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Hiring Young, Recent Graduates — Why or Why Not?

This is a hiring dilemma faced by firm principals and creative directors everywhere. Hiring recent graduates definitely has its business advantages, such as maintaining low salary overhead. But it also has its disadvantages, such as a higher need for supervision and hand-holding.

I emailed a few local studio owners and asked for their honest opinions on the subject. In return, I was given some very frank answers.

“From day one, I planned not to hire inexperienced, recent design school graduates. In keeping with that strategy, each member of our core team has more than 20 years experience.

As we got busier I did hire a design school graduate because I didn’t want to make a long-term commitment to a more experienced person at that time. That person proved useful, but inevitably required more supervision and training, and delivered less business value than made sense. Since then, I have decided not to hire anyone with less than, say, 5 years experience.

I don’t see any great long-term business advantages for hiring and training baby designers. Bottom line, I am more focused on delivering real value to our clients than I am on worrying about overhead. We can bill more per project because clients are willing to pay for the greater value received.”

— Allen Woodard, Woodard and Associates

“During the boom, I hired half a dozen recent graduates only to discover that, as a whole (with one conspicuous exception), they were spoiled and expected everything to be handed to them on a silver spoon. But that was not a lot different than some of the senior designers I hired at the time. The difference was that the senior designers already knew how to accomplish something - eventhough they may have had scarring from past employers.

Philosophically, I am a big proponent of hiring fresh talent and helping them learn their voice. However, the reality in a small firm is that you need experience to keep things moving. Once you have an experienced designer or two who can help mentor, then you can hire fresh designers. The other option is that you spend triple the time getting minor things done while you teach the new designer how to do them.

The bottom line is that the final product can’t suffer.”

— Michael Connors, Motive Design

“Design is a business, and the cost of labor is one of the biggest financial outlays for a design firm.

As a small outfit that has weathered the vagaries of the market, burst bubbles and cyclical downturns, we have always done so on the backs of the young and impressionable fresh-out-of-schoolers. Besides, I’m old. It’s good to have young people around to pick me up when I fall down and break a hip. Of course our desire to remain a small shop is also a detriment. We are seemingly in a never ending cycle of replacing hard working kids with an understandable desire to move on.

Of course, design is also more than a business. I don’t wish to sound like Mr. Chips, but there is a great deal of satisfaction in shaping young minds and giving someone an opportunity. I will always have fond memories of those that not only gave me a break but also took the time to teach me the right way.”

— Mark Kaufman, Artomat Design

To the owners/principals out there — what are your issues? Is it about staffing with experience versus youthful enthusiasm? Is it about hiring cheap labor, and is it worth the cost of babysitting? What are your concerns?

And yes, I can just feel the recent grads out there fuming with fury. I know, I know…it’s the classic catch-22. People expect you to have experience for your first job, but how are you supposed to get experience without one? Why don’t people give grads a chance, you say?

Please feel free to state your case before the jury.

Thanks to Austin and an anonymous French guy for the topic.

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PUBLISHED ON May.10.2004 BY Tan
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

I think a good model for a small to medium sized studio is to structure your labor force (those are people, by the way) in tiers. If you have, say, three designers, try to have one with great experience, one with some and one right out of school. That way you have the flexibility to take on projects that have tigher budgets (by delegating work to the junior and presumably less expensive designers), as well as major projects that require a degree of experience.

There are, of course, a million caveates and variables that gum up the gears in this scenario:

The Viagra Effect

(You can't keep it up forever) If you're a really great studio you'll end up holding onto people for a long time and eventually have to expand or risk becoming top-heavy. Either way you'll be forced into a situation with higher overhead.

Young designers are a false economy.

If you have to double check (and worse, fix) everything they do, then suddenly they're carrying yor billing rate as well. You could have hired a mid-level designer and saved yourself some money and some time.

Young designers are slow.

I don't mean slow moving, I mean dim. I'm kidding. Well, I'm half kidding. Seasoned designers know from experience which strategies (not solutions) are most efficient. What's more, they understnad their own design process. They're generally quicker at generating ideas, and have the discipline to limit their exploration in the early stages of a project. Less experienced designers tend to spend too much time refining at the concept stage. Cha-ching, cha-ching...

Designers need to understand business

A lot of what makes good design work is understanding its relationship to business. Out of school, most designers have little or no business training and therefore can't fully appreciate the context in which they are working.

I could go on and on, but as it happens I'm giving a lecture on almost this very topic this weekend for the San Francisco AIGA, and I don't want to give away all my talking points. Maybe I'll post the presentation afterwards and link to it from this thread.

On May.10.2004 at 09:44 PM
marian’s comment is:

Fortunately, I no longer have to think about this. But when I did, I hate to say I became a little phobic about young designers. Mostly I found them really slow to work though concepts. They were used to being given inordinate amounts of time, and I'm not exactly the world's best slave driver.

Eventually, I refused to take interns. Even those being subsidized by their school cost me more in time than it was worth.

But I could see having a studio one day that was big enough to take in and mentor graduates. Mostly because they do need a chance and it is rewarding to see someone grow and learn.

On May.10.2004 at 10:49 PM
ben’s comment is:

I graduate in 10 days. And have been frustrated to find that many places, similiar to the opinions stated above, are looking for junior designers with 3-5 years experience. how are kids supposed to get that required 3-5 years, if no one will hire them without it.

here's my question to the partners/senior designers:

do you count internships as work experience?

I only ask this because some places that I have been are cool about it, while others sort of laugh it off?

By the way, speakup has been a very enjoyable forum for me, and has led me to in turn start many discussions with classmates

thank you

On May.10.2004 at 10:56 PM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:


Don't be disheartened. We have always had at least one intern (whom we not only pay, but train and support as well). I for one believe that they are an essential part of our practice. We are, after all, a teaching studio.

Sometimes we end up hiring our former interns on staff or on a freelance basis, and though we obviously can't make that commitment in every instance, our three most recent interns now are now working for Vanderbyl, Tolleson and Pentagram, with others at Noon, Argus, Landor, and Cahan, to name a few.

That's part of the problem in many ways. Just as soon as we break them in, off they go to give someone else the benefit of our investment. That's just the nature of the beast, but it's a beast nonetheless.

On May.10.2004 at 11:41 PM
Tan’s comment is:

First, congrats on your degree Ben.

Secondly, Internships do indeed count as experience. It's not quite the same as a junior level job, but it's valuable nonetheless.

One thing you need to realize is that work "experience" isn't all about how many projects you designed or press checks you attended. Internships is about learning to be an employee. It's about showing up to work on time; filling out timesheets; managing tasks, time and responsibilites; learning how to conduct yourself in an office environment, etc. So in that respect, an internship can provide invaluable experience — helping to make you a good employee to any future employer.

Christopher's record of intern placements is very impressive, but not every internship is a launching pad to Pentagram and Landor. Just work hard and keep focused on learning from those who are more experienced.

Before you know it, you'll somehow find a way to get that 3-5 yrs of experience. Good designers somehow always find a way.

On May.11.2004 at 12:29 AM
kev’s comment is:

Gross generalizations always leave a few out in the cold.

I'm not stupid. I've been working now for about 8 years. I know how to show up on time.

I know that I don't know everything. I know that someone would have to "babysit" me, at least some of the time.

But there's a lot I do know already - I see mistakes made by "professionals" every day. That means I know something that a person who's getting paid to know doesn't know.

But no one cares enough to think through any of this. They just throw my resume away because they assume I'll be too much of a liability.

Do I have to wait for all the other designers to die? What does it take?

On May.11.2004 at 12:42 AM
Kiran Max Weber’s comment is:

Where is everyone getting their graduates from? What is the supervision and hand-holding I mean "babysitting" that you are confronted with? Most young designers I know are not in charge of generating solutions, they're just there for execution. If that is the case, then are we talking technical limitations? Are schools to blame for that? High hardware and software prices? Is it really unpolished business practices? Most "older" designers don't know how to check email and my job applications and interactions with potential employers have been more professional then the employers themselves most of the time.

In keeping with that strategy, each member of our core team has more than 20 years experience.

"I don’t see any great long-term business advantages for hiring and training baby designers. Bottom line, I am more focused on delivering real value to our clients than I am on worrying about overhead. We can bill more per project because clients are willing to pay for the greater value received."

