer. If you are a more mature designer who has lost your design job due to redundancy the issue may be that you are now considered too expensive, especially with so many others out of work. As a more mature designer with possible mortgage, family etc there are more rigid requirements of a certain level of wages and less time to put in those long hours to get jobs done or learn new software.

It’s the same with freelancing, the more mature designer must be able to differentiate themselves enough and show their experience and reliability in order to be able to challenge the cheaper quotes of younger designers and new graduates.

From my own personal perspective I used to worry that my design would not be as trendy as a younger designer, but then if you think about it in a lot of projects trendy is neither wanted or suitable for the job.

Can you be too old to be a designer?

I posted on Linked In recently to ask Can you be too old to be a Designer and got some interesting responses you can read here

Check out also an insightful post on the Creative Freelancer Blog called “Too old to be a designer” which the blogger Laurel Black states “I have been told that if you are over 40, no agency will hire you. If that’s true, what happens to all these people when they get laid off?”

So what is the answer for both graduate designers and mature designers alike?

I think it is case of standing out amongst the crowd, networking and finding your perfect design niche. It’s the sweet spot where there is demand and where you are considered the go to person in that field? Just off to look for my sweet spot (oops that sounds a bit rude!)

What do you think? How have you found your graphic design sweet spot?

Student Designer Profile Tom Hughes University College Falmouth

Tom Hughes student designerStudent designer Tom Hughes who is currently studying animation at University College Falmouth got in touch with me by email recently. Hi just said that he was getting in touch with different organisations to show them his work, sent me a link to his work and said “Not entirely sure where it’s going to go from there but hey, you got to start somewhere right?” I thought was quite funny 🙂 but also showed a lot of initiative. I liked some of Tom’s illustration work and so asked him if he would be interested in doing a mini interview and show off some of his work on my blog.

1. What is you name and Website/ Design Portfolio URL?

Name: Tom Hughes.

2. What you are studying and where?

I am studying BA Hons in Animation at University College Falmouth (UCF)

3. Please could you share a couple of your favourite pieces of your work and talk me through them?

Most of my work/drawings are self set projects, so I don’t usually have a brief. Of course I am always looking for commissioned projects as well. I guess this gives me the creative freedom to do what I want. I am very much into design, typography and Illustration.
Things that are different and clever definitely interest me. Usually, as soon as I think of something, I want to get on doing it straight away!

Some of my design work:

This is a set of 5 typography posters I did, showing what the typical mum says to their child. I came up with the idea when my mum called me one day telling to be careful about something silly (most probably) which got me thinking, as mums are notorious worriers they tend to make things up..which then tend to spread. That is where the posters come in. Pretty much anyone can relate to them!

student design work

This illustration is one of my favorites. I love ‘forgotten’ animals (animals in which people forget exist) like the manatee, or the giant ant eater. I do have a favorite and that’s the Narwhal. This print is quite simply a Narwhal doing what gentlemen do best. Complete with his mustache and monocle. He’s a friendly fella.

student illustration work

Along with design and the rest of it I am very much into puns and word play. It can be immensely clever I think. This illustration is of (the best) sitcom main character of all time. In my eyes anyway. But then using who he is and putting it into everyday life. I think it’s quite fun 🙂

For all my work I use Microsoft Paint which may come to a bit of a surprise.. I taught myself from an early age and can now manipulate it, I guess, to create designs and drawings of that done on a more advanced software. I am slowly learning to use others like illustrator etc… but for me nothing beats the old school. It’s just the way I work.

student designer portfolio piece

4. What are your favourite things about your course?

I have many favorite things about my course. All the people I work with are friendly which make it a nice environment. Over the years I have learned a lot I didn’t know about, theory and practical  based. However I now look at an animation for the way its made and not how pretty it looks and the story line. It’s become habit to me and my fellow classmates.

5. What are your ambitions for the future?

I would simply love to be a freelance Illustrator/Designer. Just to have people look at my work and say ‘wow’ would make me happy.

6. What other artists, designers or illustrators do you admire?

A man called Keaton Henson who is pretty well known is a big inspiration to me. I love all his illustrations and his music isn’t bad either. A designer that inspires me is a man called Olly Moss. He does a lot of typography and poster based stuff. All of which is very clever.

7. Do you read any design magazines or blogs that you would recommend to other student designers?

I don’t really read a lot of magazines. I love little local ‘zines’ around uni. I am hopefully going to have some of my work in one soon. But I do follow many different design/illustration blogs all over the internet. They are always giving me a lot of inspiration.

