How I designed a novelty flash drive

novelty flash drive ….

Hello, this post covers the steps, thoughts, and processes that went into creating a novelty flash drive. These flash drives have graced the shelves of Boots, Tesco’s and other international high-street retailers and to think, it all started as a happy accident (almost).

Stage 1 – The product concept

The initial drawings and images weren’t created to be flash drives – they were going to be characters as part of a marketing theme that would feature on email signatures, brochures, trade stands, and other collateral – not flash drives.

Rat animation gif
Hello!

These darker characters were created to be the opposite of the Satzuma Man which was a glowing orange character which looks like a happy marshmallow. He was the ‘goody’ so to speak.

Rufus rat
Rufus 1,2,3!

As time evolved, so did the roles and priorities of the characters. It was discussed that these characters should be turned into something else, why not a product?

Not the first attempt at creating a product

This wasn’t the first time at making a novelty product – I should be ashamed to say that the first ever character to be created was the Satzuma Man… as Elvis. He looked more like Carlton Banks from the Fresh Prince and he was a pretty terrible version at that. I’m happy to say that this design is lost to eternity, never to grace your screens.

The Original Character Art – Pre-Production

The Flash drive models were based on my designs and illustrations. Although, if I was to be brutally honest… I was never keen on the stuck-on googly-eyes. It added a bit of humour but made the product feel a cheap-looking in my opinion.

Notice the early “Rufus” was a bit more moronic looking and mean? This was because he was supposed to be a villain to the Satzuma Man, you weren’t supposed to like the gormless rodent that meddled with the products and machines in the gadget factory! As time went on, more love was given to Rufus both commercially and conceptually and he became the “goody” with this, his features softened and he became cute – for a factory rodent.

Early Rufus Rat Design
Melvin Mutt
Hello Melvin – Product Concept

Stage 2) 3D Modelling

Once I created the 2d designs of the characters, the brief and reference images were sent to a factory to start creating the prototype. The rat and the dog was made up in a 3D program which was then sent back to us for approval. After this, the factory got down to creating the tooling.

Stage 3 ) The Product

It’s alive! Once the factory had made and completed the prototypes based on my specifications. The product was then produced in bulk, packaged and shipped out to the large high-street retailers. Melvin, Rufus and the flash housing are all copyright Satzuma LTD.

Melvin Flash Drive - Dog
Dog 2
Dog 3
Little rat

If you have any questions with regards to the project or any other project feel free to get in touch. If you are looking at creating a model, miniature or a product I may be able to offer assistance.

You may be interested in reading :
How to make a successful game
My creative journey
How we to design a killer kickstarter page

How to make a product for your business

Developing a product for your business isn’t a small undertaking… but it can be a very rewarding if you do it right! This post has been written to share useful experiences for creating a product. In order to create a product you will should consider certain key aspects of its design:

  • Who is the product for?
  • Is there a market for product?
  • Is there a need for the product?
  • How much will it cost to create the product?
  • How will you market the product?
  • Where will you to make your the product.
  • Time frame for product design

The questions above cover a couple strong questions when creating or launching a product.

Tips for creating or designing a product
Tips for creating or designing a product

Also this post will cover what you shouldn’t do when developing a awesome new product. Enjoy!

My experience in creating physical products

In the early stages of my career I would never have imagined that I would have been involved in designing and launching physical products, it has been a journey that has both been challenging and exciting! Speaking creatively, designing a product opens up whole new road for innovative exploration – you just need to remember to put the breaks on every once in a while and assess why and what you are making.

My experience mostly covers designing products that are made from card and PET. I have also been involved in creating physical card/board games, developing learning products (STEM) and Flash Memory (injection moulding) and last but not least, the retail packaging that houses product.

Who is the product for? (It’s not you)

When you create a product, it shouldn’t be a product for you. This may sound counter intuitive but you need go beyond a gut-feeling if you really want to push the success of a product. One mistake I have often found is assuming that everybody else is a bit like me to a lesser and greater extent – this couldn’t have been further from truth. Not everyone is you.

Do you represent a demographic that would buy your product?

It can be good start if this is the case but try to get some idea who would buy your product through looking at information online with trends, forums, statistics and if you have the money and resources, surveys and product testing. These early stages will help to decipher whether there is viability in your product. Don’t leave it to chance.

Make your product about your customer, make it something they would love, solve a problem, entertain. It will be them that buys a the product in the end – not you.