In my experience, 20+ years usually means wearing sandals, driving mini-vans, bringing dogs to work, including flash intros (with audio no less), and building 500px wide websites with illegible type. Those aren't advantages. It's all relative!

Fortunately some see it different . Speak Up was started by someone under 25. I'd hire him. I'm willing to bet most Speak Up readers are young too. That's saying something.

It's about showing up to work on time; filling out timesheets; managing tasks, time and responsibilites; learning how to conduct yourself in an office environment, etc.

This isn't basic stuff one should be aware of already? Jesus.

how are kids supposed to get that required 3-5 years, if no one will hire them without it.

Yes, I'm curious too.

Gross generalizations always leave a few out in the cold.

Amen. We know what's going on. We can hold our own. Please don't let a few bad apples ruin it for the rest of us.

On May.11.2004 at 07:22 AM
Patrick C’s comment is:

As an experienced designer I have to say I am not impressed with some of owner comments. Everyone had to start somewhere (the owners did and all those with 20 years of experience did). I would like to think there is something more than profit in mind when it comes time to think about hiring someone fresh out of school.

I am currently having to sub-contract some flash work and I'm looking at hiring a recent graduate from the school I went to. I have to say that I'm a little worried about how that's going to work out. But I want to hire her because she shows promise and dedication. And I needed some help when I graduated. I told myself never to forget that and I haven't.

On May.11.2004 at 07:40 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

These owner/principals that aren't interested in hiring young designers should look back to when they started. How did they get their first break? Did they con some poor schmuck into giving them a "baby" job? Perhaps they were lucky enough that a firm was willing to take a chance that they were really as good as their portfolio, that they would learn as they went, and that adding fresh minds to the studio was the smartest way to continue to create good work.

Most young designers I know are not in charge of generating solutions, they're just there for execution.

This is horrifying. My first job most definitely was not just about execution. I wouldn't have taken it if it had been. I did this in an internship I had during college, but that's what internships are about. Anyone simply executing someone else's concepts is short-changing their learning process.

Tan: It's about showing up to work on time; filling out timesheets; managing tasks, time and responsibilites; learning how to conduct yourself in an office environment, etc.

Kiran: This isn't basic stuff one should be aware of already? Jesus.

No. You have to learn this at some point, but it's not taught in school. I remember the shock of having 12 weeks to design an identity for a school project to less than 2 weeks in my first job. Of course, this stuff should be learned quickly.

On May.11.2004 at 07:52 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>This isn't basic stuff one should be aware of already? Jesus.

You'd be surprised Kiran. Look, you and Kev may have a lot of work experience under your belt. But most students graduate without having ever put in a full 40 hour, 8-5 work week. Then try to do it for a year, with just 2 weeks vacation and holidays. School doesn't count, because it's not the same. This 'basic' stuff is not so basic for a lot of students who have never worked before, let alone work in an agency environment..

And I never said students were stupid — I was just outlining the things internships can teach you. You may think basic work conduct/attitude/experience is a given, but trust me — some graduates never master those 'basic' things. It's not stupidity, it's inexperience.

>Most young designers I know are not in charge of generating solutions, they're just there for execution. If that is the case, then are we talking technical limitations?

No, it's not about technical limitations. And don't assume that junior designers are hired as cheap production labor either. If I was truly looking for software proficiency, I could hire a seasoned production designer that was 20 times the speed of any graduate.

It's about design experience. Being able to generate solutions, but on a smaller, bite-sized scale. Knowing how to work with a team, think something through thoroughly, take art direction without an attitude, sift through and recognize bad ideas quickly, and a hundred other tangible and intangible things.

Look, this thread isn't about young vs. old. It's about the advantages and disadvantages of hiring recent graduates. Thoughts?

On May.11.2004 at 08:07 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> These owner/principals that aren't interested in hiring young designers should look back to when they started. How did they get their first break?

Just an observation: 20, 10, even 5 years ago the number of recent design graduates was nowhere close to what that number is today. There were less design firms too, but the growth ratio of design firms and design grads is not balanced at all, there are way too many design grads for very little junior design positions.

> Speak Up was started by someone under 25.

Going on 40… spiritually at least.

On May.11.2004 at 08:32 AM
Christopher Risdon’s comment is:

I think those owner comments (save for Mark Kaufman) are a bit disappointing.

I'm a 31 yo MFA graduate student. I had a previous career in Seattle and London as a account person and project manager for ad agencies and web development firms, and as a marketing manager on the client side. Four years ago I decided to pursue a long standing goal to switch to a creative career (from which I had been waylayed from in college).

I built a portfolio and when I decided to switch it was surprisingly easy to get an internship because of my overall work experience. They knew that as someone with experience - particularly project management experience - that I would not need to be babysat. Even things I did not know, they knew I could figure out fairly independently.

So I definitely appreciate the fact that firms/agencies value someone with some overall experience that can take on responsibility without needing to have their hands held. I've experienced it first had as a manager and aspiring designer.

However, the reason the comments are dissappointing is that any mid-sized or larger firm, if at all financially viable, should try to develop a program or philosophy of nurturing young talents - through interns or recent graduates, and have them fill their junior-level positions. (I don't thin anyone with 4 or 5 years experience, who's shown they can do good design, is a *junior* designer)

It shouldn't be a matter of babysitting, but mentoring. Recent graduates shouldn't be penalized for their lack of experience, they should be taught in a constructive environment. I've seen it work, so I know it can be done.

If you hire a recent graduate and expect them to do the work of someone with 5+ years of experience, then you've hired them to fill the wrong roll in your firm. I'm not saying to simply start hiring graduates straight out, but to develop a program or philosophy that can create a constructive environment for them to learn. Try to integrate into the hiring of senior designers the desire to help and mentor junior designers.

Those in Seattle know of the School of Visual Concepts - it's a light-weight portfolio school. It serves a purpose to a certain market. What I like about it is that the teachers are actual working designers and art directors, from the local firms (the classes are at night). They get a $500 stipend for teaching a 10-week quarter. Obviously they are not doing it for the money, but to give back to the creative community. They have a desire to foster new talent. I think any design firm worth it's fonts should consider their philosphy regarding developing promising young designers into good, experienced designers.

- Chris

On May.11.2004 at 09:52 AM
mazzei’s comment is:

I find there are few designers out of school that want to put the hours in, in that case I keep the door revolving until one sticks. I always hire someone right out of school I feel it’s my duty, someone took a chance on me the first time. However my best test is to hear what the other people in my department have to say which is usually within the first week, “this person is great” or “they cant even file comps” most interns get good projects for their books but mostly they get a free pass to use our facilities to do their portfolio work on weekends, many times I’m here for a few hours on the weekend, when I see that person here cranking on their own stuff I know one of two things 1. I’ll recommend them to other people within the company or 2. I'll look to make an opportunity here for them. I find good recent grads are less jaded take chances and ask questions which is refreshing in an industry that fosters less of that as you move along.

On May.11.2004 at 10:18 AM
ps’s comment is:

i run a small design studio. sometimes its 5 people, sometimes 3 and sometimes 1.75 + freelancers.

i had interns, i hired people fresh out of school. and i'm telling you its tough. i did hire them for a combination of personality ,portfolio but also exactly for some of the reasons that were brought up: "remember back when you started". someone gave me a break. so i decided to do the same. but the problem is that it does require a ton of work to get (most) graduates in a shape were they can actually help your business. i ended up spending a ton of time helping them. fixing their files, being unhappy about their creative output, paying them a salary for work that i would not want to show a client etc. to some point that is okay, but at some point, to a small firm, this is just killer. it potentially wipes out your profits. its just not fun that way and a big element of my "mission statement" is to have fun... its also tough on the fresh employee when his or her work are not being used because its not ready for the big league yet. but i guess its part of the game.

part of this i believe has to do with the tighter deadlines that are now common in our industry. we are given so little time to explore, to screw up, to start over.

i think its easier for larger firms to hire fresh talent. the expense of training them can be distributed over many and absorbed without a big sticker-shock, but for a small firm... its tough.

having said all that, i will absolutely try again. because if it works out, then it would be a lot of fun.

On May.11.2004 at 10:21 AM
erica’s comment is:

i graduated in 2001 and was looking for a job right around 9/11. i heard all kinds of excuses why places couldn't/wouldn't hire me right then, so when i finally got hired by a (very) small firm i was quite grateful, even though i understood i was hired not just because of my portfolio, but also because i was cost-effective. because the firm is very small, i was given important projects from the beginning.

now, after nearly three years i'm a more seasoned designer, although there's still so much to learn. i've asked my boss why he took a chance on me when i was fresh out of school, wondering if it was purely the financial benefits of hiring someone like me vs. a 10 year veteran. he told me that he's been in the business for 20 years and can tell a good portfolio when he sees one. he can tell from the simple computer tests he gives to applicants whether or not their claims of skills and experience are true. he can tell from talking to people how dependable or willing to learn they really are. and he's hired a lot of different designers with different skills and personalities throughout his years in business, some that worked out, some that didn't. and he said that my work now and the designer i've become are proof that he was right.

so yes, maybe some new grads are risks to hire. maybe most of them are inexperienced. but if these other owners are truly great designers themselves and good business persons, they should be able to tell who will actually be worth a position at their respective firms. the benefits are cheap labor, paying back your dues, new and different design to add to your company's portfolio, and helping to develop the potential of a young designer. and if you've chosen the right person for your firm, in a short time that person will be an asset to your company, and thankful for being given the chance to get their career started.

On May.11.2004 at 10:35 AM
Andrew Waters’s comment is:

OK, I’ll bite. I was going to lay back and see if someone would illustrate my thoughts for me, but I got agitated enough to fuel the fire myself.

First off, yes it is your duty to hire recent grads. You were there once, and your work was also abysmal, as was mine and everyone else’s. Just like doctors can’t remove an appendix their first week out of med school, designers can’t be expected to know everything, work independently and be amazing conceptual thinkers right out of school. We creative thinkers have this wonderful trait that makes us forget bad work, and that we actually did it once, and it also works to erase our junior design positions, or our internship memories. I freely admit that I sucked, and it was the tutelage of others that allowed me to grow and learn.

If you have a ton of interns that aren’t cutting it, it’s your fault. Why? Because you aren’t screening them effectively in the first place, and if they are coming out of an institution that produces the same sort of lax workers time and time again, its time to pay the department head a visit, and set up a workshop to better prepare the next generation of designers.

If its digging into your sacred profits, then its time to not only revisit your game plan, but you don’t need to have anything to do with interns or junior designers, because that mentality will jade them faster than anything else. Yes you need to make money, blah blah blah, we all do, but if we wanted to make money, we would have chosen a much easier profession to accrue wealth. We’re in this because we want to create. We want to see what others can create, and we want to learn and share with others, not because of the paycheck.

Be the person that a creative can look back and say “This person gave me a chance, and made me what I am”. Be more benevolent than thinking that they are a financial investment, because more than anything, you are helping them invest in their life.

Find the kids that are hungry. Find the ones that have taken the time to research your company and what you do. Don’t look at the resume, or the school first. Look at the work, and give them a week in the shop as a trial run. We need to be as tough with our interns as law firms and the medical field is with theirs. Don’t blame everything on youth, the will follow good examples if they are given one.

On May.11.2004 at 10:51 AM
Petter Ringbom’s comment is:

We're a young, small design firm, been around for about 7 years. 6 people, no one over 35. I prefer working with smart, hungry, passionate, young recent graduates. I like the fresh mindset. Maybe it has to do with our own age?

On May.11.2004 at 10:58 AM
Youan L. Gagnon’s comment is:

I've been reading this topic with much interest, being myself in design school right now. I'm surprised to see that a lot of studios are ready to hire freshly-out-of-the-school designers. Thanks for that.

Now, do any of you have a job to offer me !!! :)


Just wanted to say thanks to you, who believe in young minds.

On May.11.2004 at 11:07 AM
kleid’s comment is:

I was given an internship when I was 17, fresh out of high school with the worst 'visual communications class' portfolio ever. They misunderstood my resume and assumed "enrolled in" meant I had graduated from college, when in fact, I hadn't started yet.

I think perhaps the shock that this wasn't true made them hire me. Who knows. (I did have a horrible/cheezy flash cd...flash was just getting big then.)

But back to my point (if I have one), I worked ridiculously hard from that point on and learned more in my internship than my whole school experience. Three years later, I am forever grateful for their taking a chance on me. But I still have an endless amount of growing to do.

take a chance.

On May.11.2004 at 11:30 AM
Levi’s comment is:

First off nothing in school prepares you for working with a cranky client who couldn't tell good design from a pile of crap on the ground. Stuff like that is the greatist challenge you'll face as a designer in the business but you can't learn it until your faced with the situation. Therefore you're an unknown, no matter how good your portfolio.

But... I think you should always give the young talent a chance. I got my first real design job at 17 without any real experience. But the Creative Director took a chance on me and I will always do the same for talented young individuals when ever I have the opportunity. There's ways to ease the individual into the process without a huge financial risk. For example, internships cost practically nothing and you can get a good idea of if the person is going to work or not and even if the person doesn't get hired at in the end they have some great experience to go off of.

On May.11.2004 at 11:37 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

I'm starting to investigate growing my firm from a solo-practice to one with a few employees. This topic is interesting to me as a result. Pardon me while I think out loud.

FWIW: I studied music and anthropology in school at a crazy roll-your-own-major school; I handled the school newspaper (which was, under my art direction and the fellows who both preceeded and followed me, a very free-form and designery production), did a lot of posters for events (it was a cliche on campus that the quality shows rarely lived up to the posters).

Got out and started working as an account manager at a small design firm. My goal in that job was specifically to learn how to run a small design firm. After a year of that I gave my notice and started my own shop. I've been at it for 4.5 years.

I share all that for the students wondering what to do about the Catch-22. It takes a certain kind of mindset to do it this way. And entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. But it's one solution anyway.

Summary of what's above

Based on the (statistically limited) sampling above the cases made for hiring students might be summarized as follows:

  1. Pity ("Hey you were young once too, man."
  2. "Fresh" ideas (the assumption that there is a "fresh" idea that is only possessed by someone exiting design school, as opposed to someone with experience.)
  3. Cheap labor

The owners (whose job, by the way, is to keep their business afloat) who argue against hiring a fresh graduate note:

  1. Pity doesn't pay the bills.
  2. Fresh ideas and exiting design school may not be related
  3. The lower wages of newly-minted designers is offset by lowered productivity (total-cost-of-ownership, to put it in crass terms).
  4. Moreover, what investment may be made in bringing the designer up to proper production quality/speed will be lost as the designer leaves for greener pastures or their salary is raised (negating the financial benefit of hiring a recent-graduate... in effect, turning the "investment" into a free practical/vocational education for recent design graduate).

The owners who advocate for hiring recent graduates stir in:

  1. It isn't pity, it's developing resources so the profession as a whole will grow and somehow this will improve my business.
  2. An acceptance of the fact that they are providing an educational service to recent graduates.

Quickly assembled analysis

The negative response from owners, seems to point back at the educational system... If the kids don't leave school with an understanding of their place in the business environment (at both macro and micro levels), if they don't have honest understandings of the level of productivity they need to achieve...

I guess it's just the old "design school: vocational or liberal arts education" thing. The comments above would suggest that design schools are failing at being vocational schools.

Perhaps the nugget comes down even further to:

"Who is responsible for the education of future designers?"

"Responsible" would most likely be interpretted differently by different stakeholders in the argument. Here is where I go out on wild, broad, sweeping generalizations so please riddle with holes where appropriate, it will increase understanding of the situation:

Business owners perception of "responsibility"

Business owners are going to equate "responsible" with costs. As noted in a post above, a designer who is working at sub-par production quality (good work but slow or good work with handholding, for example) will cost the business owner. In this regard, the business owner is "responsible" for the education of their workforce.

The business owner's recognized responsibility is to keep costs low and income high. As such, it's reasonable that they question their "responsibility" for a designer's education (especially one who has just completed an education that is supposedly preparing the student for work in the field).

