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With this time of year comes the next wave of graduates; fresh out of university with ideas, ideals and a desire to take on the world.

It feels like only a moment ago I too was thrust into the world of employment – but the truth is my last two years have provided me with a lot of growth and experience.

Some of it I wish I had known when I had blindly attempted to take on the design world with nothing but a degree and a dream.

1. Value Yourself

From the moment you leave university and step into your first job you are a professional designer. You have skills that others do not have, but need. So, don’t accept “exposure” or settle for less. If people are not prepared to pay for your time and talent they don’t deserve it.

2. Make an impression

The design world is full of quirky, creative and unique individuals and in that regard it isn’t hard for us to make an impression. But as fun as your trademark hat might be or as extensive your knowledge of design trivia is – there is nothing more important than being liked. Be patient, be kind and never be condescending. Enthuse with clients about their ideas, their concepts, their passions – they’ll love you for it.

3. Learn to Say No

Once you’re in a studio you’ll find there is a very different work ethos than there is in university. Whereas you once had 6 months to perfect a single logo now you may only have 6 hours. Projects tend to overlap and start before you’ve finished the last, so the important thing is to not get overwhelmed and remember to manage yourself and expectations. Of course setting a good impression is important and you will want to take on everything you can, but sometimes too much is too much, and it is okay to be realistic about your workload.

4. Don’t be afraid to say Yes!

That being said, there are still so many occasions to challenge yourself. Your skills are going to keep growing and any opportunity to try something is a chance to learn and broaden your skill set. You might shock yourself at what you can do.

5. Explain yourself

Always have a reason for your design. Focus on the science and the rules, and make sure you can defend any piece you create. You will face walls of vague and nonspecific criticism at times so be ready to talk your idea up!

6. You’re not an artist

So don’t take it personally. Good design is a design the client is happy with, so try to avoid putting too much of yourself into your design. Make it creative and make it beautiful but avoid adding your own flare and stamp.

7. Admit error

It’s okay to make mistakes – the truth is that as a graduate or a junior you will. So, be open and up front about anything you get wrong and aim to fix it where you can.

8. Keep a sketch book!

When I first started working I disregarded sketchbooks entirely and started all my work on drifting pieces of paper – only using them for sketches and initial drafts but sketchbooks can be a great way to collate your thoughts and concepts. They can be a source of reflection and a healthy part of the design process. Keep it organised and keep it creative.

9. Open your mind

Always take the time to listen and learn about all the areas your business, team or partners have to offer. Knowing what they are capable of gives you the potential to collaborate and strengthen your own work.

10. Enjoy it

It’s a fun job and a great industry to be a part of. So go out and celebrate creativity, meet other designers, brainstorm and collaborate.


You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn.