Junior designers are not rock stars


It’s an age old adage that when a small agency hires new staff, it isn’t simply talent and portfolios that are being gauged during the recruitment process. It’s critical that the personality is one that slots in comfortably with the existing blend of characters in the studio. This is only exagerated when looking to hire a young designer or graduate as they will invariably need the most guidance and the most time dedicated to them by more senior staff to help them learn their trade and mold them to compliment the existing house style.

I know a few moderately large agencies who only employ younger, inexperienced designers to ensure continuity and management of house style. But that’s not what I want to discuss.

Just this week a good friend of mine had a fresh out of Uni and spritely 21 year old designer come in for a weeks placement. The agency itself is vibrant and has some great accounts on both a local and national scale and the placement was, to all intents and purposes, a precursor to being offered a fulltime position to augment their web design team. Now, this is a busy studio and this particular week the young designer was tasked with helping the senior designer produce elements of artwork for a soon to launch and high profile website. Not the most glamorous nor creative job granted but a necessary and straight forward task nonetheless.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this girl was talented enough. She had to be to get through the door. But by her own admission needed to learn what it was to be a commercial designer. She needed to learn discipline, structure, workflow, style and the basic rules of design and studio life. She was a member of a design team now and not a student asked to go off and respond to a brief.

You would have thought she’d have lapped it up – eager and hungry to grasp her chance, an opportunity to harvest talent and experience from designers who’d been there, done it and established a reputation for themselves. So at the end of week, over a spot of lunch she was casually asked if she’d enjoyed the week. “Not really” came the response “it’s not for me”. Fair enough by all accounts but when pressed as to what she didn’t enjoy it became clear she had expected to come into the studio and be a lead designer on a project from the off.

Now I’m not saying that all young designers are not capable of picking up the mantle in this manner right away, indeed in many agencies this raw creativity is encouraged and countless revered companies have started with little more than a song in their heart and whistle in their step, straight out of education. But what she didn’t appreciate is those particular employment opportunities are few and far between and the openings that exist, are scrapped over to the death.

My point is that young designers coming out into the big bad world need to do their time. Find a themselves mentor, listen, watch, learn and grow. I liken it to being a Russian doll but in reverse; no matter how much talent you’re blessed with, you start out small but the more go you through your fledgling career you grow and add layers to your skill set; understanding and experience. It’s only when you’ve paid your dues and thoroughly learnt your craft that you’re truly capable of tackling a project and doing a brief, and a paying client’s business, justice.

So, to summise; young guns – keep it holstered until you learn how to hold it, and most of all, at 21, what’s the rush? Comments welcomed…