If you are a student or recent graduate designer with an interesting story you would like to share on this blog please get in touch.

12 Tips for Students and Graduates looking for Design Jobs

A guest post by Steph Pickerill, from Jeenia Ltd who offers her advice for design students and graduates looking for their first design jobs

student or graduate portfolio
Getting opportunities to expand your portfolio is tough. Landing that dream design job is just as difficult – but whether you’re going it alone after uni, picking up the odd job while you’re studying or preparing for an interview, here’s some stuff to consider.

1. Design your presentation

Everything that represents you – your website, portfolio, blog – should represent your work and your talent. A CV that claims outstanding typography skills should work as evidence for it. Be clever with the content. Don’t put everything into your portfolio, select only your best work that you’d be prepared to discuss and that you’re happy to have scrutinised. And don’t leave out the messy bits. Design is about process and a client or employer may appreciate an insight into yours – show brainstorms, alternative ideas and sketches, as well as the end result.

2. Take the right opportunities

Working for free for long periods of time is tempting, especially in the climate we’re in, but it is important that you don’t fail to appreciate what you have to offer to an employer or client. Particularly once you’ve graduated, taking on too much for free may lead to you undervaluing your work. Take your skills seriously and know their worth, if you don’t, others won’t either.

Similarly, don’t over do it. Respect every job, even if it’s small. Showing you’re keen and efficient may lead to future work.

3. Welcome ALL feedback

A project doesn’t stop with the finished design; always ask for truthful feedback. Praise is good but it won’t always help you improve. Make the most of criticism and get used to it, learn how to handle it and apply it to your next project. Equally, recognise unconstructive criticism and move on!

4. Knowledge is power

When you’re pitching a job, the only ammunition you have is your portfolio and yourself. Once you’ve made the first look it’s best, the second has to be pretty impressive too. I’m not talking about how you scrub up but the knowledge you bring to the table. Be resourceful. Thanks to the internet, you have a load of information just waiting to be used and most of it is free.

5. Be online

Having an online presence is more than constructing a ‘self-brand’ or a good website; it’s about making sure there is a personality behind your portfolio. Read blogs and eBooks, keep an eye on industry news and what other designers are doing. But stay critical, have an opinion and be professional in the way you express it.

6. Sharing is caring

The years you spend studying are the ones when like-minded peers will be most accessible. Professionals spend years building contacts through networking- you have yours right there. Make use of an environment filled with young designers by sharing ideas. These people will be joining you in the industry; having a readymade support network will be invaluable.

7. What’s your style?

There’s nothing worse than uninspired creativity. As a designer, you will have a style – find it, know it, don’t be limited by it and be prepared for it to evolve. Think about how that style stands out, reflects your values and may fit in the wider creative industry. Knowing what you’re good at is an asset.

8. Practice makes (closer to) perfect

Practice practice practice. And don’t stop designing for personal projects, it’s the only way to work out what you’re good at, make those inevitable mistakes and stay in tune with your own creativity (and can fill time when projects are quiet.)

9. Be a good communicator

Just because you work with a computer, doesn’t mean you have to hide behind it. Employers and clients want to know they are dealing with a human so communication skills are essential. They are looking for more than an artwork machine. Especially when freelancing, a satisfied client has had their ideas realised; to get to those ideas, you must communicate well.

10. Beyond artwork

Be prepared to go further to understand the project you are taking on, beyond the brief. Engage with the business and the way that your work will fit in with their wider marketing plan by taking the time to think your ideas through. Do your own research, particularly if the business works within an unfamiliar industry and imagine you are the Creative Director. Don’t rush into your first thought, walk your initial ideas around in your head for a while, it’ll help develop them. If you take only a surface interest and rush in with a half decent idea, it’ll show. Get involved, and they’ll want to use you again.

11. Beyond the call…

Likewise, work hard. Too many employers and clients are able to talk about the ‘poor work ethic of the next generation’. Make sure they have nothing to justify this; work hard, stay off Facebook and be prepared for long hours.

12. Have fun – it shows!

Don’t treat any job like it’s dragging (even if it is). The project isn’t complete until the client’s impressed/amazed/bowled over. Being merely ‘satisfied’ isn’t the same as being impressed.

Steph PickerillSteph Pickerill is Founding Director of Jeenia Ltd, design and student employability company that helps young designers, graduates and those still studying within creative and computer services to gain real work experience. The students are given invaluable opportunities to work within practical business scenarios, expand their portfolios and make contacts while, crucially, being paid for their work. In return, the clients enjoy an innovative, youthful and exciting approach to their marketing. Twitter: @JeeniaStudents