Product Validation

A very good way for a businesses to get a product validation is by testing the waters on a crowdfunding platform such as Kickstarter or IndieGogo. If you are going to do a Kickstarter, make sure you have a crowd and an audience ready on the launch day. This is not a mandatory way to validate a product, but it does show if there could be a demand for your product.

If you would like help with your Kickstarter design you can read more on this post.

Is there a market for your product?

Assuming that you may or may not have gone down the crowdfunding root for your trailblazing new gadget or product do you have any evidence that the world ‘needs’ or would like your gadget or product?

A good way to check is to see whether other companies are selling something similar – I know, I know – you want to create something SO unique that you would have made Tesla shed a solitary tear but creating something without knowing if there will be demand can be a huge financial risk, and you could end up selling something that the world does not want or need.

It is a crushing feeling

if your product can’t get of the starter blocks when you have invested so much time and money into your passion. Make sure you do your homework first and maybe consider the – paragraph above “Product validation”.

Who knows, perhaps after creating your first few products you will be in place to show the world what you offer is better than what they want.

Show the world what you have to offer...
Show the world what you have to offer…

Great women inventors

Keep the cost down to create your product (*MVP)

If you are a creative or a student reading this post, you are probably going to hate this point. For your product to be commercially successful, somebody will need to be able to buy it! I know, who would have imagined!

Unless you are creating a product for wealthy people with large disposable incomes you will need consider if the man or the woman on the street can afford what you are trying to sell them. That will generally come back to keeping that initial manufacturing cost down.

As business owner or Start-Up

This may sound like familiar territory to you. The lower the set up cost, the better the margin or the cheaper you can sell your product and it have a wider market appeal. A lower RRP will make your product more accessible to a larger buying market with shallower pockets.

The type of product, brand or businesses you want to be is down to you. It will come down to you how much you believe the customer is willing to pay for your product and be brutally honest the the prices. This may influence whether you do mass production, batch or stay with smaller scale cottage industry production. The choice is yours!

How much does it cost to make a product?

It can cost anything from 10p a unit to £1000’s of pounds for a large mass produced run, it comes down to the materials, where you have your product made, speed and many other smaller factors.

Costing and pricing is a crucial stage to the success of your product. Below are a few factors which you should take into consideration when pricing the development of your product :-

  1. How many units will you make

    Generally the more units you manufacture, the lower the unit cost is in larger quantities.

  2. Where it is manufactured

    It is common to find products which are manufactured over seas. This is common in manufacturing as it is generally cheaper to manufacture products. You may find businesses based around the UK or the United States that offer competitive rates, but it may require more research and digging around.

  3. Packaging

    Depending on the level and complexity of packaging this can affect the cost of your product per unit. Having too much packaging could be costly and frowned upon by a modern and more eco conscious market.

  4. Transport and unit weight and size

    The weight and size of your product will affect the unit cost of your product.

  5. Other languages

    If you are intending on creating a product that will be sold globally, you may wish to consider having translations added to the retail box. It can be inexpensive for translations to be created and worth considering as it will open up a much larger audience to your product. Certain retailers will want it as a requirement.

  6. Barcodes

    If you are intending to sell your product to high-street retailers you will need a product Barcode. I wasn’t involved in the process of creating product barcode in the past, but as far as I am aware it is relatively cheap.

  7. Instructions

    Large retailers will expect instructions as a basic requirement for your product if it something like a piece of electrical equipment, a gadget, a game, a tool and item with moving parts. Instructions can be made cheaply, but they need to be made ‘properly’.

  8. Other Admin and legal areas

    Your product may need testing for chemicals and toxic substances to meet with trading standards. These requirements differ from country to country and isn’t something I can advise on. I can only mention that you should be aware of it is best to seek professional advise.

* it should also be noted that Brexit ‘may’ have an affect on goods being imported and exported in and out the EU.

Marketing Your Product – A very important step

This step should not be scrimped on but is often is. It is a waste time and money putting all of your effort into creating product that the world cannot see. Don’t rely on blind faith and hope that consumers looking to a buy a product will stumble of yours. You will need to be proactive and there are actions you can take with a short or non-existent budget.

Invest your time, energy and planning into some good marketing and if you cant invest money, research low-cost or free marketing ideas.

But remember, free is rarely free. Time is still a cost also and if you can avoid doing it all yourself I would advise looking for help.

https://www.shopify.co.uk/blog/how-to-market-a-product

Shout out Marketing
Shout out Marketing

The marketing of your product can cover a large area; from the branding to the packaging to the website. 1 idea for marketing your product could be to consider crowdfunding – if this fits your business model.

A method for getting your product out there

a) Make a good product
b) Create awesome packaging
c) Present the whole package.

Show your cool packaging to a buyer and let the large retailer do the heavy promotional lifting and display your product. I have seen this method work time and time again but you need to master your pitch.

Other Notes on creating your product

There isn’t a guarantee.

I feel this should be added, not every single product you develop or make will rip it into success. Although, I hope that this article may guide you and help you steer clear of any pitfalls in the early stages. I think many inventors make many products and prototypes before they blow it out of the water. Eventually they find that eureka! And so will you if you if you have right skills, knowledge and attitude.

IF you found this article helpful free free to link to, share or show friend.

‘Do Not’ for developing a product.

– Don’t rely solely on your gut when creating a product. Try to do some research and understand your target demographic

– Developing products for the tech market can be volatile – especially if you are making products which are accessories for a model of (which ever product) Creating something for the latest release lasts as long as the that model does. You either have to move quickly or end up with a warehouse full of products you cant sell.

– Don t assume that customers only look at pictures on packaging, they do read the details on the back of the packaging, and if something is a little bit off – they will email you to let you know.

* Minimum Viable Product Quick Answer : What does it mean?

If your manager or boss has just mentioned the term MVP this stands for ‘minimum viable product’. A minimum viable product is just that, a product that is still worthy of being sold but is stripped back to the bare essentials.

E.g a car with 5 wheels, bike rack, rear view camera, fine leather interior, sky television etc

MVP version = 4 wheels, plastic interior, simple functional car (Save money in other words)

Maybe you’d like to read : How to create a game in steps >
Or Develop packaging

If you have any questions feel free to contact me through my website >

Packaging Projects | high street retail ready design

It has been while since posting a project update, as many of the other posts have covered industry insights and experiences.

One of core project that appears to get a lot of attention is the post on how we created a successful game project. A post that is packed full of information on our design approach and what we did.

This Design Post

This post covers a range of packaging designs that were used and are still actively being used in the retail market – a phrase that was used often when creating the packing was “retail ready”.

These designs range from Tech Girl, Satzuma Gifting, Stem and a whole range of projects and pre-production artwork. These products have graced the shelves of Boots, Tesco’s TK Maxx, Robert Dyas, Menkind, Staples and stores across the globe.

Unicorn Power Bank

Unicorn Power bank packaging
Yes… yes it is a Unicorn. And a Power Bank
Idesign for Smartphones, retail
Packaging and branding design for a ‘build your own Smartphone cover’ product

You can read more on the project on the portfolio website. It covers the branding, the packaging, the marketing and the digital design.

Proof Of Concept Packaging

The proof of concept packaging was used for design approval, used in product pitches to large retailers and also used to ‘visualise’ the package for print factories.

Beard Bib Packaging
Early Beard Bib Packaging, This was put together very quickly to get a feel for the concept.
Packaging design
Packaging illustration
Packaging design for game
Boogie Pong Game Box Mock Up
Packaging design - mock up
Another Tech Girl Mock Up – Typography would be ‘Rose Gold’
Jeantech Power Supply
Mock up / Render of a power supply box
Flash Memory Top - FSDU
Flash Memory Top – FSDU – Final Proof
Neon Packaging concept
Neon Packaging – Product – Testing look and feel

Packaging Nets

The images below show the flat nets of the packaging. This is the print ready or near print ready artwork that is generally sent of production after approval.

Early Joystick Design
Early Joystick design – Packaging – Card + PET – Concept (shelved)
Flat net of am expansion pack
Card box net for packaging an expansion pack.

This is one part of a larger gaming project, if you would like to read more this product please feel free. Or if you would help with you card or game design feel have a look.

Net for a VR Google Card
Google Card Design
AR Blaster Packaging
AR Blaster Packaging Net
Stem Product | Build You Own Robot
Stem Product | Build You Own Robot
Beard Bib Dev
Beard Bib Dev

Final Products & ‘In Situ’ Shots

These are the completed products based on the designs I supplied.