Student's perception of "responsibility"

Obviously, no matter how you slice it, students are getting the shaft here. They or their parents shell out money and waste two to four years of their lives and the time/money spent is not valued by their target audience (business owners).

Students perception of "responsibility" seems to relate to actually providing them with knowledge that is useful in their career pursuits. Unfortunately most seem to be discovering at this time of year that though they have handed over their time and money, they haven't acquired the knowledge. As a result, they expect business owners to shoulder "responsibility."

Design schools' perception of "responsibility"

I really am most especially unqualified to comment here. But I'm going to anyway, of course. My guess is that, like the student, Design schools equate "responsibility" with aquisition of knowledge. Most likely they serve it up this knowledge ala carte (there was an essay in the recent Emigre on this I'm certain) and it is the student's job to acquire it. That'll be 20,000 dollars please.

Design Professional's perception of "responsibility"

This could encompass pretty much any practicing designer who has a genuine stake in the future of design as a practice.

This group is probably, like the school and student, equating "responsibility" with specialized knowledge. But, given that these persons are acutely aware of the realities of the business world (i.e. they have some sympathy for the owners, they've seen people laid off because productivity/quality didn't match business costs, etc) they also recognize that knowledge comes at a cost.

This is the group that has the compassionate mentoring approach. These designers (who could also be owners, by the way) accept the costs of providing the student with the knowledge that was not acquired at design school (because of a poor curriculum or because of poor knowledge-acquisition skills on the part of the student or both).

Yikes... better end that all here eh...

Perhaps a thread about how people got their first design jobs would be worthwhile and encouraging/informative for the soon-to-be-graduates?


[I think an early post about why someone doesn't hire recent-graduates was withdrawn... that's unfortunate because, though perhaps a bit rough around the edges it spoke some truths.]

On May.11.2004 at 11:38 AM
amanda’s comment is:

i think that one of the responsibilities that goes along with running your own firm is giving new graduates a try & training them for the industry. If you were given a break when you graduated then you owe it to the industry (and to the karma gods) to give someone else a break as well.

On May.11.2004 at 11:41 AM
laura’s comment is:

Thank you for this topic. It's something that myself and other designers fresh out of school discuss/complain about all the time. More often than not I've managed to sneak my way into an interview that has requested someone with at least 5 years experience. When the director figures out I only have 3, I've replied that the only thing I'm missing from getting this job over anyone else is experience. And I'm ever grateful that the company I work for now took a chance on me...I'm 20 years younger than most in here, and they're stoked!

On May.11.2004 at 12:21 PM
Sam Sherwood’s comment is:

I think there's something unique to the design field that doesn't necessarily show up in other professions — the sheer voracity in searching for a job. Some designers would sooner starve than to give up their dreams to create. Let's face it... we're addicted. My name is Sam Sherwood and I like to be creative (and doggedly cliche, apparently).

So, let's say that all the firms across the country, big and small, decide that young designers aren't worth the risk. Would it be these same firms complaining about young designers cheapening the profession by accepting low wages?

Are the anti-young really looking at their bottom line when making this decision? They may actually be trading some hand holding for lost work and value.

On May.11.2004 at 12:27 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

This is a very interesting topic and thought I'd chime in my thoughts.

We've always hired designers with little or no experience. Usually they have to go through a 3 month internship. In 17 years of business, I've never hired a "professional". (Unfortunately we have a low turnover so I haven't been able to hire anyone in 4 years.)

Reason why: I prefer to work as a collective, everyone working hard to achieve the same goals. My aversion toward designers with experience is only partially motivated by economics. Mostly I've found experienced designers with bad habits, patterns modeled after their first job experience, and that doesn't always jive here.

That said, the past 6 months have been super tough. I had too many interns (3) and wasn't able to get my own work done. (never again) Also, because I teach part time, we've stopped paying interns. Most of them can get credit through the school here in Seattle.

Honestly, I've never made money off interns. Quite the opposite, it's costly, especially for a small business.

Why do we hire the? It's fun. I enjoy being around young people who have not been jaded by the industry. They contribute a lot the the idea phase, and I believe anyone can do great work if they are put in the right environment.

Hey Tan! How's it goin' at the new job?

On May.11.2004 at 12:45 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Hey Robynne! It's goin. You know, same old...lotsa Microsoft at the big L.

Thanks for chiming into the discussion. Your response gets exactly at the heart of both sides of this discussion. (Same w/ Peter's, aka. 'ps', and Gahlord's)

For the record, I've hired lots of graduates for the very reasons many have outlined. Mentorship, fresh energy, fun factor. I don't necessarily buy into the overhead excuse. But as a business owner, I can't discount the truths either. Graduates are a lot of work, and take a ton of investment and training to justify.

>I think an early post about why someone doesn't hire recent-graduates was withdrawn... that's unfortunate because, though perhaps a bit rough around the edges it spoke some truths.

really? no post was pulled that I'm aware of...Armin?


Ok, another question now — for those of you who've attained 3-5 years of experience, was it truly that big of a leap? Did you really need handholding? What was the biggest eye-opener experience? And lastly, now that someone gave you a chance, are you willing to return the loyalty and work there for the next 5-10 years? Be honest.

On May.11.2004 at 01:49 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> really? no post was pulled that I'm aware of...Armin?

Nope, not me… Devil?

On May.11.2004 at 01:55 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Now, the questioon begs to be answered:

Is it really the design graduates fault with their lack of ability to deliver solutions fast enough/good enough based solely on their "lack of experience" or because the schools they went to didn't give them enough skills to be able to fight fairly?

Unfortunately, a lot of people don't realise that they need to do their own research and not rely solely on the strengths of their formal education. A lot of web designers will agree very loudly with me on this one.

Meanwhile, my story is: A month after I graduated, I got hired to be the sole in-house designer of a national Canadian company. And, frankly, yes, they did it because they knew as a graduate, I won't demand a super high salary. But they wanted high quality work. Thus is life, eh?

However, that doesn't mean the quality of work I do is sub-par or slow or lame. Of course, I floundered slightly in my first couple of months, but now I've gotten into a groove. A pretty good one, in fact. My bosses are always impressed at what I do. I would've done their annual report if the company hadn't decided to privitize. ;-)

Meanwhile, my friend was hired by her internship and she's still there. It's only a 3-person studio. So I think it depends on the talent and personality of a person whether or not they will be a "burden" or not.

I actually had an intern (!) this year under me, and I understand how it could get a bit frustrating when they don't deliver as quickly as you expect or as great, or whatever. However, I think with proper direction they can deliver quite well. At least that was my experience.

And actually, I got my intern to do a lot of the work I kept in the back-burner because they were not "high priority" projects. And it took a lot off my plate, so I haven't had a negative experience with an intern yet.

On May.11.2004 at 02:23 PM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

I don't know much about hiring (not a lot of that going around), but we're nuts about students and interns.


Tutelage. We love to teach. Almost as much as we love well-made things. We can't pay 'em anything, but over one summer, they can get some cred and a truckload of experience with advanced tools/techniques and a really good team. Things that may not exist in an average design school.

That is part of the problem, yes? A graduate needs to know more than what is taught in school?

And somewhere along the way, we all got a break. Happy to return the favor.

Some of our less scrupulous neighbors would have us exploit our charges and pocket the cash. No. We won't do that. We feel bad enough that all we can do at the end of a term is cough up a digital camera or some other trinket.

As an advantage, I would buy into the fun angle somewhat.

On May.11.2004 at 02:41 PM
Valon’s comment is:

When I graduated I was looking for work or internship all over the New York Metro Area, and everyone was looking for a minimum of 3-5 years of experience. I knew I didn't have that, but I was so eager to provide concepts and solutions. Then I got hired at an Advertising Agency and I was printing, cutting, folding, and putting Poland Spring 5 gallon bottles on top of the cooler....arrrghhh....Yea, my hopes for designing died. Well, anyways I left after a year and went on my own, and the rest is history.

I think most of employers try to get the best service they can get from an employee and not have to pay them a lot. Now that I am an employer myself I try to hire employees that are relaxed and enjoy their work. I would never hire a person who is absolutely great in design, but lacked personal traits. I think personal touch goes a long way, and anyone would like to have a person around that lights up the place.

