www.bigfish.co.uk June 22 – June 26, 2009 Third Floor, Door C 11 Chelsea Wharf 15 Lots Road London SW10 0QJ
wwww.sheldrakegreen.co.uk June 29 – July 10, 2009 Parman House 30-36 Fife Road Kingston Upon Thames Surrey KT1 1SY
Adam Burges Work Placement Report
Introduction Over the summer I undertook two work placements. These placements allowed me to better understand what working in the design industry might entail and what is required to get there. They were two very different and valuable experiences. The first was at Big Fish, a mid-size design agency who specialise in branding and packaging. The second was at Sheldrake Green, a small agency based outside London who work almost exclusively for Wembley Stadium. Although neither company are particularly well known, I feel they were great studios to do placements at. They both produce high quality work, and both were happy to give me plenty of responsiblitly during the placements.
Getting the placement The experience of applying for placements provided a steep learning curve. I joined the FdA this year, with direct entry to the second year. My background is in fine art and I have only a relatively small amount of design experience. The first stage was to contact agencies whose work I admired and send them a PDF portfolio showcasing my work. I rather naively applied to some of the most prestigious London design studios (the likes of Biblioteque, Spin and Why Not Associates). This didnâ€™t prove to be a very successful approach!
So I went back to the drawing board; worked hard to improve my portfolio and selected some more realistic targets. Second time around I was much more successful. I had interviews with ODD and Big Fish, which led to Big Fish offering me a placement. The brief required a ten day work placement; but unfortunately by this stage Big Fish had already promised placements to several other students over the summer and were only able to offer me five days. I decided to contact Sheldrake Green, a small studio in Kingston where I had undertaken a work placement previously. The creative director was happy to have me back. This meant I was able to complete three consecutive weeks of placements.
Structure In their own words, the Big Fish team comprises of: “art directors, designers, copywriters, artworkers, web developers, account managers, illustrators, photographers and commercial strategists”. They have a team of 18, plus one space permanently available for work experience. Environment The studio is located in south west London at Chelsea Wharf. The building sits on the banks of the Thames and the studio has an impressive view of the London skyline. There is an in-house photography studio and a small library. Clients During the time I was at Big Fish the studio was working for Dorset Cereals, Gu/Fru, Clipper Tea and Waitrose. Other clients include Deliverance, Brora, Belvoir Cordials, Plum Baby and Bighams.
Studio profile: Big Fish My week at Big Fish was my first introduction to life at a London design studio. They are a mid-size agency with a team that comprises of specialists in a variety of fields, such as copywriting and web design. Big Fish came across as a very professional studio who offered an excellent design service to their clients. It was interesting to see the team work together and witness the dynamic between designers, artworkers and account managers.
Position in industry Big Fish started in 1994. They are a multi-disciplinary studio who specialise in branding and design. This includes developing brand identities, copywriting, writing brand and marketing strategies, designing literature, packaging and websites; and art directing photoshoots, press ads and commercials. I doubt their work attracts too much attention in the design press but they have won awards for their packaging. I was impressed by the variety of styles that the studio seemed to be able to offer: from inhouse illustration for Clipper, to clean a Modernist style for Gu/Fru.
Structure Sheldrake Green is a two person studio. The owner and senior designer does most of the design for print, while the other designer is responsible for most of the webbased design. Environment The studio is located in Kingston Upon Thames, which is a suburb to the south-west of London. It is a small studio, with 4 work stations set up. There is an additional room for spray mounting, cutting etc and a kitchen. In the summer there is no air conditioning and the office is like an oven! Clients Sheldrake Greenâ€™s principal client is Wembley Stadium. While I was with them they were also doing work for Shop@Panansonic, Linford Homes and a new start-up company called the Provencal Spice Company. Position in industry Sheldrake Green would barely show up on the radar of the design industry! They are a small studio with a loyal client base that provides a steady stream of work. Ges (the owner) previously worked for large studios in London but grew tired of the London-studio lifestyle and working for others, so decided to set up on his own.
Studio profile: Sheldrake Green At Sheldrake Green I saw the level of professionalism and multitasking required to successfully run a small studio. These guys have to think about a lot more than just designing - they are running a small business. They have to deal with budgets and fees while artworking, designing, consulting and branding. Once again I was highly impressed by the quality of work at the studio. I think many clients might be surprised if they knew it was only a two man operation. I did feel they had an over-reliance on one big company to provide a steady stream of jobs. If for any reason, they lost that client, I think the studio would experience a very difficult few months.