Memory Capture Box & Product Design
Memory Capture Box & Product Design
Head phones packaging
Head phones packaging
Counter Display for Product
Counter Display for Product – VR Goggles
Packaging design - neon sign
Make your own Neon Sign
Joystick
Joystick Packaging
Joystick Packaging
Flash Drives 8 GB - in store photo!
POS design inside a retail store.

That’s all on this packaging post!

Retail Read Packaging

If you would like any assistance in your latest packaging design be it the concept or putting together a punchy, relevant and cost effective solution feel free to get in touch or have a look at projects on the brochure website.

Retail Ready Packaging Projects – Perhaps you’d like to read :

How to make a custom cursor in Stencyl? – In simple steps

The following block shows a simple method for making your own custom cursor in Stencyl.  Please refer to the Stencyl community help section for further details on coding blocks.

Stencyl Logo - Copyright Stencyl
Big Stencyl logo

Getting started with your custom Stencyl cursor

This ‘how to’ covers some basics for making a custom cursor in Stencyl. In a nutshell, you need to hide the default operating system cursor and swap out for your own custom cursor, which will be an actor type.

Cursor

Part 1 : Graphics

A ) Firstly you will need to draw your one custom cursor in graphics program of your choice. I used Adobe Illustrator to draft up this pointer and exported it as a .PNG – Dims 29px 27 px, remember to save your .PNG in logical place in your project folder.

Part 2 : Importing a Cursor As An Actor Type

a ) Open Stencyl and navigate to your game project (assuming you have already made a project)

b ) In the upper left corner press on the “Actor types”and create a new actor. You will then need to add a frame and import your newly created cursor!

Actor from stencyl
Example

Part 3 : How To Make it work

a ) Click on ‘actor behaviours’ and create a new behaviour! This will be a basic behaviour to make your Cursor work in your game.

b ) Click “add event” in the top of the panel. Add > When updating

c )You can either navigate through the code blocks manually or you can search for them. Using the image shown.

Stencyl code block
Stencyl Custom Cursor Code Block

That’s how to make a basic Cursor in Stencyl!

Don’t forget to attach the block to the Cursor Actor, the green button in the top right will allow you to do this – “Attach to actor”

Run game!

Bug with cursor full screen * untick fullscreen mode!
Bug!

Please take into account that the flash player from Stencyl ( when tested from the game ) game glitches in full screen mode. The main default operating system mouse will still be visible despite having the cursor hidden.

This could be an apparent issue with the flash player. – Dated from May 2016.

Try unticking the full screen mode… Not the best

Notes : this bug happens on a iMac OSX i5 10.9.5

This post is edited originally from here > personal blog.

If you are looking to download stencyl you can download the software here.

If you need assistance with some of you game design assets have a look at the design portfolio here

You may also be interested in reading how to make a board game

20 killer tips to land your first Junior Graphic Design role

This post offers useful, honest and actionable tips to help you land your first Junior Graphic design role or internship.

You are on a mission graduate graphic designer

This post is here to help

Finding work as a fresh-faced young Graphic Designer can be challenge! This post has been written to offer assistance in your journey to landing that desired role. By hopefully following these 24 graduate designer tips it will push closer to finding you goal into becoming a intern or a graduate designer.

As for my credentials; I have both been a design graduate and manager in charge of hiring interns and graduate designers. This post will cover what the company looked for (my previous role), what ‘I’ looked for and what I wasted my time doing in the beginning when looking for work.

My credentials to clear up

1) I’m not Neville Brody, or Saul Bass.
2) A lot of this experience comes myself and my former colleagues
3) The rest is taught
4) The rest of it is from first hand experience.

20 detailed tips for landing that ideal creative role :


Part 1 – Getting Into Mindset – It’s a job in itself.

Design Brain

1) Be positive, and stay positive
There may come a time in your search for work where you will feel down in the dumps, the worst thing you can do if you really want to be a Graphic Designer is throw in the towel too early on.

Some graduates manage to find a jobs as a designer straight out of University. Others will land roles off the back work experience, after 4 months of applying, after 400 applications or after nearly 10 months! Keep going, and push forward. No two people are the same and your journey could be different.

2 ) Don’t Waste (too much) Time With Recruiters
I put a strong emphasis on talking to a lot of the recruiters in London at the start, believing they would find my next all star job! Generally speaking, recruiters don’t manifest results if you are a graduate. I will assume, they are more preoccupied with landing the roles for higher paying jobs and getting a larger commission – I’m not sure exactly.

