The Designer’s Guide To

Posted: | | Filed under: Design Survival | No Comments »

A guide to help new designers gain employment in the creative industry. Advice provided by international industry professionals, edited and curated by Richard Baird.


The key to successfully gaining a new client is the ability to listen. Listen to what they want and how they envision it. Be sure to ask questions and engage in a beneficial two-way dialogue and show the client you’re really interested in their project. Don’t be afraid to say that you want it!

Provided by Kael Pinto

Your appearance at meetings

First impressions really do count. People expect designers to look like designers and not like business men. I always dress smart but avoid suits and anything that makes me feel I’m not representing myself and my personality. Aim to feel comfortable, confident and professional. You may want to consider props that help to communicate your passion; a design magazine at the back of a portfolio, a nice sketchbook and pencil or an iPad presentation. Remember this isn’t about faking anything just utilising tools to show your involvement within the industry, adoption of technology and the occasional spontaneous idea that needs sketching!

Provided by @richbaird


The first step to getting hired is research. It’s essential to learn about the company you’re applying to. Try to find out about the people, their history and what kind of projects and sectors specialise in. This will help you to get a perspective of what it’d be like to work for them, whether or not you’re compatible and prepares you for a potential interview.

Cater you’re resume, cv, and covering letter to individual companies and make it stand out with a slick and well presented piece of communication design.

“My first resume consisted of graphs, charts, humor, personalized branding, and a much more laid back tone that set it apart for the stiff and boring tone of a typical resume. I did this because the design firm I was applying to was a smaller operation, consisting of really cool, creative guys designing for the love of it and not just for the buck. And you know what? It worked! And it was a competitive position – especially for me – who at the time had little “solid” design firm experience under my belt.”

Most importantly, don’t ever feel discouraged, if they don’t come knocking on your door then bang theirs down at a later date and show them all the work you’ve done and improved on since you’ve last applied.

Provided by @HeyRui

Be specific in your search for a new job

Don’t hunt for a general design job — aim for the one that’d allow you to thrive as a creative professional. In other words, stay away from digital if you real passion is print.

Provided by @Agapov

Self-initiated work

If you’re a student looking for your first design job spend some time working on self-initiated projects in between job applications. The last thing a prospective employer wants to see is the same projects over and over again (the big sponsored and competition projects). Take a fictional company (or a real one you know could do with a visual overhaul) and do absolutely everything you can conceive for that company. A comprehensive identity carried through to printed literature, web design, uniform design and stationery design etc. shows the prospective employer that you’re a self motivator with a complete vision, this will help to differentiate your work from the multitude of other designers coming out of university.

Provided by @StvCummins

Be passionate

When you’re talking to or meeting a prospective client for the first time be sure to speak passionately and eloquently about your portfolio and get the client excited about working with you. This may also lead to them mentioning this positive initial experience to other business contacts. Remember this is often the first time a company owner will have had contact with a designer, they may be apprehensive so it is essential to alleviate any misconceptions.

Provided by @richbaird

Applying for work, step by step

Phase I: Research – Find studios and agencies nationally and internationally that interest you, and learn about all of them. (I think I probably saved over 200 bookmarks).

Phase II: Make yourself a more attractive candidate – Refresh your personal brand and beef up your portfolio with self-initiated projects that highlight your passion and interest in design. Be sure to include a list of awards and publications but leave out anything that isn’t really note worthy or obviously irrelev

Phase III: Deliver resumes to the targeted studios and agencies whether they have openings or not. My approach here is to cast the net as wide as possible, and see what happens.

Phase IV: Apply to advertised job openings posted on sites like AIGA, Creative Hotlist, Behance, Coroflot, Design & Design, etc.

Provided by AtomicVibe

Be social

You can’t imagine what possibilities open up if you simply work you way into the same social circles as the companies you’d like to work for.

Provided by @Agapov

On-line portfolios

If you are looking to get hired then having an on-line portfolio is a step in the right direction. Not only does it look great on a business card but it gives potential clients an easy way to view your latest work.

Make sure that you don’t get carried away with it though; be sure that the first thing a client sees when viewing your site is a brief selection of your latest and most successful work. Also ensure that you are easily contactable through a number of different channels.

If you are displaying your tweets or have a blog link then keep the content appropriate; your next client could be reading them.

Provided by @joshuanhibbert

Communicating passion

No matter how well presented your work is or how gifted you may be it won’t communicate your character, passion or enthusiasm. This is where verbal communication skills are essential. Take the time to brush up on appropriate design language through well written blogs and books. Simple hand gestures, changes in tone and speed of voice keep presentations interesting and fluid. Don’t go overboard but be positive and lively. If you can’t answer a particular question try to negate it by being honest and suggest that it’s something you will apply or improve on during your next project.

Suggested by @heinrichdsf


Pay attention to the details, from adding subtle textures to moving something that extra 2 pixels will ensure your work stands out. Scruffy finishes on printed work presented during a meeting can draw questions to your ability to deliver high quality work. Potential clients will notice work which has had that extra polish, even though they can’t always pin-point what it is. So, always go that extra mile and you’ll thank yourself afterwards when you’ve landed that new client.

Suggested by @heinrichdsf


Show prospective clients and interviewers work beyond university and commercial jobs. Display abilities such as writing, critical evaluation, strategy and an extended interest. This might mean subscribing to magazines such as Marketing or Advertising Week or keeping up to date with new manufacturing or print technologies through industry newsletters. Aim to show that you are constantly looking for new information and directions that can be cross pollinated into your design projects.

You don’t need to master all aspects that influence the design world but do communicate an open mind and a thirst for more knowledge.

Provided by @richbaird

Interviews: Ask lots of questions

Show that you are actually interested in the company – that you’ve done your research but want to know more. Having no questions for your interviewer indicates that you’re not really interested in the position or understanding it better.

Provided by @daniKelley

Make your resume your second portfolio

I never hire designers who never bothered to design their own resumes. I’m not saying make it overloaded with graphics and information, but work on the grid, typography, layout, color.

Provided by @Agapov

Be realistic

Set a time frame for attaining a full-time position, if you don’t manage to get hired you may have to consider part time work, an internship or freelancing. My generation was told that we could achieve anything if we worked hard enough but with the increasing diversity of specialised courses there are many talented designers graduating at the same time and not enough jobs. The reality is that you may not have the skills needed to be a commercial designer, if you don’t receive a reply after an interview follow it up with a phone call. People will often be frank and give you a clearer idea of where you stand, it’s best to avoid asking friends and family.

Provided by @richbaird

Interviews: Relax

Try to relax and be friendly during a job interview. Don’t talk exclusively about yourself and your work, ask questions and get a chance to know the interviewers on a personal level. Make jokes (without being unprofessional), tell stories and chat about things they may find interesting, in the end, they might be your collegues sooner than you think.

Provided by @matteodicapua

Expect and respond honestly to difficult questions

At the start of an interview, you may have several softballs lobbed your way. But once you pass these easy opening questions and into the nitty gritty, a good interviewer will keep increasing the difficulty of the questions as the interview continues. The idea is to get a sense of your boundaries, what skills you have in your toolbox, and how deep these skills go.

Eventually the questions might get tough enough that you can’t answer them confidently. This might bring on the feeling that you’re flunking the interview, but in reality the interviewer is just seeing how far your skills go in any one direction.

So relax. Don’t embellish or lie. Know what you know. Admit what you don’t. And be interested.

Provided by @TedGoas



If you are a designer and have any advice you would like to add to this article, please submit your contribution as a comment below and remember to include your Twitter ID so I can credit your tip.


Tweet This Article!


Previous ArticleNext Article