03.01.2014 | Design, Education

Applying for a job at a graphic design studio

by Amanda Kirkman

I once had the experience of helping one of our clients hire a new designer. Whilst going through the folios I couldn’t help but notice a few easy-to-fix mistakes. I wanted to share some of these pitfalls in the hope of helping some of you that are applying for a job at a graphic design studio.

1. Address the application to the person or business advertising

In this example, we had mentioned the manager’s name in the job description, yet out of a couple of hundred applications, only two or three people had addressed their email to him. This is a mistake as it makes the client or studio realise you’ve probably sent a stock standard email through with no consideration to the audience, and that you’re bad with paying attention to the finer details.

2. No Word Docs!

You’re a designer. Set out your C.V. in InDesign and put some time into the design. There is no need for over the top info-graphics that are hard to follow, just keep it clean, simple, and easy to follow. Remember you’re potentially one of 100’s — there’s no need for essays.

3. Spell Check

The number of spelling mistakes blew my mind. I immediately assume you’re going to be as careless with your work. Take the time to make sure it’s perfect, get someone to do a proofread or run it through an app like Grammerly.

4. Make your work look amazing

This is one of the most important things. If possible try and photograph your work under studio lighting. If this isn’t possible hire or borrow an SLR, and shoot your work on a white desk or coloured paper with natural light. There are many YouTube videos on setting up lighting with items you can get from Bunnings. Images shot on mobile phones with bad lighting really stick out so take your time. Alternatively hire a photographer like Folioio to make your work look amazing.

5. No selfies

If you include a head shot, make sure it isn’t a drunk selfie. Yes, show some personality — but if you’re applying through The Loop, or have a LinkedIn profile shot, make sure it’s at least semi-professional. Consider what your Facebook or Instagram profile looks like whilst job hunting as employers will definitely look you up.

6. Show off your skills

Love hand-drawn type or photography? Include it! But make sure your application suits the position. If the job is about print design, show off your best stuff, and then a little bit of your specific passion. You never know, the employer may have potential uses for your other skills.

7. Don’t pad it out

If you send through twenty projects including all ten of your final year assignments it just brings down your folio. It is better to show seven to eight perfect projects then a range of mediocre ones, and if you only have uni assignments or projects that got messed up client end, re-do them! No one is stopping you from giving your work a freshen up to show how much you’ve grown. Try and replace student work with real-world projects, or create some self-initiated projects.

8. Don’t copy paste your email application from different mail apps

When you paste from anything with HTML, you run the risk of your Mail app picking up this formatting and the receiver seeing three or four different sizes and styles in your letters. If you HAVE to do this use ‘Paste as Plain Text’.

9. Work to your medium

The first time your application will be viewed is on a screen, so design to a landscape format. View it after export and at full screen, is the type legible, too big, too small? On the rare chance it does get printed, make sure it’s not too far off A4 landscape dimensions. InDesign has a great Interactive PDF export feature so utilise this. Link to your folio and LinkedIn page, even your Instagram if you’re happy with it.

10. Read the position requirements

If it says they’re after someone with a minimum two years experience and you’re a recent graduate, maybe spend some time applying for a position better suited to your skills. Two years of experience does not include time spent studying.

11. Show your personality

It’s really important to show some personality. You will be spending a lot of time with the person hiring you so it’s great to share a bit about yourself and your tone of voice. Don’t be trapped into writing stock standard cover letters that don’t really say anything about you.

12. Attend a Folio evening

The great folks at AGDA do folio nights so make sure you’re following them on Twitter and Facebook, and check out their Events Page. This is a perfect opportunity to get your folio critiqued by leading creatives.

13. Spend some time on it

I think a lot of designers make the mistake of assuming as soon as they graduate and start applying for jobs they’ll land one straight away. They send out some folios, don’t get a response and get disappointed. Most designers I know that have had early success spend months on their folios and worked really hard. There is no short cut or easy way around. Hard work shows, so if you only ever intend on spending a weekend on this, don’t be disappointed when you don’t hear back.

Looking for extra tips? Read Scott’s post on Getting the most our of your portfolio.

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