Bottom line, I spoke to many creative recruiters for jobs that didn’t exist or didn’t come to anything. The few that were useful gave some interesting advice, others almost destructive advice.

Try here instead – YCN

3 ) Keep Bettering Yourself
This follows on from “wasting time”. Sitting on your computer watching Youtube videos about cute cats jumping off of furniture isn’t going to land you a job. Make good use of your time by researching companies, learning the nuances and shortcuts of Photoshop and Illustrator or consider learning a coding language. The more skills and worthwhile projects you have in your portfolio, the closer you will come to landing you first ideal role.

4 Imagine Your Ideal Role
For me, this was the trickiest part of finding a role and I feel that my portfolio, although diverse could have been considered convoluted. Your want your portfolio and visual language to be in tune with your first full-time job. In hindsight, I had no idea about what type of job I wanted! I just wanted a creative job. If you don’t know, consider working backwards – what jobs don’t you want?

Here is a scenario.

Joanne was a diligent and hardworking student that tried her best at University. She was fresh-faced graduate full of hope and aspirations, she assumed it would be a breeze, she was a top student and she – like others – would just step into a creative role. But it didn’t come as easily as expected.

Why? Because, its not all about grades and portfolio, it was about finding a professional job match. Joanne had an artistic lean in her portfolio. She became a book designer.

Craig, he was great with branding, liked to skateboard but hated reading books, his persona and portfolio was all about skateboarding. Craig was a fresh-faced graduate designer and he applied to the position advertised for a ‘Book Designer’ – that’ll will do, he thought. “I need a job so I will just go for it”. He didn’t get that role for graduate book designer… but he did get the role working for a Skateboarding Label.

Is there a grain of truth in the above scenario’s? A bit. And maybe these fictional graduates lived happily ever rafter because they found a good job match.


5 ) Your Portfolio and CV are not speaking to each other
If you are struggling to get a job, or get shortlisted, it could be a case that your portfolio and CV don’t match up!

I have read a great CV’s, useless CV’s, silly CV’s random CV’s and just obscure and irrelevant. You CV needs to be applicable to the role and the contents of the portfolio should reflect at least some of the information in your CV, spelling and typo’s are only the beginning. You need a CV and folio that match each other and will help to put you ahead of other applicants. Controversially, I will say make a killer portfolio first and write the CV second.

6 ) Right place at the right time | luck and availability
Sound like a cliché? It is! But it also very true. You can be a ridiculously talented designer with a great portfolio, but if you are not in the right place at the right time then you won’t get the job. Roles can become available due somebody leaving, maternity cover, looking for contractors for specific task or the company is expanding! Be on the job boards, be ready and be available.

7 ) Businesses Aren’t Charities

when I first started trying to land my first job, my CV and covering letter didn’t bring anything to the job. Without really saying it, I expected the role would just land in my lap as I was a shiny new graduate – graduating or passing you course is just the beginning and employers smell your un-jaded optimism from a mile away.

With my begging letter (covering letter) at the ready, it said far more than what was written on the paper. Between the lines it said :

please give me a job, I have nothing to offer, and you will be doing me a favour by hiring me… please do me a favour! I need experience.
Explorers, directors and seniors designers need more than this. A CV saying that you need something from them as opposed to offering all of your energy and bustling talent is just selling yourself short. I wish I could go back and tell myself this.

Some kind souls took time to answer my queries and offer advice but most of the time they ignored my queries. You need bring your ‘a game’ to the team, you will be hired to do a job and do it well. Hiring managers are looking for potential and your are brimming with it – remember? Bring your best.

Aside from drawing attention to the blemish of inexperience, employers will know you are a graduate just by looking at the graduation dates. Focus on what you can do and do well.

Companies won’t hire you out of pity

Part 2 – Job Preparation

Preparation is key.

Vector Black Portfolio

Looking at the points before have you picked you ideal employer or type of job?

Are you considering how your portfolio will align with your ideal role?

If you don’t have a clue what you ideal role is, don’t threat! I didn’t either! A good way of assessing who you ideal employer could be is by working backwards. Ask yourself : What would you hate to do? This will narrow you options, and consider your first steps when looking for work.

