What have you learnt while out on placement in terms of skills, knowledge and about yourself?
I think these last few months there has been a massive increase in my technical proficiency, be that in my overall digital technique, and the speed at which I can size, compose, colour and export artwork. A part of this is my creative process itself has evolved into something that more resembles professional practice. Whilst I’ve followed the design process of research, development, output and feedback for a long time now, I used to map each process over days and weeks. In line with the speed required for me to output design, the pace I move through the cycle has increased. In university, meetings with tutors represented the feedback portion of the cycle, around once a week. In work, the quicker turnaround means I’m often adjusting and resending work off sometimes as much as several times an hour. This is giving me a lot of experience communicating and responding to clients. I think I’m starting to become more sensitive to the needs that are being communicated as I work.
What has been most enjoyable or beneficial to you over this time?
Most beneficial to me was learning the pace I would be expected to work at in a professional environment. Dealing with upwards of 5 different projects with their own deadlines has a very different feel to working on a single university project. I’ve had to learn to give work exactly as much time as its allowed and no more; If something needs doing in the next hour, I will design it in a way that it can be ready in that time. If I have a week, Ill be able to put a greater deal of design work into it. I’ve started to learn exactly what I’m capable of in different time frames and managing expectations to match.
Linking in to that somewhat is the greater confidence I have within a workspace such as the WRU. I think now I am much less terrified at the prospect of walking into a design studio for an interview, now I have a better idea of what would be expected of me at such a place. Its going to make going for my first junior position at an agency a lot less daunting. It might even make the difference as to whether I get the job or not.
As for enjoyment, it is very nice to see my work shown in public spaces; this is something I’ve almost never experienced before, aside from some very small things done for friends that seldom were ever printed. I can’t help but get a kick out of seeing posters I’ve had a part in on display at the bus stop I wait at in the morning, and even more so seeing my LEDs up at the games. It isn’t the reason I went into graphic design, but it is a bonus.
What has been least enjoyable and again, why do you think this might be?
I think coming to the WRU from art school was a massive culture shock. Working in- house is a very different experience to what I would expect a design studio to be like; it has a very different ethos. Often I’ll be working for someone who doesn’t have quite the same respect for design as I’m used to (And I’m used to a design tutor, so the bar is pretty high anyway), who maybe doesn’t quite understand the knowledge someone in a design role might have, and who may think design is just a periphery element to whatever they want to do. It was a learning curve working with those people, not to say they weren’t polite, or unprofessional. I think it just required a shift in gears to deal with them.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had to learn to have thick skin when it comes to having my work appraised by members of the marketing department. I cannot be precious about what I output because I know often it wont be good enough, that sometimes my own design instincts will be overridden by that of a superior who knows better.
Not to say I am complaining about either of these circumstances, each challenge is an opportunity to expand my skills, and I don’t think either matter needs changing.
Are there any areas in your performance where you could improve your input and, if so, how?
I think it would do me good to really try and insert myself more into creative meetings where all of marketing gather to discuss new campaigns, etc. I admit I often find myself in the role of a “design monkey” and just artwork out concepts prepared by others, and more often then that just updating previously done work. In order to get as much out of this placement as I can, I need to make sure I take part in brainstorming and ideation sessions with the team, as its a big a part of the job as anything else I do.
I am working on this however. With the appointment of a new marketing manager, we are now having weekly marketing meetings with updates and discussions about the next week’s work, and our progress on long term goals. I also ensured I could sit in on the meeting where concepts were decided on how we were going to promote the Six Nations championship. I admit I haven’t had much to say in these meetings; I am surrounded by very experienced designers and marketers who are all much better at this then I am. I will work my way towards feeling able to actively contribute to these meetings, which I am sure I eventually will. Until then, I do believe listening in on those discussions and being more plugged in on creative direction has value.
Can you identify areas where you would like to improve your skills, and how do you hope to do this during the coming placement months?
