How to progress as a Junior Designer…
Having slogged away for few years, getting from University through placements/work experience and finally landing your first permanent role as a junior designer; what’s next?
Life As a Junior Designer
As a Junior Designer you’re probably working on lots of amends, emails, banners and even fast-paced but perhaps less interesting projects. So how do you progress to get more autonomy and better projects?
For a start, it’s vital to have a good variety of commercial work in your portfolio. You’ll ideally have an understanding of the ever-changing interactive and digital platforms, as well as how to create engaging work. This will help create a platform for progression.
Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for more interesting projects that will help you develop your skills and portfolio. You should align yourself to, or ‘buddy-up’ with a Senior Designer and learn from their experience. Also, be sure to work with your Creative department head to set objectives and timeframes, and to gain access to other projects or a higher position within the team. Finally, push for training (for example After Effects or 3D).
Is Freelancing an Option?
If you feel that you’ve reached a point where you are not developing and you can’t see a promotion ahead or extra training being signed off, then what to do next?
The freelance market is pretty buoyant at the moment. However as a junior designer perhaps staying with a permanent role and developing your skills and portfolio might be a better move. Freelance is great for people who have loads of experience and can hold their own in a busy, fast paced and potentially highly stressed environment, but it is not a career-building move in the sense that you tend to repeat work you’ve done in the past rather than building in new skills. That’s not to say that there aren’t contracts available for freelance junior designers, but chances are that as a freelancer you’ll work on more production-led work rather than conceptual. The other aspect is you will need to consider is being completely financially independent. Freelancers have to have extra skills to manage their own business cash flow and new business pipeline, although there are companies that will manage your invoices and payroll.
If you love the idea of more autonomy, like production work and feel that freelancing is for you, drop me a line and I’ll give more details.
Taking the next step in your career
If you’re more interested in a new permanent role, the next option would be to pursue another role in a different environment and/or hopefully a step up. Now that we are out of the dark days in the economy, creative agencies are looking to bring in many more junior and middleweight digital designers/creatives and invest in their skills. With brands investing heavily into digital and innovative interactive work; mobile, tablet, experiential, etc. you could be looking to take on some exciting stuff.
You’re going to need a decent online portfolio. You could design one yourself or use a portfolio showcase like Cargocollective.
Hiring managers are looking for very specific skills and personality traits. At Cogs Agency we recently conducted a survey of top Creative Directors and asked them what they look for in junior designer portfolios. Here is what they said:
• A good balance of conceptual and practical work to answer a brief;
• Problem solving and demonstration of a logical thought process with the ‘creative’ ability to give that solution value;
• Design needs to have an idea and a purpose. Rethinking traditional approaches and looking at solving a ‘challenge’ in a unique and refreshing way is the point of our work. Execution should be flawless and should show skills – colour, layout, typography – all the usual things;
• Make sure you keep abreast of trends and know your industry;
• Do other stuff that makes you an anomaly. Read and learn about behaviours around technology; and
• Ignore digital at your peril!
At Cogs Agency we work with more than 70 of London’s best creative agencies as well as in-house departments within fashion and entertainment brands. Even as I write this post we are working with 12 creative agencies and 2 in-house departments for junior or mid weight designers. So if you’re thinking of progressing your career to the next stage and want to pop in for a cuppa and a chat then get in touch.