Get Experience in ‘The Industry’


Recently, I was asked by a teacher friend if I could advise one of her students who has the ambition to get into the digital design industry, but doesn’t know where to start. Jumping at the chance to rant about my world, I jotted down a few tips below:

First and foremost… he needs to live and breathe the design industry.

I would recommend that aside from developing his actual technical skill (self taught or further education based), he needs to start exploring and become part of the industry. He needs to learn who the industry leaders are in this field and why. A really good couple of places to start looking would be:

FormFiftyFive– General site with the latest inspirational pieces

The Partners – The Partners is Marketing Magazine’s Branding Agency of the Year

Carsonified – Their passion for the web makes them a leading digital agency

Brass Agency – One of the countries (and local) leading integrated marketing agency


He then needs commercial experience, so tell him to go out and do some freelance work. This could be for people he knows, charities or personal projects that showcase his talents. Most importantly, he needs a creative CV (online and offline)! He needn’t go OTT, but please do NOT create a standard word document. In the industry we hate this… when we receive CV’s through that are not creative, we instantly question the talent of the person applying. If their CV says they’re creative, it needs to show it too.

He can find a really good example of a creative CV from the link below:


So once he knows the industry, has a creative CV, and has a small portfolio of work – he needs to send out his CV with a personalised cover letter to local companies he’d like a placement at. He’ll probably be reluctant, but tell him to call the agencies to find out the name and title of the person the letter needs to be addressed to, so that it lands on the desk of the right person.

Then it’s the waiting game, but he mustn’t give up. He will get a break somewhere if he’s talented enough. Even a small studio like mine gives young potential a chance if we think they’re worth it. If we see enough creative spark, and most importantly – think that the guy can fit into our organisation, we’ll give him a shot. He doesn’t have to be a designer clone, but figures show that most agencies out there have 6 – 12 staff members and these teams are tight. Yes they’re fun and intense to work in, but this means they can be unbalanced by a disruptive work placement if their personality doesn’t fit!

It’s also a lot of effort on the agencies part to find the time for a placement student. We are very busy day to day, so to move our paid work around to find time to tutor and set mini project for placements can be a struggle. So he needs to tick a lot of boxes for us to see the potential, and allow himself to be a help and not a hindrance.

It’s not easy, but he shouldn’t become disheartened by knock backs because most of the time agencies are just too busy to take somebody on. However, with persistence, at some point he’ll get lucky, and once he’s got in with one agency, he’ll find it a lot easier to get further experience.



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