In regards to being more involved in the creative side, I have a good opportunity to improve my skills coming up in august;- I’ve been given complete control of the art direction for the National Cup Finals day at the stadium ( An event day where all finals for the national league competitions take place in the stadium.) I will be able to approach this task a little bit more like an extended brief I would complete at university, with a lot, lot more time dedicated to research and concept. I will also have to pitch my ideas to marketing in general which gives me the opportunity to hone my presentation and verbal communication skills (which I need to do.).
Working for the organisation
After 5 months on placement, in what ways are you now better prepared for each day in work?
Principally my technical skills are greatly improved in the last 5 months. This, coupled with a properly established design process means I’m much more properly equipped to function within the required workflow of the WRU. In the first few weeks I did feel a little bit useless. Not because I wasn’t being given enough responsibility or enough to do, but because I just wasn’t quite up to speed and I was a little bit sloppy. My supervisor Adam said that this was to be expected, and he was going to keep throwing work at me to get my speed and technical abilities up; which he did, and now I’m much better.
Have you been able to develop any job role skills since the beginning of your placement?
A big one for this would be my new explorations into animation; I detailed this a lot more in previous blog posts, but I’m now pretty competent at motion design. This feels quite significant because I had attempted to learn animation skills myself during university but never quite managed to hack it. I know for a fact this is going to make an absolutely huge difference to my job prospects leaving university, because I can now apply confidently to digital design jobs, and motion design jobs. Before, I would have been much more suited to principally print jobs; a much more narrow job spectrum. This is likely going to make a huge difference in the long run as digital becomes increasingly the default.
List and explain three positives about the WRU Design Dept. How have these positives impacted on your practice?
- I enjoy the casual work environment in the design team; we are all sat around a table facing one another and asking one another to come look at some completed work is common. This means I get plenty of time to talk to my experienced colleagues about my work and as a consequence I’m learning a lot.
- Working in-house lends a certain familiarity with the brand, and the people who tend to come to you with work. Everyone at work knows the system and this means theres a certain ease of operation that I appreciate. Everyone has the same goals, theres very little combativeness or difference in ideas.
- The challenging work environment has been a necessary pressure thats prepared me better for work in industry as well as making me learn new skills (such as animation). I very much was leaving my comfort zone and doing so has done me good.
List and explain three negatives about the WRU Design Dept. How could they/it/you improve?
- Working in an office rather than a design studio means I am rather detached from the design world at large. I don’t feel like Im part of the design community in Cardiff so much. I am allowed to take mornings off to attend Creative Mornings once a month which I enjoy but this is about the extent of it. I want the opportunity to work in a studio after the WRU, so I can experience being a bit more plugged in to it all. Networking opportunities are limited to those who already work at WRU. We have had a little work done for us by Cardiff local agency Smorgasbord in the past, and I am patiently awaiting the next time we do so I can get myself in the meeting with them (and perhaps somehow lay the groundwork for my next placement or employment!)
- Working with an in- house brand can often lead to little thought being directed to the design concepts. More often than not I’m making a poster or instagram post that just fits the style of the WRU or Dragons brands. Whilst this gives me a fairly safe space to practice technical skills, I do miss working up new concepts and entire new looks, and working with fonts that aren’t Choplin and Frutiger, and colours other than Campaign Red and Campaign Gold.
- Either my own lack of confidence, or the expertise of my co-workers means that I’m often not contributing much to discussions of the concepts of marketing campaigns in the future. Ie. They’re very good at coming up with brand new concepts and ad campaign ideas very quickly and are able to speak up in meetings to voice their ideas. I am not quite at this point yet. I don’t know if being in a smaller organisation would make this easier for me or not. This is just something I need to work on, and will come with experience I expect.
All in all, a very informative few months. I can’t believe I’m almost half way through my time here. I’ve continued to learn a lot everyday and I look forward to the opportunities & experiences that my work here will lead to.