Ahoy’s 10 Lessons for Young Designers

Our Shillington Manchester campus recently had a visit from branding studio, Ahoy. Creative Director David Newton went above and beyond to deliver in-depth advice to our part-time students, as well as shooting this awesome video. 

Ahoy have worked on a variety of branding projects across a multitude of platforms for clients based in Manchester and further afield, check out their full portfolio over on their website. Read on to hear why you shouldn’t wait for the perfect project, how being personal can give you that extra advantage and knowing when to keep shtum and listen will keep you on the straight and narrow.

  1. Be creative in the face of constraints. Give yourself restrictions during your studies and early in your career when producing self initiated work. With a a fairly open/loose brief and good amounts of time, most graduates or young designers will be producing good work, so your’s then has to be amazing to stand out in a crowded market. It goes without saying that your work needs to be good to stand out, but in a world when everyone is producing work under these constraints (the graduate/student world) then it makes it harder. A way more befitting to the industry you ultimately want to be a part of is to ensure some of your portfolio is filled with work that has been produced under a set of constraints. give yourself a tight deadline, a restrictive print technique, design constraints… basically mimic the encounters you may have in industry and work to the best of your ability within them, practice being creative in the face of constraints. On the start of most of your journeys, this will prove invaluable.

Creativity in the face of constraints is a sign of a talented designer, and will help you to stand out when applying for roles.

2. Measure everything. Another point to note with relation to the above (in the quest to be commercially aware) is to measure everything on your projects, be aware of how long it takes you to do things, eventually, someone will ask you how long a project took to complete, ask you to estimate something, or give a quote for how much something will cost so make sure you have a record of how long it takes you to produce your work.

3. Be interested. You design best when you are interested in the subject matter — this is not a cue to disappear into your own world and only design covers for the kind of records you like, instead, make yourself interested in what your client is doing, they are interested in it, you can be too. A client wants to know you are interested in them, what they are doing, and have fully researched and understood what it is they do and how they do it.

4. Just cause the client is happy, doesn’t mean it’s good. Depending on how ambitious you are, and whether peer feedback and reputation is important to you: Producing something on time isn’t the sign of a good piece of design, being under budget is not necessarily something to hang your hat on. If creative work is compromised to hit budgets and timescales (which is understandable), it is still compromised. Sometimes the best thing to ensure the success of a project is to be honest with yourself, your employee and/or your client. If something is improved by having more time or budget invested in it, then in some instances this extra investment should be fought for.

5. Don’t wait for the perfect project. “This brief is too restrictive for me to do anything good for it.” “I don’t have time to do my best work.” “These brand guidelines are stopping me being creative.” All perfect examples of what can only be described as bullsh*t.

6. Have a strategy… Look for the agencies that you want to work for, who produce the work you would like to work on, that have a culture that you would fit in and target those specifically. Nobody likes ‘those’ emails (the ones where it is addressed to you but every other Creative Director in the surrounding county are copied into the CC field). Yes, I have received emails like this

7…and be personal. When approaching an agency, please do your research, all us CD’s are on Twitter, there are bios about us and interviews with us all on the internet, you might not necessarily be able to find out our mothers maiden name (and that would be a bit weird), but the least you can do is talk to us, address correspondence with the correct name and at least show you haven’t just plucked us out of the phone book with a ‘gis a job’ attitude.

8. Love where you are. Once in industry, whether you choose to work at a big design house or a small, boutique agency, surround yourself with people you respect, admire and are inspired by, with a bit of luck, they will respect, admire and be inspired by you in return. We spend most of our waking hours in our place of work, so try to ensure it is somewhere you like being, if it isn’t or is toxic, then walk away.

It’s important that early in your career you respect the creative output of the people you work with.

9. Talk the talk… The second most important thing you can learn is how to talk, how to talk about yourself, how to talk about your ideas, talk about your work, talk to colleagues, talk to potential employees, talk to clients. As much as your creativity will be judged by most of these people I just mentioned, the ability to talk well will make a huge difference to how you are perceived by all of them. Communication is what we do after all, and if you can’t talk well, you are going to struggle.

10…but know when to STFU. Even more importantly than talking  and the MOST important thing to learn, is your ability to listen… Nobody likes the guy in meetings who refuses to shut up, who talks over everyone else, who’s self importance drowns out everything else. By the same token, the only way to fully understand a clients problem, is not by talking about yourself, but by listening, listening to what problems they are having as a business, and then applying it to how you can help solve them. This applies to every part of the creative process, when presenting work, you will need to be able to talk about your concepts and also listen to what the client is saying, which parts of your proposal are being well received, which tell tale signs is your audience giving off that shows they are happy or displeased.

Huge thanks to Ahoy for visiting us in Manchester and for their follow up advice! Make sure to follow them on Twitter and Instagram for regular updates as well as David’s personal Medium account for more thought pieces. 

If you’d like to hear studios like Ahoy speak and are interested in pursuing a career in graphic design then maybe Shillington is the place for you. We have info sessions coming up at all of our campuses and our intakes are just around the corner. Find out more –> shillingtoneducation.com

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