Advice for design students: Soup, trust and adulthood

Six months into being the team’s youngest designer, here's some ‘wisdom’ for all the students out there keeping me on my toes.

This summer, amidst a year synonymous with cataclysmic change, I stepped out of art school fresh faced and into the Adult™ world. A confusing time of responsibilities, early starts, deadlines, Brexit/Trump and mild binge-drinking. Feel free to conflate the last two. 

As a newly inaugurated Adult™ in the design world there’s a lot to be learnt. About one’s own strengths and weaknesses, how the freedom and personal authority of art school translates into the realities of a client-facing business and how to get the office microwave to heat up the soup and not just the bowl.

In the months that led up to the art school exit door I had developed an idea of what a Junior Designer’s valuable traits might be. Worries about how well I knew Photoshop, how quickly I could ‘work up’ a logo and how honed my typographic skills were, plagued me.

But as it happens, above and beyond all of the industry-related skills, teamwork - that often vacuous barnacle on a teenager’s CV - has without a doubt been the most important trait to get me where I am at this point and to set me up to become a much better designer in the future. 

Back in the halcyon days of 2015 when I was a mere intern here at Good, I sensed quickly how critical this might be.

I made an effort be accommodating, persistent, show up early and never leave without asking if others working late needed a hand. Simple things, but they all demonstrated that I was willing to be part of the studio, and not just here for myself. I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that’s why they asked me to come back as a Junior Designer. 

Getting your head around working as a unit also means you learn more – more quickly. I can’t design and manage some of the world’s biggest brands single-handedly - at least not yet - but I can be a part of the team that does.

And from this, I will become a far better designer than if I was just pretty good at typesetting for an art school student, but had the interpersonal skills of a brick. 

I would also stress the importance of trust. Gaining the trust of the rest of your team is the first step to getting anything like the freedom you were afforded at art school.

Before you get to do the big rebrands, you have to prove you’re a capable pair of hands with the smaller jobs. And that’s okay; it’s all part of the journey up.

So my advice to any design student that finds themselves standing wide-eyed at the open door to Adulthood™ -  assuming you’re already pretty good at what you do - is swallow the ego, work as a team and build up some trust.

Find some good people and throw yourself into being a small, but irreplaceable part of their team. That’s when you’ll really begin to evolve as a designer, and hopefully nail the whole Adult™ thing too.