8 ) Design Portfolio
This shouldn’t even need to be a point but I have run interviews where ‘Graphic Design Graduates’ came to a creative design interview without a portfolio… or anything to show for that matter. To begin with, that applicant was relying on my memory (my poor memory) and hoping that I could recall everything in their portfolio, at least they got dressed! Turning up to a graduate position without anything wasn’t ideal for a couple of reasons:

1) Did their college or institution not make the designer create a portfolio?
2) They should want to put their best foot forward.
3) This is a chance to discuss their best pieces of work! To really shine!
4) Dozens of other applicants will turn up with a portfolio and it is VERY a competitive market.


Ah it will be ok not to have a portfolio, I am the best designer of all of them” – chances are there will be many good designers going for that position, especially in London.

There were times when we would get over a 100 applicants. Hoping an employer will remember your best work is putting you, as the applicant, at a huge disadvantage – you are a Designer, as general rule you need something to show.

Having a professional portfolio displaying your best and treasured work – especially for print roles is a must in my opinion.

Below are some key points which I have collected together from interviews and sharing information with Creative Directors and MD’s :-

  • Put your best pieces of work at the front and at the back, a strong start and a strong finish.
  • Try to include relevant pieces of work for the job role.
  • Keep improving your portfolio, offline and online.
  • Avoid rubbish work : if you have a ‘live project’ where you had to use ‘Comic Sans’ for the local church poster, leave it out of your portfolio. Putting a low quality project in your portfolio will undo all of your hard work. At most, just mention in your CV about a live project – if your gut and design sense tells you have added an terrible project, you probably have.
  • Add as much ‘good’ quality live work as possible. Work experience goes a long way and ‘showing’ that you have this experience reinforces trust and credibility.
  • I have always used an A3 professional portfolio since graduation. I’ve seen others use archival boxes also which look good. I would personally avoid an A2 ring-binder portfolio, they are too big and and says ‘art college’ to me. It’s all about impressions.

Your portfolio needs to reflect you as a professional, you’re not a student any more… sorry to remind you!

9 ) Digital Portfolio
Before an employer looks at your ‘physical portfolio’ you are going to need a digital portfolio, a website, or something online so you can make that initial first impression or ideally all of the afore mentioned in order to help grab their attention. Whether it is a compressed PDF or something on Behance, get your work online. When creating your digital PDF portfolio, keep it a small file size, anything above 10 MB may get rejected with inbox limitations.

10 ) Your Design CV
You NEED a CV. Don’t rely on your portfolio to do all of the talking as employers will want to see where you have studied, what you have studied, when, your skills and so on. Employers and hiring management are looking for relevant information, they are looking pieces of information and that will help recruit the ideal candidate for the role. If your CV is irrelevant, thin, too much or riddled with typo’s you are lowering you chances of being selected.

Handy CV notes :

  • Don’t create your CV in Word. You are a designer, put some style and class in it.
  • Remove irrelevant job experience. Art Directors, Seniors Designers etc, are not interested in your paper round from when you were 15. You wont be delivering papers in your internship or graduate design role.
  • Make it easy to read and skim. Hiring managers are in a rush and they are also human… make your information snappy and easy to navigate. They might be reading a lot of CV’s and by the 70th applicant, focus can start to go out of the window.
  • Use your CV to sell you and reinforce your absolutely killer portfolio!

11 ) Covering letters
Covering letters are where I have seen some of the biggest mistakes. Keep it polite and acknowledge the job listing. You can sniff a ‘copy and paste’ email from a mile away as it seams to ignore all of points in the job listing. But if you do ‘copy and paste’ make sure to add name and don’t leave sentences like this.

“Dear …..

I would like to apply for the position of … as believe I could bring something new to the team.”


I have seen a letter with the “…”still left in. I don’t think they cared much about the job, maybe they were tired!

12 ) Portfolio & CV are inline
I’m going to let you in on secret, after reading so many CV’s for the creative intern roles at my former company, I stopped reading the CV first!

Why? I have taken the time to read CV’s in past and individuals can talk the talk but can’t walk the walk or so the cliché goes. In essence, they bigged themselves in CV and when I looked at the portfolio(s)… Wow, that’s awful

Now that isn’t me bashing Graduate Designer, not at all, I’m not actually convinced they studied design, unless it was at the school MS Publisher 1995. That CV was created by somebody that didn’t have clue about design. I felt ‘had’! The covering letter and CV were so convincing when I opened the digital PDF Portfolio, I was shocked. Imagine reading an epic CV and then you click onto a digital PDF that looks something a 12 year would create .