My responsibilites at Big Fish During my week at Big Fish I was involved in three projects. I worked on new product ideas and concepts for Gu. This involved researching the brand and the competition, generating ideas and mocking them up. (Unfortunately, I am not able to include any of these images in the report). My main task throughout the week was to make packaging mock ups and presentation boards. These were time consuming tasks that would otherwise have had to be done by the design team. These mock ups were for high profile clients to show them how they could expect their packaging to look. This meant a high standard was required. Although this did became a bit tedious over the week, it was nice to be trusted with important tasks for the studio. In addition, I learnt a new skill, and got to understand a lot more about packaging design. I was also asked to design and make a card for a designer who was leaving. This designer was known for drawing male genitals on things! I had quite clear instructions for the card: it should be penis-themed, ideally with a pop up penis inside! I researched mechanisms for making pop up cards and got each member of staff to draw a penis which I arranged into a grid for the cover. I did this whenever I had a spare moment from packaging mockups (which wasnâ€™t very often!). Friday was Billyâ€™s last day at the studio, he was presented with the card along with some more sensible gifts. The card was a success!
My responsibilites at Sheldrake Green At Sheldrake Green I worked alongside the creative director to help design a logo and identity for a start-up company. I was fully involved throughout the process, from concept to design. This meant extensive research, developing ideas and producing visuals. During my first week we worked on logo designs and presented a PDF of the strongest ideas to the client. In the second week we developed their chosen logo and applied the identity to stationery; including a packaging label, business card and letterhead. I enjoyed being involved in a live project, but I found it a lot more difficult than I had expected. I was representing Sheldrake Green and working under the supervision of someone vastly more experienced. I also found it strange not being in control of artistic decisions; for example some of the ideas I presented for the logo were regarded as â€˜too trendyâ€™ for the client, although I disagreed, I had 3 to accept this decision.
What I have learnt I think the most important thing I have learnt from this experience is realising just how competitive the design industry is for graduates. There is intense competition even to secure unpaid work placements and internships. I have had the opportunity to ask designers and creative directors for their thoughts about landing a first job in the industry. My conclusion is that it is necessary to be educated to degree level and to have obtained that degree from a well regarded university; to have a strong portfolio; to have experience and to have a strong personality. But even armed with all those things you canâ€™t expect to walk into a job. Equally crucial to securing employment is building contacts within the industry. People who can alert you if a position is due to become available or recommend you for freelance work. I donâ€™t think my single week at Big Fish was really enough to build strong contacts, but I certainly feel my longer stint at a Sheldrake Green has helped me gain an excellent contact.
Experiencing the industry first hand, I am now able to better appreciate the level my own work needs to be. I have been able to identify areas I want to strengthen such as typography, editorial skills and web design. I know my first few years in industry will be a steep learning curve. The pace and intensity of the industry also surprised me as did the long working hours designers need to put in to meet deadlines. Seeing the different roles at Big Fish has got me interested in the job of account manager and influenced my choice of Project Management for my elective. The experience of the placements has helped me consider my plans for the future. I am undertaking a short course in web design alongside the FdA Design For Graphic Communication. I have kept in contact with Sheldrake Green and plan to return for a longer internship this summer. I have also arranged to help rebrand a music club after graduating.
Designer interviews During the placements I took the opportunity to interview some of the designers. It was interesting to hear their thoughts on working in the design industry, and learn more about their own experiences.
Name, job title, studio B: Ben, artworker, Big Fish R: Ruth, middle weight designer, Big Fish Bj: Bijal, graphic designer, Sheldrake Green What are your responsibilities? B: I prep jobs so that they’re ready to be sent to angry men with expensive printing machines who get my colours wrong and tell me I’m asking for impossible things R: To consistently make boxes look pretty and sell. Bj: Taking leadership of projects, managing my own workload and liaising directly with clients, printers and web developers on a daily basis. What skills do you think are needed to be a successful designer? B: Constantly being creative, working well under pressure, keeping well up to date on past and present trends, willingness to work “outside of office hours” R: Patience, thick skinned, a good eye, sense of humour, love of food Bj: Having all round experience helps and goes along way. A wide range of skills from designing layouts to designing and building web sites to artworking large format graphics. Understanding what the client is asking for. The skills which are vital are always to listen, understand what is involved in the brief and communicating well with clients and the people you with work. Having passion in what you do and always wanting to progress further and learn something new everyday is part of having that drive to succeed.
How would you describe the studioâ€™s approach to design? B: Innovative R: The Big Fish way Bj: Deliver a level of service that will delight our clients Build long term relationships with our clients. Have fun and enjoy what you do! How much time do you spend at your Mac versus time spent away from it (in meetings, researching, sketching, making mock ups, visiting clients)? B: All of my working day R: 80% mac Bj: My role is mostly designing, so I am always in front of my mac! How did you get your job / how does the studio recruit new staff? B: I happened to turn up for an interview when they needed hard-working juniors. The fact that I was amazingly witty and had an excellent personality clearly helped. R: I emailed the design director about cricket Bj: I did work experience for about six months and my friend was working there at the time. So when she left I took over her role. Which designers and agencies inspire / influence your work? B: The old ones. They were built to last. R: Big Fish work - Sawdon and Haydon-Taylor as they are my design directors! Bj: I canâ€™t say anything specific, as there are so many things that inspire me! From doing research and constantly looking at other designers, books and internet are my main sources of inspiration, rather than a particular designer or agency.