As far as education goes; I think design programs should have a class that teaches students real life situations. From pitching, briefs, meetings, talking to printers, press-checks....the whole nine yards. This way, once these students graduate they are not just rookies, but rookies with great abilities and you dont have to spend a fortune to compensate them, because living costs right out of college are not as much as say a person with 10 years of experience who has a mortgage, and two kids in school....So yes, design programs should add a client related class that would make a huge difference in these individual's lives, and graphic design industry in general...ahh Utopia!

I apologize if I wrote somethings that someone might have already said in this topic. I was just too lazy to read all the entries, and just ran through few of them...Great stuff though!

On May.11.2004 at 02:44 PM
priya’s comment is:

To those that say that you invest a lot to deal with interns:

Please also understand that we also are investing a lot to intern for you. I, for example, intern and work for free. In order to get college credit for my internship, I have to pay 12 credits worth of tuition and student fees which equates to about $7,000 in addition to living expenses because I relocated to do this internship costing $1,050/mo for six months. I'm spending some hardcore cash for this 6 month internship and I'm not about to waste my time or the studio's time. It is in my best interest to commit to working full-time and absorb all I can about this business. I'm not saying I'll learn everything about publication design in these 6 months but I am actively learning and am motivated because I am so invested in this just as much as the studio granting my internship is invested in me.

I read this post last night after coming back from graduation weekend. I've been stressing over the same issue for a few months now. Two months worth of looking for employment and I got bollocks because I have less than 3 years of working experience. It's just so frustrating.

So, let's say that all the firms across the country, big and small, decide that young designers aren't worth the risk. Would it be these same firms complaining about young designers cheapening the profession by accepting low wages?

I can't help but nod my head. I've been flirting with the idea of working for myself because job prospects are looking pretty bleak. Would I charge the same as a seasoned firm? I couldn't. Am I cheapening the profession? You tell me.

On May.11.2004 at 03:12 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>So, let's say that all the firms across the country, big and small, decide that young designers aren't worth the risk. Would it be these same firms complaining about young designers cheapening the profession by accepting low wages?

First of all, that would never happen. Secondly, there are tons of young designers who don't know what they're doing and yet try to run their own practices right now. And yes, they're cheapening the profession.

But this is a separate issue. There are lots of hacks out there who would never make it into the industry no matter what the experience requirements were. So it's not a relevant argument.

But Priya — I do sympathize w/ you. I currently have a summer internship position open (unpaid) in our office, and have received literally hundreds of applicants. Half of them are from out of state, and all are willing to relocate from places as far as London. But I made a decision to cut those candidates from the list because I didn't think it was an equitable opportunity for them. The cost would outweigh the advantage — regardless of whether or not they were willing to absorb it personally.

This business is tough to get into. There's no roadmap, and you have to be resourceful to the point of absurdity. But try to understand that while some things don't appear to be fair — there's a reason why things are the way they are. You just have to deal with it the best way you can.

On May.11.2004 at 03:27 PM
Valon’s comment is:

Tan, I'm not sure if not knowing what you're doing is a bad thing. The point is to do something and getting something out of the process - no matter if you win or lose. Most of recent graduates out there don't know what they are doing, and are not sure what they will be doing. The point is to Just Do It... and you will learn what you need to know //

On May.11.2004 at 03:50 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Not when it comes to running a professional business Valon. No one knows everything when it comes to starting a business — but there's an incredible amount of things that a graduate is ill-equipped to handle when it comes to starting their own thing.

'Course, there are exceptions, like Modern Dog and Tomato — but for every out-of-the-gate success story like them, there are thousands of naive businesses that are pulverized into dust by reality.

I applaud self-initiative and ambition — but I think a graduate's energy is better spent finding ways to get hired, rather than gambled away in what's basically a no-win situation by starting their own thing.

Having said all that, I do know what you're saying.

On May.11.2004 at 04:05 PM
Michael Browers’s comment is:

This has been a great thread… very rewarding to me to read each person’s perspective. I am approaching 4 years experience and still vividly remember the learning curve I had to overcome once graduating from college and getting my first job (and current job). I interviewed at a number of places and while many were impressed with my work and characteristics I exuded in interviews, none would hire me due to my lack of experience. I didn’t fully appreciate their point of view was finally hired.

The place that did hire me, expected the kind of work they get from me now with almost four years experience, but being fresh out of school. I thought had realistic expectations on salary and needing to learn a great deal of things… however I was unprepared for my employer expecting me to already know these things. The first year was very tough, and I suspect had it not been for my low salary I would have been let go. The turning point for me was when an additional art director was hired and provided me the mentoring that was previously unavailable to me. I was eager to learn and quickly got up to speed on things with minimal guidance. Not only did I gain a mentor, but a good friend whom I am forever grateful to.

I think the challenge for employers when hiring recent college grads is to find those enthusiastic for learning and humble enough to understand they have MUCH to learn… then to provide and atmosphere where the kid can learn, yet not strain the business. Setting up structured job coaching with a mentor, as well as clearly defining goals and expectations, is key. I think there is a value to “taking a risk” on recent grad to owners… that being is that if everyone did otherwise there would be a catch 22 of owners… eventually there would be no designers with experience to hire.

On May.11.2004 at 04:07 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:

I agree with Tan (a wise man!). Those early years were hell, but we had nothing to lose. No one would hire us anyway. I'm glad it worked out, but would've much preferred finding a mentor.

Valon: If you decide to go at it solo, just know that there will be some rough roads ahead. But if you survive, you'll have some good stories to tell!

On May.11.2004 at 04:38 PM
graham’s comment is:

we've (tomato) had people come and work with us from college. somtimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. i started tomato (with 6 others) while i was at college. just like fuel (u.k.), graphic thought facility, bark, barnbrook, frieze magazine, dazed and confused magazine, inflate and many many more started at or just after leaving college. designers from college, or self-taught, are everything. some of the people who've worked with us have gone on to start their own things because or in spite of us.

you already know what you need. you will most often be told that you don't know.

young designers, tattoo this:

"I applaud self-initiative and ambition — but I think a graduate's energy is better spent finding ways to get hired, rather than gambled away in what's basically a no-win situation by starting their own thing."

over your heart, and every time you weaken, read it again and use the anger generated by its condescension and fear to fuel your ambition.

working for yourself is the natural state if you want to make real work.

this is not to do with starting a 'business'. this is to do with making work.

in fact-just that. making work is the natural state if you want to make work.

compress all effort, energy, passion and commitment into this one tiny thing.

there is nothing more serious.

there are no 'learning curves'. there is no 'entry level'. these are lies. there is no 'real world' because this is the real world, waking or dreaming.

some estate agents, insurance salesmen and bankers believe they are making useful design work. they are mistaken.

do not waste effort playing the grey game.

show the way, then leave behind. leave it all behind.

remember; no one knows everything. so-what do you know?

On May.11.2004 at 04:51 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>over your heart, and every time you weaken, read it again and use the anger generated by its condescension and fear to fuel your ambition.

Graham, this is where we've disagreed in the past.

But I don't know how this is condescending and fear-inducing. It's not meant to be. Why are you treating it as a personal attack on your beliefs?

I've seen lots of designers, disillusioned by the job market, venture off to do their own thing, only to return later to the market and have to compete w/ fresh graduates and a new crop of experienced designers.

What's wrong with suggesting that grads should persevere in their search for employment, instead of giving up, and starting their own thing out of desperation? How is this fucking condescending?

Tattoo this Graham.

On May.11.2004 at 05:02 PM
graham’s comment is:

tan-i don't take as a personal attack; i take it as an attack on the present and future potential of design.

if the quoted words are not meant to be condescending then i'd be interested to know what they're intending because (tautology) they assume an air of superiority-you're willing to applaud ambition as long as it sits in the 'comfort-zone' of applying for a 9-5 because anything else is energy ill-spent on a fool's errand.

i also probably see this as condescending because starting your own thing is/should be the first impulse, instead of giving up and searching for employment out of desperation.

if starting your own thing is a no-win situation then where did all the design companies come from?

On May.11.2004 at 05:21 PM
Robynne Raye’s comment is:


No learning curve? Really? Are you a genius or something?

Seriously, I'm happy with the path I took, I owe everything to the fact that I learned it the hard way. And I'm thankful that I didn't pick up the habits (or design style) of someone else. And G, it sounds like it worked for you too.

