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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

New Photoshop Touch App for Ipad

I have just heard about a new Photoshop App that has been released for Ipad called Photoshop Touch. I haven’t head chance to try it out yet, but it looks pretty interesting especially for working on the move or showing design work to clients. Check out the videos below to find out more about Photoshop Touch.

Phototoshop Touch App

Have you tried the new Photoshop App yet, what did you think?

Using Indesign or WordPress to Create iBooks or Kindle Ebooks

I have recently been in the process of writing a design ebook and have been wondering about the possibility of converting it for Kindle or Ipad (not just as a PDF). I am still a bit old school and have been using Quark Xpress rather than Indesign (although I have that too). Quark have been banging on about what it can do with ebooks and iphone apps, but to be honest I am falling out of love with Quark, its clunky interface and bugs and so I thought I would check out what Indesign and other applications can do with e-publishing.

I thought some of you might be interested in creating books for Ipad and Kindle too and might want to check out these videos showing you how Indesign and WordPress can be used to create suitable files.

Using InDesign to Create Digital Epub Books for Kindle and Ipad (Part 1)

Check out the other videos on Indesign for Ebooks here part 2 and part 3

Using WordPress to Create Ipad and Kindle Books with PressBooks

Then while listening to a podcast I heard that you can also make epub ebooks through WordPress using PressBooks, this would allow for collaboration on ebooks and looks like an interesting idea.

Using Open Source Software to Create Epub Books

I also discovered a free open source piece of software called Booktype which you can also use to create digital books for the ipad and Kindle

Further Reading on Creating Ebooks for Ipad and Kindle

What have you found is the best way to create digital books for ipad and Kindle?

PS – Bye bye Quark Xpress I don’t think I will be upgrading

If your Apple Mac Died Could you Easily Carry on Working?

Create a Bootable Back up disk for Mac with Carbon Copy Cloner

Without getting into a Mac versus PC debate, Macs are great when they work and fortunately don’t usually give you too much trouble, but what if yours stopped working tomorrow? Even if you have a back up of all your work think about the time it would take to get all your software, fonts and work loaded up on to a new machine and working. That’s where a FREE piece of software I recently discovered called Carbon Copy Cloner could step in and save the day.

I discovered Carbon Copy Cloner when I had to upgrade my boyfriend’s Mac (my old one) and in order to do that the disk had to be reformatted first. Carbon Copy Cloner let’s you make a bootable copy of your Mac hard drive onto a external FireWire or USB hard drive. Once the bootable drive is made this means you could then connect it to another Mac and boot off it as your startup disk and it would contain all your files along with you applications etc.

Just like Time Machine you can also set Carbon Copy Cloner to do scheduled backups too. Previously I had always preferred to do manual back ups so I could swap my back up drives round. Now I am using Carbon Copy Cloner with a FireWire Drive and then doing a less regular manual back up that I don’t keep in the house.

If you are thinking of upgrading your system software and want a copy of your existing system to fall back on or just want keep a rescue drive available, take a look at Carbon Copy Cloner

Google Plus for Freelance Designers

google plus for freelance designersYou just start getting the hang of Facebook and use a bit of Twitter for marketing for your freelance design business and then Google Plus arrives and throws another spanner in the works. So now we all have another social network to learn how to use, which is why Alex Mathers has created a new Book called Google+ Course for freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses which you can find at Alex was kind enough to give me a free copy as I had reviewed his previous book on design promotion and enjoyed it.

The book is made up of 3 Parts:

Part 1 – An overview of marketing for the freelance designer or design business owner

This is a great refresher into marketing yourself as a graphic designer especially if you haven’t read Alex’s previous book and covers things like: knowing your target market, setting up an online portfolio, a quick word on blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Mailing Lists.

Part 2 – Setting up and and how to use Google Plus for your graphic design business

This second part features screen shots and text showing you how to get started on Google Plus. This includes tips on uploading photos to use as a portfolio and how to organise your circles (these are a way of grouping different people together). I also learned a great tip here on how to use circles to collect together articles you want to save and refer to later (great for bloggers).

Part 3 – Building a network on Google Plus

The third and final part of this book is more about how to use Google plus to build a network for your design business, how to find influential people to engage with and how to make yourself appear an authority in your field.

Is the Book “Google Plus for Freelancers” for you?

If you haven’t yet got yourself on Google plus, or have just started but want to kick start your knowledge, then this book is for you. Just as with Alex’s last book this book is straight forward good information and no fluff.

Find out more about the book here it’s currently on promotion for $29 until Friday 10th February 2012

PS: you can find me on Google Plus here (my personal profile) and my Graphic Design Blog Page here, I  hope to see you over there

Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this book, the link to the book in this post is an affiliate link, which means if you buy through my link I will earn a commission (it won’t cost you any more).

