Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Thoughtful Presentation

On Thursday 8th there was a talk by Stuart Price who is from Thoughtful design studio - which is now based in Stockport College and works with Graphic Design students. The lecture was all about how to break into the industry e.g portfolio tips, how to contact people etc. It was a really interesting talk as Stuart had contacted studios and asked them lots of specific questions, which he then complied into all these charts! He also had lots of examples of good portfolios and there were videos of individual design 'people' being asked what they look for in a graduate.
Stuart started off by talking about problem solving. Convergent thinking is where there is one straight answer and divergent thinking is coming up with lots of answers/ideas. According to Dr Peter Lovatt, dancing improves the thinking process! If you do 15 minutes of structured dancing, you should become better at convergent thinking. Whereas 15 minutes of improvised dancing helps divergent thinking. We then did a series of little dancing moves which I thought would be a bit embarrassing but it was actually really funny!
Greg Quinton from The Partners says persistence is the key to success. People are very busy, so what's going to keep you in their mind? Once you establish contact with someone keep sending them new work to show how you are developing as a designer.
The first survey question asked 'what is the preferred method for first contact?' The majority of studios, with 78%, said an email is best. 18% said post letter/piece of work and 4% said just show up. When composing an initial email Stuart said it's good when people say something about the studio and the work as it shows they've taken the time to do some background research. Also, exclamation marks are a no-no(!), if you don't know someone it just looks unprofessional. A potential employer can see a generic email from a mile off, make sure you make it personal to the person you're sending it to. When attaching a file to an email make sure it's not too big, otherwise yours will be sent to the bottom of the queue - 5mb is ideal.
'What do you do if you don't get a response?' 46% of studios suggested a follow up email 3-4 days after the initial one. 20% said a phone call is acceptable. Adrian Shaughnessy said to stay open minded - you have to start all over again and you never stop learning in the design industry.
In regards to what should be in your opening email; a link to your website and a PDF of your work is recommended. The latter is perhaps the more important, so even if you don't have a website never send an empty email. The PDF should show about 5-7 projects and as said before should be around 5mb. Michael Johnson said you have to be prepared to do placements, you can't expect to go straight to the top.
Spelling errors are amongst the most common mistakes in portfolios, make sure someone else proof reads it first. When having an interview, another mistake people often make is to place their portfolio on front of themselves rather than the potential employer. You should be able to talk about your work even if it's upside down! Patrick Baglee says it's always better to be interested than interesting. You have to think of yourself as a brand; present yourself - sit up straight etc.
When asked 'what is the preferred portfolio layout?', most of the studios said they had no preference. A book with bound pages came second, but the fact that most had no preference shows that a portfolio can be individual to you - the more the better. The preferred amount of projects in a portfolio is 10 - but leave something out if you don't like it, only take work you are really confident in talking about.
Jonathan Baldwin says that talking to students from other courses in your Uni can be really useful, you can find inspiration in unexpected places. Similarly, Tony Davidson says it is important to visit different galleries and venues - be influenced by your surroundings.
The next survey question asked 'how much information should accompany each project?'. 45% of studios say some basic information is enough, but give credit where credit is due. If someone has helped you produce your work you must record it, it will be obvious and look selfish if you don't. Also, including sketches can be a nice touch as it shows employers how you arrived at a finished outcome.
When looking for a job, Pentagram's Paula Scher says it's vital not to just focus on money, you have to find somewhere that will give you the best opportunities. You won't necessarily be doing what you do in the first twelve months for the rest of your life; it's ok to make mistakes. You have to learn from these mistakes, pick yourself up and move on.
'How long should an interview last?' 50% of studios said 30 minutes, so prepare for that time but bear in mind it could be less. Before you start, it's always a good idea to ask how long you're going to have so you can manage your time appropriately. Michael Wolff says it's good to be inquisitive - it shows you take an interest in the company your trying to get a job at.
The final question was 'what do you look for in portfolios?' Great ideas and a good personality are equally important - you could have the best work in the world but no-one will employ you if they don't think you'll fit into their company.
At the end of the lecture Stuart said don't expect to land a job within the first 18 months of graduating, it might happen but be prepared that it won't. The most important thing is to never give up - if you have self belief it will happen for you.
This was an extremely useful lecture, I feel much more confident about approaching studios and Stuart provided some excellent tips on email/portfolio etiquette. All the facts and survey questions were really interesting, it's always good to hear thoughts from those in the industry. Great job Stuart, thanks!

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