But, if I had school loans, or worse - kids, there's no way I could've started up a company right out of school. Even though I'm a fast learner.

On May.11.2004 at 05:25 PM
graham’s comment is:

no-no learning curve. more like a series of peaks and troughs. for me. no genius-just enough nous to know (but always a little too late-just after pressing post, actually) when passion seeps over into arseholeishness. i'm sure i'll do it again, only next time hopefully on topic.

On May.11.2004 at 05:31 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Now, who's being superior here Graham?

This whole thread is about the why's and why not's of hiring graduates — which means the people that are interested want to get hired for a 9-5.

By calling it a "comfort zone," and suggesting that employment is only to be seeked out of desperation — it's you, in fact, who is assuming the air of superiority. That people who try to find jobs and make careers in established design firms are losers. Graham, you think you're being inspirational, when in fact it's just arrogance.

It's valid to have the ambition to be employed. It doesn't mean that you've given up on the "potential of design" or any bullshit like that.

On May.11.2004 at 05:32 PM
Levi’s comment is:

I think alot of people are over complicating the issue. If you are inexperienced but prove yourself to be an asset to the company than they will hire you over the person who is not an asset with years of experience.

The key is that you have to show yourself to be an asset. An internship makes this easy but you can do it in an interview or with a portfolio too.

I think at lot of people have the wrong idea of getting a job. They're coming to the potential employer begging for a job. It should be the other way around. If your hiring is a good business descision than the employer should be begging you to work for them. Remember that.

Also if you don't get a job, don't think that it reflects on your skills as a designer. Sometimes the work just isn't there, even for the best designers.

On May.11.2004 at 05:32 PM
Tan’s comment is:

You know what? Fine. Want to start your own business?

1. Start here. Some great advice.

2. Then, call the Chamber of Commerce, and sign up for a small business class — and do your best to make sure you get the proper licenses, tax IDs, DBAs, LLCs, etc. Make sure to cover your bases on municipal, state, as well as federal withholding and don't forget to plan for self-employment tax on top of that.

3. Next, go find yourself an accountant, bookkeeper, or maybe a friend or relative who can work cheap. Work out a payment plan for billing, invoicing, etc. and prepare to do some creative financial planning 24/7.

4. Buy equipment. Lots of it. Don't forget software, fonts, xacto blades, and some PMS chip books. Shouldn't cost you more than about $25k to start.

5. Ok, now go find some info on health insurance, liability insurance, and if you want to do web, don't forget internet errors and omissions liability insurance. It's required by many web clients.

6. Find some work space. Maybe share a studio with a group of graduates. Cheap office rent start at about $12/per sq.ft triple-net, based on 5-year lease minimum. Maybe find an agent to understand what that means first.

7. Next, write up a business plan so you can borrow some money from the bank to live on for the first 6 months or so while you're trying to find clients that will pay on time, oh and to pay the bills listed above.

8. And somehow find a way to pay the rent and buy food to eat, not to mention pay for transportation to and fro work, and buy some decent clothes to meet clients in.

9. Oh, and while you're doing all this — don't forget to seek your natural state and compress all effort, energy, passion and commitment into this one tiny thing.


I'm sure I'm forgetting a thousand other things, but that's a good start. Oh, and I'm assuming that you're starting the business with absolutely no personal debt of any kind, because credit will now become part of your everyday life.

Yes, this is much, much better than putting energy into finding a crappy 9-5 job.

Good luck.

On May.11.2004 at 08:01 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

There is no one "right" way. Some things are right for one person at a particular time, other times it isn't. I got my first design job by going to a magazine company to hand deliver my resume, despite being specifically told not to in the ad that was in the New York Times. That could've been a disaster, but I had nothing to lose. The job was drawing photograph rules with a rapidiograph, and spec'ing type. A few years later (after several more magazine design gigs) I started my own design firm, with a partner. I was 26. I had saved up enough money to live for a year, (if I lived like Mahatma Ghandi) figuring we would not be able to pay ourselves. We couldn't the first year, but we could after that. Ultimately though, I left the agency I founded after several years for lots of reasons, but the lead gene was this: I wanted more than I knew at the time, and couldn't get it having not worked in a big time agency learning everything I could from people that were more talented than I was. It was hard not to be the "boss" anymore, but it was the best thing I could've done to broaden my horizons and challenge my thinking. Ultimately, I landed at Sterling. I became a partner 7 years ago, so now I am full circle.

I know what it feels like to start and re-start, and I feel indebted to those that gave me a chance and another chance and then another. So, I believe in hiring interns. Lots of them. And to pay them. They inspire me and those around me. Last year, we hired a young woman right out of school who had her portfolio in a shoe box covered in glitter. It had photographs of squished kiwis in it. She had pink hair. She now does some of the best work in our studio for Fortune 100 companies. So you never know. I guess if you see it in their eyes, go with your gut.

I find this is true (and I am paraphrasing): "when you throw your weight around, you usually fall off balance. Overconfidence is as bad as no confidence. Be humble. Realize and accept your ignorance, then work diligently to educate yourself out of it. Ask questions. Power — the power to create things and impose them on the world — is a privilege. Do not abuse it, do not underestimate its difficulty, or it will come around and bite you on the ass. The great Karmic wheel, however slowly, turns."

That would make a nice tattoo, however wordy.

On May.11.2004 at 09:11 PM
graham’s comment is:

tan: in response to this from you- 'What's wrong with suggesting that grads should persevere in their search for employment, instead of giving up, and starting their own thing out of desperation?', i wrote 'starting your own thing is/should be the first impulse, instead of giving up and searching for employment out of desperation.' in mirroring your words, i was attempting to show how what you said might seem to me . . .

in terms of starting your own business-there are lots of ways to do it. none of them are easy (i never said they were).

how about:

ensuring you have little or no overheads-work from home to begin with.

making work for a small client or two that you've found through contacts, meetings, phone calls, friends . . .

looking for a person to manage you as well as people making work who you can share space with eventually.

start self-employed, decide on whether or what kind of company you will be later.

start small-very small-tiny.

none of this suggests money or glory or even peace of mind.

and-follow tan's advice, too-it is all useful. especially 'Oh, and while you're doing all this — don't forget to seek your natural state and compress all effort, energy, passion and commitment into this one tiny thing.'

yes it is difficult, but not impossible. what is important i feel is that one doesn't lose, or at least reatians a part of, that impetus, that sheer simplicity and as-it-isness that comes with leaving college. everything is always potential, and to forget that is as damaging as not realising that none of this is easy. by choosing to work in a company there are certain things one accepts-absolutely-this is given. the same is true of working for yourself or starting your own thing. little or no sleep or money for a few years. living on overdrafts and saving tax money when it could pay off those overdrafts . . . working while at college can help you see and talk about all of these things, give you a sense of the possible, the very least you would need to start something, and also give you sense of the commitment it takes, but also the one day at a timeness of it, the small simplicity of it-the truth that things can be precarious wherever you are and that one thing is notactually better than another but there are other ways, choices, ways of doing that one can create.

tan-as you rightly said; 'This whole thread is about the why's and why not's of hiring graduates — which means the people that are interested want to get hired for a 9-5.' perhaps graduates (as many people here seem to imply) don't know how companies function-after all they don't learn that at school, do they?-for all they know design companies might operate as social collectives, or dictatorships, or like design school-and they're wanting to find out, to experience the diversity that design offers.

over the years we've only taken on a few people, but it's usually fun and they are usually either have much more energy or a far greater sense of the possible than i do. i see it a responsibility to nuture that, to make it central to a way of working because god knows it's essential if you end up facing unmanageable debt, or being fired at 45, 50.

debbie-yes. nice tattoo. sometimes a bite on the arse is necessary. for me, i mean.

On May.12.2004 at 02:54 AM
Daniel’s comment is:

Lets train ourselves to be free. Read hard outside of academic walls; know the industry based on what the industry puts out and not on what a tutor tells you. What are you waiting for? If no one will hire you, hire yourself. Experience doesn't have to be given to you; you can take it. Be present in your industry; be present in your work. Have a general interest in the industry; don't just read the Annuals put out at the end of the year that showcase work. Heller puts out good books, reed them. AIGA exists for a reason, show your face, and get to know the people involved in your local chapter. Have fun, enjoy it, get hired.