Free Graphic Design Software for when you are Learning Graphic Design

If you are learning graphic design and haven’t got a big budget, the first investment I would suggest is a layout pad and pencil/pen (yes – seriously). The most important thing will always be your ideas and the design rather than the tools you use to implement them. However when you are ready to take your ideas on to the computer there are a couple of good websites you may want to try to find free graphic design software as alternatives to paid commercial programs.

Alternative to
On this site you have a couple of options, if you have something specific you are looking for – type in the mainstream commercial design program ie. Dreamweaver and then it will give you a list of alternatives (both paid and free).

Free graphic design software

To narrow it down to just Free and Open source use the drop “Filter by License” menu. You can also filter by platform – Mac, PC or Linux.

Opensource design software

With “Alternative to” you also have the option to browse through software by choosing your platform from the top menu and then choosing the type of software you are looking for.


Here you can simply search for the commercial graphics software (eg. Photoshop) that you are trying to find an open source alternative to. When you have found it select it and underneath you will find a list of alternatives along with which platform they are available for Mac, Windows or Linux.

Osalt Open source design software

Have fun, but don’t forget the humble pencil!

Student Car Graphics Design Competition

Car Graphic Design competition

To celebrate the launch of a new model of electric car called the Twizy, Renault are running a competition entitled “Design a Twizy”. The competition is targeted at students in further and higher education and gives them the chance to design their very own Twizy. The winning design will see the entrant having a year’s worth of tuition fees paid for. The second prize is a weekend for two in Paris, with the third prize winner taking home £250 in French Connection vouchers.

Find out more at

Great New Graphic Design Podcast

Graphic Design podcast

Deeply Graphic Design PodcastWes McDowell got in touch with me to let me know about his great new graphic design podcast called the Deeply Graphic Design Cast. Wes kindly agreed to answer a few questions about himself and what we can all be expecting from the podcast.

Tara: What is your name and your company name?
Wes: I’m Wes McDowell and my company is called The Deep End.

Tara: Where are you based?
Wes: We are now based out of Los Angeles, CA.

Tara: Please can you tell me a bit about your background as a designer and what you do now?
Wes: I’ve had pretty varied experience in the design world since I started back in 2001. I started as a freelancer, mostly doing logos and really really bad websites for local businesses. I shudder to look back at some of that early work. My first “real job” was as part of an in-house design team for a software company where I worked on the user interface as well as packaging for some of the software programs we put out. Then I moved to a different in-house team doing a lot of packaging and printed goods for retail. After that, I moved to Seattle where I freelanced and ultimately started my company The Deep End. My time in Seattle was mostly spent working on web based projects, and I learned a LOT about where the web is now and where its going. I’d say that 80% of what I do right now is web based versus print.

Tara: You have just set up a Podcast about Graphic Design please could you tell me a bit about it and how it came about?
Wes: I have been listening to podcasts for the past few years. I love the idea of walking or driving to work and learning something while I do it. I had a handful of design related podcasts I would look forward to, and the ones I really liked just kinda stopped coming out. That made me think that I should pick up the slack. I called up my old friend and former co-worker Brandon Voss, and asked him if he would be interested in helping me out with it, and he agreed. I was hooked up with Mikelle Morrison through a recruiter that I had worked with and I couldn’t be happier with our team. We have such different experience and viewpoints that it makes for a really interesting show.

Tara: What sort of topics do you intend covering in the podcast?
Wes: We want to do it all! It may take a while, but we plan on sticking around as long as people keep listening. We want to cover the business aspects, such as proposals, contracts, and how to attract bigger clients, as well as the creative side. Things like upcoming design trends, or where to go to find creative inspiration. We also want to cover topics that appeal to not only the freelance designer, but also to those who aim at getting a job at an agency.

Tara: Is the podcast aimed a newbies or the more experienced designer?
Wes: I think on the surface it seems like its more a newbie show, but I think that even more experienced designers will get a lot out of the show. Newbies will listen to get advice on how to do certain things, and pros will listen to get some different points of view on how they already do things. I know that just by having these conversations with my co-hosts that I learn something each time.

Tara: Why did you decide to create a podcast targeted at designers rather than potential clients?
Wes: I don’t think that clients necessarily have any interest in what we would be talking about. They certainly wouldn’t become longtime listeners, if design isn’t what interests them. Generally a client becomes interested in web design and the basic process while the process is going on, but once the site is built, they move on to the next phase of their business. Also, this is just a natural extension of my blog, which was always aimed at other designers. I just love graphic design, and I want to talk about it with other people who love it like I do. We want to build a community of listeners, and we invite them to email us questions that we will answer on-air, as well as tweet us topics they would like us to cover.

