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Studio Dotto’s Design Tips

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Dani Molyneux to speak at Shillington Manchester. The brains and creative talent behind Studio Dotto, Dani inspired our current bunch of students with how she went freelance to set up her own studio, her approach to design and her advice to our design students as they entered the design scene as fully fledged designers.

We caught up with Dani after her talk to continue the conversation and find out what attributes she looks for in a junior designer as well as hearing more about being the co-host of the Manchester contingent of Ladies, Wine & Design—an initiative from Jessica Walsh which has gradually spread to a global audience.

What goes into running your own studio and do you have any tips for other designs hoping to go solo and start their own creative venture?

I had lots of experience working in design agencies followed by a few years working freelance so the transition hasn’t been too harsh (so far). When I started freelancing, I began to pick up some of my own client work so I’ve been gradually working to tip the balance and produce more work out of my own studio.

My tips would be to go at your own pace and find what works for you. Don’t worry what anyone else is doing.

I know some great people who set up studios straight out of education, but I found working in different places and building up experience and contacts an advantage and really helps with things like client liaison, time management, costing etc (basically the practical boring stuff).The studio is teeny—basically just me ha ha—which keeps it really flexible and that works well. I’m lucky to have a got a brilliant network of collaborators that I call on in for specific projects.

You’ve got some seriously beautiful work in Studio Dotto’s portfolio—do you have any favourite projects that you’ve worked on and anything your currently working on that you can share?

Ah thank you 🙂 I’ve just finished working on a brand development project for Move Dance. I collaborated with lettering artist Oli Frape on this one and it was lots of fun. I’m working on some really nice stuff with the Everyman and Playhouse and I’ve also just started a lovely project for a new theatre client—that one is early days though so can’t say much more at the moment. I also love working on my random selection of personal projects (although tricky to find the time)! Even small things like the letter-pressed Dotto Christmas cards were very entertaining, really enjoyed that one. And I’m very very slowly working on a series of abstract location prints (starting with The Netherlands) that I’m hoping to finish at some point in the near future.

You’ve worked on a lot of branding projects including a few within the healthcare/financial sector with really playful and intriguing outcomes. Do you think these sort of case studies offer more of a design challenge?

There have indeed been a fair few healthcare/financial projects recently. Whilst that would seem to present more of a challenge, the thing that links each of these case studies is that every client was totally passionate about their product/organisation and really keen to produce something different to what was out there in that sector already. So for me, that’s a real joy. To take a subject matter that may not seem exciting on the surface and then pull out the amazing things they do and make it accessible and inspiring for their audience is very rewarding. Often the business sector is irrelevant, its the people behind that project that make the difference.

How would you describe the creative scene in Manchester, do you think it’s a good place for junior designers to start out?

When I started out, I moved to London for my first job, that felt like the best thing to do in order to get decent creative opportunities but I don’t think that’s the case now.

There is a really vibrant creative scene in Manchester and its a fantastic place for young creatives to start out.

There are events taking place all the time and its important to get out there, meet people and form your own networks. It might help you get work, or meet people with different skills that you end up collaborating with or just making some good buddies. You can’t go wrong.

Alongside fellow female creative Danielle Gaboury you helped launch the Manchester contingent of Jessica Walsh’s Ladies Wine Design. Can you tell us a bit more about this and how our female Shillumni of Manchester can get involved?

Ladies Wine and Design was initially started in NYC by Jessica Walsh after she noticed how few female Creative Directors there were. So the idea was to create a supportive network that fosters and champions creative talent as one way to begin to address this. Danielle and I want the Manchester chapter (LWD MCR) to bring together creatives at all different levels. There are different themes and sessions that might be relevant at different points in people’s careers. For example, our portfolio surgeries are aimed at students and recent graduates. But another evening might be geared at women who’ve take career breaks or sessions for senior designers looking to move up.

We’ve run evenings with specialist guest hosts as well as practical workshops and we’ve got some studio visits planned in too.

To find out more, go here and there’s a link to our mailing list or you can follow us on Twitter/Instagram. If you have something you want to promote or feature in one of our social media spots just drop us a line at If you’re interested in getting involved in some capacity, we run this alongside our own work so any support is welcomed—just give us a shout 🙂

As our students gradually become graduates and commence their job hunt they’re always looking for the best tips to help them stand out and be noticed by employers. As someone who runs their own studio what 5 things would you look for in a junior and how can recent graduates get noticed for the right reasons

For me personally, I’d look out for;

  1. Warm, friendly positive attitude.
  2. Proactive with grit. There is an article knocking about somewhere about the importance of ‘grit’ I’d say that’s a key attribute.
  3. Thinking and idea development evident in work along with an ability to talk it through.
  4. An original spin and an individual approach to creative work. What makes you different from someone else.
  5. Resilience. Projects don’t always go as planned, clients don’t always like work, so an ability to take it on the chin and get stuck back in is important. Although that comes with practice!

Massive thanks to Dani for speaking with our students and answering our questions. Be sure to check out the full Studio Dotto portfolio and follow across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for regular updates. 

Keen to set-up your own studio, or find out more about becoming a graphic designer? Read more design interviews over here or head to our website for more details about studying at shillington and visiting a campus!

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