Student: Huddersfield University: MA Creative Imaging 2004

On May.12.2004 at 05:30 AM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

I am going to go with my gut reaction to the original post -- and not read the ones between (I apologize if things are repeated).

Instead of pulling my hair out while reading the topic, I tried to put myself in their shoes.

I AM a 2002 graduate. And I still DO NOT have a "real" design job. I do a lot of web content development, some graphics - - but I cannot say I have "designed" something in the past 2 years really.

Besides the obvious Catch-22 of no experience, no job - - I also have the - - Need to Pay rent, and looking for a job is a full-time job in itself. I would LOVE to have off a Wednesday after noon - take the train to Manhattan - - and hand deliver a resume. Sure, it is possible, and likely - - but it couldn't become routine.

My question is to the design firms here... to hire a new/young/fresh designer, if you are willing, What kind of work would you like to see in their portfolio? How much of it should be freelance/non-school work projects? Does this give them a better chance?

Personally I worked full-time at 2 design jobs to try to gain experience and a strong list of work - - 3 years of experience DURING school to be exact - -WHILE I was taking classes full-time.

Not much of the above has worked to my benefit. But I know I have what it takes -- and will keep pushing.

Now I feel better!

(oh, btw, Hello all - - it has been a while)

On May.12.2004 at 10:26 AM
Gahlord Dewald’s comment is:

Would the powers that be please post a related topic on whether graduates should start their own biz? I'd love to wade into the firefight between Graham and Tan (possibly as a mediating voice along with Robyn). But it seems off-topic here in this thread.

Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle and, often, a value-system. This is probably why Graham felt sore upon hearing the expression that time is better spent seeking a 9-5. It was an insult to his value-system. Tan probably didn't mean it as such. It's a miscommunication.

But the difference in mindsets between entrepreneurial designers (solo practitioners like myself and/or design firm owners/partners/founders), design employees (in-house, studio employees, etc), and the nebulous middle-ground of freelancers (kind of like employees but without the benefits) would be an interesting topic to explore. Even if it gets messy and some blood is shed.


[sorry bout the previous note about an rm'ed post... turns out that the post I was referring to was in the main article... d'oh... there was no rm'ed post. back to your regularly scheduled programming.]

On May.12.2004 at 11:29 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Gahlord — great idea. I'm all for more blood. Just as long as it doesn't scare off the kids. Let's offline this.

>What kind of work would you like to see in their portfolio? How much of it should be freelance/non-school work projects? Does this give them a better chance?

Sarah — whole 'nother topic. But some quick answers.

1. Always, always include just your best work. Doesn't matter if it's "real" or not. People know you're a fresh graduate. They're not expecting print/web production expertise, nor do they expect you to have mastered managing clients and selling design work. Don't include a crappy 2-color piece just because it's been printed. It's a very common mistake. They are looking for a person with fresh ideas, energy, and thinking. Do whatever you can to show that.

2. But experience is important, and shows in the manner which you present yourself, how you communicate in correspondence with them, and in the questions that you ask and answers you provide. In interviews, I can ascertain in the first five minutes whether or not a graduate has had prior experience or not, and in what capacity. That's why interviews are so important.

Nice to see you back btw.

On May.12.2004 at 12:15 PM
Greg’s comment is:

I'll tell you a great reason to hire someone. Free advice, doesn't cost a thing, other than the checking of your egotistic and holier than thou sentiments at the door.

Hire people that will work for you. We create. The hardest thing to learn is how to let yourself create. Not knowing the specifics of it isn't being slow, it's isn't a lack of maturity. It's a lack of knowledge. How to do something can be taught in a day and a half. How to come up with that "something" isn't able to be taught. If a design intern, or a 20 year veteran, or a freaking english major walks through your door and has the ability to create, hire them. Graham is totally right - the real world is everything, including fresh graduates and people with their own firm (whether or not they are one and the same). But what you've got going on inside your head isn't the real world.

On May.12.2004 at 12:25 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>Hire people that will work for you...If a design intern, or a 20 year veteran, or a freaking english major walks through your door and has the ability to create, hire them.

Right. So no prioritization — just whoever's most qualified and willing. Experience or no experience, it shouldn't matter. So grads should prepare to compete with seasoned pros, as well as people without design training at all. Completely even playing field. Is that what you're suggesting here Greg?

On May.12.2004 at 01:18 PM
kris’s comment is:

This is a timely topic - considering that in the last couple of months I've been debating whether to keep my current (first) nine to five "design" job (okay, it includes buying coffee for the office and writing business letters) or go back to school for the communications degree.

I've decided to stay with the job for a while longer. This discussion has confirmed the decision for me. Thanks!

Personally, from reading the comments it seems to me if you look at it from strictly a financial point of view, it probably doesn't pay to hire interns. So, if you take that side of the argument you will make more money.

Of course, from a creative point of view, hiring graduates will bring new ideas, new blood and an opportunity to be a "father figure" into your life. So you'll probably have more fun.

So - what do you want? Money or fun?


On May.12.2004 at 01:32 PM
Greg’s comment is:

Is that what you're suggesting here Greg?

More or less. I'm suggesting that experience is a crappy indicator of worth in the design field.

On May.12.2004 at 02:12 PM
Pariah Burke’s comment is:

I just thought I'd drop a comment to let you know that this story has been picked up by the Design Weblog and the Magazine Design Weblog.

On May.12.2004 at 03:34 PM
Justin’s comment is:

As a recent graduate who has had a post-graduation internship lined up for a while, this has been enlightening. For one, it has put me back in my place a bit. I don't want to walk in my first day thinking I'm hot shit.

on the other hand...

This topic leads so well into one that seems to be touched on a lot here; the lack of business skills being taught in Design schools. I can say that my school had one class that covered it, but only in a very cursory, get-this-out-of-the-way manner. We don't learn how to do our taxes, run a meeting, write a brief, etc. I don't think it should be taught. That's what an internship is for. I went to design school to learn how to design. I went to school to learn to do something I love, and it was my time to focus on it and get as good as I could. I didn't go to school to learn to be as efficent and ruthless at making money as I could.

Perhaps I'm just naive, but this discussion makes it seem like working in a firm is more cutthroat than being a bounty hunter.

On May.12.2004 at 06:36 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>I didn't go to school to learn to be as efficent and ruthless at making money as I could.

No, design isn't all numbers and money. It's still a creative thing.

But what you'll learn is that it's also a business. Not just the rhetorics of that statement, but really understand what that means. And like all businesses, money is involved in everything.

Is it ruthless? No, but it's very, very competitive and demanding. Especially now in this economy.

Will you have to look at design in terms of productivity and efficiency? Yes, in most firms, billable hours and living with the stress of managing it will be your responsibility for the rest of your career. But guess what? It's all part of the business, and something that tens of thousands of designers live with everyday.

>this discussion makes it seem like working in a firm is more cutthroat than being a bounty hunter.

No need to be so melodramatic. Most designers are capable of looking at design as a craft that they love, as well as a business that they need to manage if they want to do it for a living.

On May.12.2004 at 07:06 PM
Aaron’s comment is:

Ok, another question now — for those of you who've attained 3-5 years of experience, was it truly that big of a leap? Did you really need handholding? What was the biggest eye-opener experience? And lastly, now that someone gave you a chance, are you willing to return the loyalty and work there for the next 5-10 years? Be honest.

At 5 years, it has been a big leap into reality, or at least it was initially. When I graduated, I had visions of working for a firm where ideas thrived, everything focused on design; from the office space to the staff and beyond.

I blame HOW for that.

I held an office job for 5 years prior to and during going to school, so I was familiar with what was expected in an office environment. I didn't need handholding, and jumped into designing large format tradeshow graphics with one day of training from the designer I was replacing. Unfortunately, another designer who was also a recent grad needed a LOT of handholding, so much that I was stuck with the majority of the workload. Speed and efficiency have been the best rewards from experience in the field. Learning to maintain your composure when you're given one day to turn around a project from concept to production has proven invaluable.

