How to get a job in a design studio
The do’s and don’ts for getting a design studio job.
So, you’ve just finished university or an apprenticeship, and you’re looking to get a job in a design studio.
It’s amazing how many people go about this in the wrong way. Hopefully, this guide will provide some useful information on what to do and, more importantly, what not to do to get your foot in the door at a design studio.
If you’re at uni, try and get as many work placements as possible as these are worth their weight in gold. Remember, applying for jobs is something best started before you graduate.
Before you even begin to approach agencies, there are two things that you should have in place.
Make sure that your portfolio is up to date and well presented. Ensure that it demonstrates your strengths and get feedback from both your peers and impartial eyes from outside of the design discipline.
Design forums are a reasonable place to obtain feedback.
It’s a good idea to have your portfolio in multiple formats. Having your work on your own website or a portfolio site like Behance will ensure that it is available to view at any time and from anywhere.
Also, have a PDF version with the highlights.
Lastly, have a printed iteration. A nice touch would be to get a handful of well-presented printed books from a site the Blurb.
C.V. Curriculum Vitae and personal statement
Get your C.V. in order and make it relevant!
Nobody cares about your GCSE results or a certificate in basic food hygiene that you got while working at a Harvester in 2004.
Stick to the qualifications and experiences that are relevant to the job that you want.
Your personal statement should be succinct and should convey who you are and why you are well suited to the position. You should adapt your C.V and personal statement to suit each application.
Make sure that the spelling and grammar are immaculate. A tool like Grammarly can be helpful.
Getting a design job
You’re going to want to approach this from two angles; applying for jobs that are advertised and approaching design studios/agencies.
Bear in mind that in both cases you’re going to be playing a numbers game, so knuckle down and get stuck into the process.
Applying for jobs
Sites like Indeed aggregate job listings from many different sources, so make this your browser homepage and check it obsessively.
Don’t be put off if the job description appears to rule you out of the running. Studios will write job descriptions which they feel describes the ideal candidate.
A requirement might read something like “must have at least X year(s) experience working in a design studio”. If you’re fresh out of university and lack that experience, then use your personal statement for that application to inadvertently negate that requirement.
Write something like “although I have yet to work in a design studio, the fast-paced live projects that took place at University accurately emulated and prepared me for this environment”.
I say ‘inadvertently’ because you should avoid directly combating requirements. Avoid writing things like “I know that you say you require a graphic design degree, but…”.
Approaching design studios
Design agencies want you; they just don’t know it yet! That’s the mindset that you need as, to begin with, this next part can be quite scary.
There are three ways to approach a design studio. With each method, it is crucial that you convey that you know who they are, what they do, and why you would be a good fit in their studio.
Visit the studio in person
Unlike calling or emailing, visiting in person establishes a personal connection instantly and shows that you are committed. Also, it makes you harder to ignore!
Take in one of your beautiful printed portfolio books and leave it with them. It will be a good excuse to go back.
As with all three methods, make sure you do your research before going in.
Call the studio
Less effective, but sometimes necessary. Make a list, take a deep breath, and pick up the phone. Use the ‘Our Team’ section of their website and ask to speak to the correct person, by name. Do not ask to speak to “the decision maker”.
Succinctly explain who you are, why you are calling and try and arrange a good time for you to pop in to show your portfolio.
Email the studio
Though this is the least effective approach, avoiding some very common pitfalls can still make this a viable channel for obtaining a design job.
Here’s where most people go wrong. They walk out of university, go onto Google, search for “design studio” and then spam the results with the same shit email.
Make a note:
There is no faster route to the junk folder than beginning an email “Dear Sir/Madam”.
Yes, you are playing a numbers game, but you’re stacking the chips against yourself by sending out generic carbon copy emails to every studio within a 100-mile radius. People will not respond to spam, and frankly, you wouldn’t want to work somewhere that did.
Make each email personal and demonstrate your value and relevance. Here’s an example, which also applies to sending letters via snail mail:
Dear [head honcho’s name]
I’ve been looking at the projects on the [company name] website. You guys do incredible work! I particularly like the [specific project] that you did, as I worked towards a very similar goal with the [your relevant project].
I recently [graduated university / finished an apprenticeship] and am looking for a position in a studio where I can add value to the team and continue to grow as a designer.
[Company name] looks like a great fit. I know that you’re not currently advertising a position, but I would really appreciate it if I could come in and take up 10 minutes of your time to show you my portfolio so you can decide if I would be well suited to a position that opens in the future.
[Your Portfolio Link]
If you take anything away from this article, then let it be the things to avoid.
You are going into a crowded and competitive industry. Be patient and be committed. It may take several months, so rather than getting disheartened, use the time to strengthen your portfolio.
Remember: Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.