Tara: Where can people go to find out more about you and subscribe to the Podcast?
You can subscribe, listen and find out more about us at:

Logo Design Tutorial Exercise 3 for Complete Beginners

For more tips on learning design straight to your inbox click here

When you are working on a logo design project:

1. First you will have taken a design brief

Read Why is a Design Brief so Important

2. Then done some research and started brainstorming

You can read a bit about doing some basic research in Logo Design Tutorial to Design a Charity Logo
See an example of brainstorming in one of the the previous Logo Design Tutorials

3. Sometimes a moodboard will help you find the right feel for a logo

Logo design Mood Board

You may find the odd project where you really struggle for ideas or to work out the right sort of “feel” for the logo. This is where moodboards can come in.

If you haven’t heard of moodboards before they are traditionally big boards (pieces of mountboard or card) which are filled with images, bits of type, perhaps colours and anything which you feel is in the direction of the type of design you are trying to achieve.

When I produce moodboards I generally get together any leaflets I have lying around, buy magazines which I feel fit with the type of market or niche I am designing for and rip out bits and pieces that I like and then paste them on to a big board. I might also include images, logos and type that I find online and print out. There is something about the act of getting away from the computer and really looking at other images that really helps to get you mind going again. Once the moodboard/s are complete you can then use them alongside your brainstorms to stimulate logo ideas. Perhaps you might really like the way a piece of typography works or a colour combination on some of the bits you have torn out.

If you are pushed for time (and I use this method too) you can always create digital moodboards or image collections. The simplest way is to simply collect together images you find on the web download them to a folder on your machine and then pull them all in to a program like iphoto so you can view them all at once (a bit like a moodboard). If you prefer you could alternatively drop the images into layout design software, or if you are using an iPhone or ipad use an app like the aptly named Moodboard.

ipadd app moodboard

Still stuck?

Try out some of these other creative exercises

See Also

Logo Design Tutorial 1
Logo Design Tutorial 2

learn logo design online

Twitter for Freelance Designers

For several years I didn’t bother using Twitter. Now blogging, that I loved, but Twitter… I just didn’t get it. A couple of years ago I decided to have another go (DesignblogUK) and read a couple of books (Twitter Power and Twitter your Business) and watched some Twitter Tutorials and I started to see what all the fuss was about. Twitter can be a freelancers way of making an introduction to people they want to get to know.

So how can Twitter help you?

Now the first thing most Freelancers are probably thinking is to get more clients. While this is a biggy I think there are many more, but let’s start there anyway.

Can Twitter help you get more clients?

Follow people you want to work with/for
I think the answer is yes, but instead of thinking of Twitter as a big promotional tool perhaps it should be considered more of a way of introducing yourself in a more subtle way. Twitter allows you to follow anyone, so you could start following companies that you would like to work for. Then you can start joining in their twitter conversations, answering questions they pose, retweeting their tweets etc etc (NOT SELLING). If you maintain regular Twitter contact with them, with any luck they will check out who you are, follow you back and who knows what will happen from there. As well as the standard Twitter search also check out Twellow.

I have got work through Twitter
Personally I have got work through Twitter, one through someone I regularly tweeted with and actually hadn’t even considered they may give me freelance work. I have also indirectly got freelance work through Twitter by finding and following someone, and then asking if they would be interviewed for my other blog on Skype. After that we met in person through another Twitter friend and since then she has given me some freelance work.

Setting up twitter searches for your freelance niche
Twitter also allows you to set up searches (I use Tweetdeck for this), so you can keep an eye out if anyone is looking for the type of freelance work you offer. For example a little while ago a friend of mine was looking for a freelance copywriter, I said I would put a Tweet out for him through both my twitter accounts. Within half an hour I had people recommending people and some suggesting themselves. Some of these people weren’t even following me, so they must have either had searches set up for the term “copywriter” or alternatively my tweet was retweeted by someone they were following. To cut a long story short, my friend ended up with about 10 copywriters to choose from and ended up using one of them.

Getting advice

If you are a freelancer working alone it’s great to know that at the end of a Tweet their may be someone who can answer a question for you or offer advice.Perhaps you are having computer or software problems or just aren’t quite sure how to do things then put a Tweet out.

Need recommendations for products or Services

If you are looking for something such as a product or service what better way to find one than asking you Twitter followers. of course as with anything you have to do your own due diligence.

Making Friends

If you work in a big office there is never a shortage of conversation, but that is not always the case for freelancers especially if you work from home. Want to share a story, something you are working on or just pass the time of day you can do this with Twitter.

Finding Other freelancers to collaborate with

Who is to know what can happen with the people you meet on Twitter. Find someone you have a lot in common with and you can always take the conversation to email, Skype or even meeting up in person.

What are you thoughts on using Twitter as a Freelancer?

Please feel free to comment below or drop me a Tweet on Twitter

For tips on freelancing straight to your inbox click here

Other posts worth reading on the web

How to Really Use Twitter to Find More Freelance Work
8 Easy Ways to Network on Twitter