Design Splat | Interviews with Awesome Designers and Creatives


Posted April 16th by Design Splat in Graphic Designers

Today we welcome Mandy to Design Splat!

To get the readers started Mandy, tell us a bit about what you do:

Hello there, I work as a Designer at the lovely Lane Agency in Edinburgh. The clients we have are really varied and the work is mostly digital, print, advertising and branding.

How did you get into Graphic Design?

I used to be a youth worker in a young people’s drop in centre, but quite often I’d be working on the website or creating posters, promotional materials (really badly in MS Office) *shudder*

I’d also work with young people in arts centred activities, so the signs that I wanted to be in the creative industries were always there. After going back to university to try and finish a Psychology Degree (that I didn’t really want), I ended up being temping at Edinburgh’s Telford College. I saw that they ran an evening class in Graphic Design; I enrolled and then went on to full time study the year after. It was the best thing I ever did.

Do you have qualifications in design? How important do you think qualifications are for designers?

Yes, I have an HND in Graphic Design. Creative directors I have talked to mainly say they believe the portfolio is the most important thing (closely followed by personality). I can’t imagine having a decent portfolio to show anyone, without having been to college. It’s fascinating to learn about design history and styles, and having tutors who have worked in the industry to learn from is invaluable. So yes I would say for most people it is important to have something – however that said there are always exceptions to the rule. I also think experience, drive and hard work will get you far. I absolutely loved being at college, not only for the learning aspect, but also the chance to be surrounded by like minded people, this really helps to develop the ability to talk about ideas and bounce ideas of each other.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

In five years time, I would like to be a senior designer in an agency. I would also like to return to the college I went to as a mentor/visiting lecturer to the students there.

Own Business/Freelance or working for a company?

I have done both and I prefer working in an agency. It’s good to be surrounded by motivated, creative people to learn from and bounce ideas off/get direction from and it really separates work life and home life. Freelancing at home can be a bit lonely and sometimes I would find myself still working until 11pm (which is mental as my brain has had it by that time!)

If you could work for any client who would it be and why?

I would absolutely love to work for a malt whiskey client. I adore working with type and whiskey packaging often has lots of type with a luxurious finish, embossing, foil stamping, lovely stock, rich colours… there’s often some storytelling through illustration too which would be lovely to work on. Plus I also really like a nice single malt.

What makes a good graphic designer?

The ability to communicate is very important, to talk about ideas, to sell ideas. Also the ability to get under a client’s skin, extract what it is they want, empathise with them, really be able to create for them a solution that works. Design isn’t just about making things look great; it has to serve a purpose. I think it is also really important to stay culturally aware, be aware of what is going on in the world, in advertising, fashion, architecture, art – be aware of what is out there, and the context your work sits in and stay curious; be interested in as much as possible.

Where do you go for inspiration?

I think it can really help to get away from a brief to digest it. So going for a walk is usually a good idea. However this isn’t always possible when the brief is on your desk at 9am and something is expected by lunchtime. In this case, I would just launch into the design process – research, sketch, concepts, have a quick pick of my workmates brains and bounce ideas around. Visual bookmarking sites such as FFFFound and Pinterest can be really inspiring.

What obstacles – if any, have you encountered along the way?

I think it can be hard to have confidence and self belief sometimes. Making the move to study full time was quite a big step for me and I was totally terrified, but making this leap really developed my confidence and transformed my life (cheesy but true).

Do you think the Graphic Design Industry is difficult to get into? 

It’s a competitive industry to get into. There are lots and lots of graduates, so you need to stand out in some way and get your work under the noses of Creative Directors. As many as possible, you never know who might be thinking about hiring a designer, or knows someone who is. I think it’s also important to have an online presence – get a website, use twitter and linked in. This also demonstrates an understanding of the digital world and social media. Aside from a strong portfolio, you need a good work ethic, a positive attitude and the ability to communicate well. It doesn’t hurt to be one of the good guys either.

What do you think it takes to become successful in the Graphic Design industry?

Hard work, a love of what you do and a desire to never stop learning. When you see a design and you say ‘Of course, what else can it be!’ when design is made to look so effortless and obvious – though we all know that it probably took ages of agony – when something works and you can’t think of a single alternative. That’s what I aspire to. A great example of this is the badge set created by Effektive Studio to celebrate Lego’s birthday. Awesome.

Do you get bored with your job if yes how do you overcome this?

A friend once told me that only boring people get bored. This is of course mostly nonsense, but there is an element of truth there too. Things are what you make them, make it more interesting, adjust your mindset, remind yourself that there are at least a hundred graduates in the city who would willingly jump into your job! I have done some pretty tedious jobs in my time, so I know what it’s like to be properly, ‘I-want-to-scream’ bored!

Favourite Typeface?

Anything by Hoeffler-Frere-Jones pretty much. I had a huge crush on Gotham, but it is everywhere right now. I also have a thing for a fatface – Bella (by Face37) is beautiful. Also really liking the trend for hand drawn condensed sans such as Stranglove (by Facetype)

Software you couldn’t live without?

Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop and Dropbox.

Hobbies and Interests?

Being out on my bike, hanging out in the Malt Whisky Society, cooking big slap up meals, watching murder mysteries with my cat (she loves them) and beating my boyfriend at scrabble.

Favourite Designer?

Current favourites are Coralie Bickford-Smith, Magpie, Craig Oldham Effektive Studio and Graphical House.

Any Tips or advice to share with aspiring designers?

Work hard and always do your best. Stay curious, be interested in as much as possible. Talk about your ideas enthusiastically, you have to effectively sell them! If you aren’t enthusiastic about them, who will be? Never apologise when presenting your work – be proud of it (that one is actually from a Creative Director). Develop a thick skin; seek criticism, so you can improve. Get your work out there, a website is a must, if you don’t do code, use one of the free platforms such as Behance ProSite, Cargo Collective or Carbon Made. Use social media to promote yourself and connect with people in the industry. Volunteer yourself for as many work experience placements as possible, this is invaluable to get experience on your CV, find out first hand about studio life and figure out what kind of place you would like to work in. It’s also great fun, and a real opportunity to get to know people in the industry and you also learn tons, really fast. You might even get some work for your folio or a reference. Stay playful, have fun, be brave; being a designer really is the best job in the world.

Where you can find Mandy on the internet:



Twitter:  @mandyfleetwood


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