Trouble is, I had already wasted my time reading a borderline deceptive covering letter and CV. I will have to see the good and assume they were very optimistic and deluded. They Certainly were not a designer, but they sounded like one.

What could I do to with such an individual? Time is very precious in a busy commercial environment. From then on : folio first, glance at covering letter, good! Go back, read.

Part 3 – Uncomfortable & Unspoken Realities

I’m going to spill the beans on things outside of your skills, CV and portfolio that could have an influence on your being passed over. Some of these are opinions, others are first hand experiences as an applicant and other little ‘gems’ from behind very closed business doors.

Hopefully the points in this section will be both helpful to you and make me hated by recruiters and companies – good!

Spilling the proverbial design beans

13 ) Your Uni, School and background can influence your selection
When having a conversation with another Senior Designer I was surprised when I heard a couple of things.

According to the designer, at a certain establishment, they checked the following :-

  • Where applicants had studied
  • Grades
  • Secondary school and GCSE’s – ‘secondary school and GCSE’s?’ – honestly.

You cannot choose your past and where you went to school as teenager. Back in school, I didn’t know what I was going to study afterwards, nor would I know that being at that school could have an influence. Believe it or not I think there is a certain level of elitism in certain establishments that goes beyond your accomplishments and attainment, sadly…

But you can choose your future.

14 ) Geography – you live too far away.
This is both from personal experience as an applicant and an employer. Recruiters and employers can sometimes see ‘where’ you have applied from. So if you are looking for a Job in London for argument sake and you are based in Northern Scotland – certain jobs websites tell the recruiters and prospective employers where the application came from.

How do they know and why does it matter?
It shouldn’t but it will be counted against you regardless, I will come to that. I have experimented with this by accident I the past. On my CV I wrote that I was currently living in London, I was staying in London on and off but not living here. On my CV it stated that I currently lived in London. I applied for a role through a website and a recruiter rang me the following day.

“So your CV says, you live in London, but your application came from Cornwall?” or similar words.

How did they know and why did it matter!?

It matters. This problem, among many as a graduate was more of a gulf than a hurdle. I didn’t understand why geography should matter if I wanted to apply for the position, they were interested before I told them where I was from. I can recall being told a couple if times after the initial telephone interview with the recruiter that I was too far away for the job – despite being willing to pay for a ticket in an attempt to get a job! As time went on I ran into this a couple of times. Mostly from recruiters.

Recruiters want to make money quickly, and sadly if they find another eligible graduate for the position that lives in or around the city they will get first pick, it can be as simple as that.

My previous boss also favoured locals as it was convenient. I tried my best when possible to favour, passion, talent, work ethic and a cracking portfolio when selecting a candidate – geography was irrelevant to me perhaps I was also motivated by an emotional ideal. I remember how many times I was thrown on the heap before I could even finish saying the sentence
“I am from Cornwall…”

This comes from the perspective of coming to and living in London. How to vault over the Geography issue:

  • Persist and keep applying.
  • Be patient
  • Find a friend or relative to stay with whilst you look.
  • Look for more creative jobs that by pass-recruiters where you feel less like a slab of design meat.

– Last point here – DO NOT RUN UP A DEBT!

15 ) You might not get the most fun tasks
As a graduate you may be given some repetitive or smaller jobs – that’s juts how it is. But you should use these to your advantage, do a great job, do it quickly and use these tasks to make an impression! You might also get a great reference from the your employer at the end. When handing out these tasks I would also mix them in with more interesting and conceptual tasks.

Part 4 – Design Tips | Employers Perspective

I will now write of what I, and my fellow colleagues looked for when at the interview stage of recruiter a graduate.

16 ) Character
Good portfolio, an active mind, somebody who will do the tasks. We would recruit someone with flair, a graduate that would be able to apply their skills to the brand and be part of the team.

In a highly sociable office / studio I would have to gauge how you, the applicant ,may interact with me and the rest in the team and how they might react to you. I could be away, in a meeting or really busy. If I left you as the Junior or Graduate alone with a sales manager would the office combust because he asked you to help implement a email sig for example. Knowing the personalities of the office how would you react to person A, B who you’d work with every day. We are people after all and not all people get along. Making the wrong match In a work environment could cost the company money

There is more to an interview than just a Portfolio and CV.

17 ) Ask questions, show interest.
Another thing that doesn’t appear to be mentioned much in other interview or advice articles. An interview is not only about you being interviewee, it’s also about you and the company. If I have a discussed potential project coming up in the future it is nice to see if you are actually interested in the role or topic. So asking more about the projects, the role, the progression are are worthwhile questions to ask when it comes to making that first impression.


18 ) Your ‘Interests’ on your CV
Why did this matter to me and the company? It’s not a huge point but as strange as it sounds, if I was interested in the candidates CV, I would look at their hobbies and interests to see I could find any relevance to the role.

If the candidate mentioned that they were interested in ‘tech’ games, gifting, arts and crafts, etc it, it could have been a tipping factor for taking more interest in them as I would be aware of the type of project in the pipeline. Not only that, I would consider the following based on your interests.

A – You would be more interested and passionate in a project if you were already like it as a hobby.

B – More likely to come up with vivid and strong marketing and product ideas if you already had some background knowledge on the topic.

It’s a piece on the CV that is often taken for granted, but as person recruiting for an intern, freelancer or potential graduate designer I would look!

For an actionable tip, perhaps write a bit about yourself, love computer games or books? Write it. You could find a company, agency or publisher that is looking for someone with a love for what you do. It’s a potential spot to add ‘icing’ on the cake.

19 ) Commercial experience will put you a an advantage.
Relevant experience more so. Seeing that you have already worked on commercial design projects, even be it for family and friends, will still offer transferable experience. If you can find freelance work, or work experience in your local area this will put you at an much bigger advantage when it comes to landing your first graduate designer role! To find thes jobs look in local papers, social media, talk to friends, Google, Jobs boards.

Conclusion : Tip Summary for Getting a Graduate Design Role

Ok that might be a lot of action to undertake in a short period of time but hopefully, now that you have read this article, you will leave this page feeling prepared and motivated to smash it and get the job. Here is a condensed summary.

  • Make good use of your time.
  • Be prepared, have you portfolio and CV ready
  • Remove irrelevant information from your CV
  • Create a portfolio that is applicable to your ideal role
  • Get as much experience as possible!
  • Work on personal projects and keep bettering yourself
  • Try to network with companies, directors, charities, etc – focus much less on recruiters
  • Keep checking jobs boards
  • Show interest in the role if you get the interview

Lastly from me…

As a closing note I have decided to add a little personal message from me – a small piece of my career journey from back in the day which shows I am human, just like everyone else. Here is a story from one of my less than ideal interviews.

The less than ideal interview

After applying for a job for a ‘Junior Designer’ I found on jobs board, I landed an initial interview with a recruiter. I had my portfolio, CV and smile ready. When asking the recruiter for tips – I asked question along the lines of ‘would the employer want grow and improve the website?’ I was keen, eager and naïve. I wanted to bring my passion to the company. After looking at the website and the branding I made some notes – taking into account that the recruiter also thought It may be a good idea to share these ideas.

With my mental notes scribed neuron juice onto my frontal lobes, my enthusiastic nature and my slick black portfolio, I was ready for the interview.

I sat down in front of 2 people, A Developer and his Manager I will assume.

I mentioned some ‘technical issues’ with the main website (being a website designer role – sort of – I though it would help) little did I know… That the person who built the website, tech issues included, was sat in front of me – in front of his Manager! The damage was done.

I had in inadvertently bruised this Developers ego without knowing or meaning to, I just wanted to point out tips to improve the website.

I didn’t get the role – he hated me, a lot!

The gentleman who had built the page probably came away from the interview squirming and I had put my foot in it by offering my ‘positive ideas’ for improvement. I was a fool, it was never meant to be and hey-ho I went onto other interviews.

Lesson : watch what you say, and be very mindful who you are talking to. Don’t accidentally ruffle too many feathers in an interview.

Further to this job, it wasn’t quite as advertised, it wasn’t a creative role. I was going to copy and past text into ‘mailshots’. Recruiters and job listings can have a sneaky habit of ‘fluffing’ up job descriptions.

I think I was happier not getting it, or so I tell myself.

So, don’t worry about the bad stuff, good will come along!

20 – Big Last Point – Stay Positive

GOOD LUCK GRADUATE DESIGNER!

Thank you for reading this post

20 Killer Tips to land your first graphic design role