I was very grateful to the owners that gave me the chance to get my feet wet fresh out of school. Unfortunately, the company was poorly ran, and there was a mass exodus of about 5-6 very key employees (at a company with a total of 18, that's significant) and I jumped ship like a lemming. In hindsight, I should have stayed a little longer due to the economy, however a year after I quit there were only about 3 of the employees that worked there when I did. The main reason I didn't stick around was plainly because employees just did not feel valued at this company, a fact that I'm still struggling with at my current job.

On a side note, an obstical that I faced constantly when applying for design jobs is that design firms only want designers that have 'design firm experience'. Yet another catch-22.

On May.12.2004 at 07:10 PM
Josh P’s comment is:

It is very exhausting looking at all these messages. Getting the jist of it all.

Feeding straight from my gut reactions, i hate design sometimes. I think there is nothing more important than design, but I dislike the mind games that come with the profession.

If designers are so worried about hiring newbies, why don't they get their ass out there and help a future generation prosper. I completely see what these pessimistic 3-person jobs speak about. A lack of basic understanding in terms of functional design and a huge learning curve awaits. Yet what have they done to help students recently?

It doesn't seem to me that any of these people have a particular soft spot for a boondocks school outside Minneapolis that nearly boasts the largest graphic design major in the midwest. They want value from the designers they consider to hire, but yet they are not willing to build foundations for these relationships. So in our case, it is up to us to develop the mental stamina, initiative and perserverence to succeed in the design world without their help. All without the war chest and big show players that an MCAD, SVA or RISD can attract.

So it is exactly what I have done. I have been that professional. That critical void that tries to inspire students, critically review their work, while in the meantime trying to get a degree in design. Some find it inspiring, while others silently disagree with what I do. I am the punk rock kid at the yacht club. I stick out. Yet for some reason I feel compelled to help my and my fellow students future employers. Is that what I should be concerned about?

"2-3 years of experience please."

How do I get this? I mean with all the local firms knocking down my door, calling me in the middle of the night or often returning a kind "no" email, It should be easy right?

It like a wars with guns vs. spoons and i have a one for sugar.

A hot tip for the students is that you may have a better chance outside the country. In Germany alone, the opportunities for internships/experience is greater(in terms of quantifiable potential)than I have ever seen here. Though the process of application is the same, the line of communication is much more open. I have received numerous reply email from individuals within good or great working time. It seems that "some" are genuinely dedicated to helping students develop and adjust to the working world.

The downfall to these is always cost.

I think the problem here is a societal. Why do Americans work to work harder? Sounds odd I know, but Tan was joking about working hard all year and getting two weeks off. Is that what anyone would consider a life?

Oddly, since we are all under our American missile defense shield, we find the need to work harder to give more influence and power to people who have succeeded in damaging our social structure and families. This damage shows largely in the relationships and attitudes that designers in particular have toward students, graduates and the "dedication" they have to their clients.

Though AIGA, Emigre and countless others championed items like First Things First or enviro responsible design it has hardly made an impact on students or professionals alike. We live to push the corporate models, those which trivialize our families and our values in return for their financial gain.

Deservedily so, this residual effect and prevailing pessimistic attitude helps weed out a few bad candidates from time to time, but is it sacficing the fact that people rely on people and if you give nothing can you expect anything in return?

On May.12.2004 at 09:15 PM
Bonnie Berry’s comment is:

As a recent graduate I wish that I could say that this has been uplifting. Unfortunately, it has only served to put into words that which I have been discovering since I finished schoool in December--that designers want to classify and box other designers in groups--intern, junior, senior...At what point did we stop being individuals?

I made an unorthodox student. I am in my 30's, have a prior degree from UCSC, was a self-taught in-house designer for six years for a local non-profit. I then decided that the art school investment (financial as well as time) was worth it if I wanted to be a really good designer, so I headed off to school and a world of debt.

Now, looking for a job has been a joke. Everyone I interview with only sees 'recent graduate' and immediately discounts all prior experience and education . Hand held? I recently freelanced at a local SF studio where within a week I was introduced as the studio 'expert' on their computer system and was working on multiple accounts with almost no supervision. But because I was a 'recent grad' I was paid extremely poorly and was put in the 'you have to pay your dues' box. I am all for putting in my time, but not for being treated like this is the first job I've ever had. I also interned at the studio of a recent poster to this thread and I would not call making coffee and walking the dog a design learning experience.

If you think I am an anomaly, almost three quarters of my class were 2nd degree students in their late 20s and early 30s, who had full careers and lives before returning to school.

So, food for thought. Thanks for listening. I will stop ranting now. Oh, and I gave up looking for a studio job and am freelancing. It seems like the only boxless workplace.

On May.12.2004 at 09:20 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Being biased about hiring designers right out of school seems myopic. Judging them on the merits of their book, prior experience, energy, personality, and dedication should entail a hiring decision. This all goes without saying.

A risk in hiring young designers is turnover. Chances are high that once they get the “experience” they crave, they'll be out the door. It's not always like this, but I'd like to see the numbers. When new graduates are hired, how long do they remain on staff before resigning for a position elsewhere? I'd guess 6-12 months.

Climb that ladder while you can!

On May.12.2004 at 09:38 PM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

I also interned at the studio of a recent poster to this thread and I would not call making coffee and walking the dog a design learning experience.

I'll cop to being the studio that Bonnie is referencing. Let me say first that I'm not a coffee drinker, nor a dog owner, so I can safely deny culpability on those issues. I do recall sending her on a couple of press checks, giving a fair amount of feedback on her thesis, and helping her get a design job that may or may not have been the one mentioned in her post.

That said, all her points are valid, and I can't help but feel that we failed her in some way. As I said, we are a teaching studio, and if we didn't manage to impart some knowledge or insight then we weren't doing our job very well.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say, and I fear that in these leaner economic times we have a tendancy to perhaps see dollars and cents signs where we ought to see people. I'd like to think that we don't fall into that trap but perhaps we do. An hour spent teaching teaching an intern some new skill is an hour of your time and hers that can't be billed. As a business in tight and competitive market that can be a tough pill to swallow. But a promise is a promise, and, well, Bonnie you've received my email by now.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big believer in the "paying your dues" aspect of career advancement. When my step dad (who grew up dirt poor) graduated from Dartmouth he took a job in a mailroom and enrolled in a typing class so he could work his way up to being a secretary. He retired as vice president of MGM. Those two points were more than 30 years apart.

If it's hard to imagine how an ivy league graduate — living on candy bars and aspirin for lack of money —�could take a menial job over a Madison Avenue office, then you just don't want it bad enough. That's totally okay, but always remember there is someone else who does.

On May.12.2004 at 10:29 PM
Nick’s comment is:

I am going to graduate in just over a month and the above discussion is actually quite encouraging. I’d expected something far worse when I started reading.

The short term financial incentives for hiring fresh graduates seem pretty non-existent. But what about the long term? At least a percentage of the interns that go through peoples’ offices must go on to great jobs. Is taking on interns a very effective networking opportunity from the studio’s point of view? How many designer’s out there try to keep in contact with promising interns? Or is it all up to the young ones to maintain those links?

(I’m not suggesting that any intern should rely on this to happen of course)

On May.13.2004 at 05:05 AM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

Everything is up to you. If you want to grow and manitain a network of peers, prospective employers, potential clients, etc. then you must be diligent in its maintenance.

I think you'll find that as a student/entry-level designer/job seeker you will encounter a wide variety of responses from the employers you contact. Some will outright brush you off, others will be more subtle in their dismissal, some will take an active interest in you.

If you're A) a good designer, B) a pleasant or interesting person, C) respectfully persistent, your chances of keeping up a relationship with a prospective employer are far greater. When we were recently hiring a junior designer we saw a number of good books, but of course only hired one of the people we interviewed. Of the remaining top five candidates we considered I am still in touch with all of them, and recommended three to other jobs. So you just never know.

Speaking for myself, I make a point of returning every email I receive, which takes more time than I can really afford. But like I said, you just never know.

On May.13.2004 at 11:14 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>Is taking on interns a very effective networking opportunity from the studio’s point of view? How many designer’s out there try to keep in contact with promising interns?

Nick — very good, insightful questions.

I've always seemed to have had good luck w/ interns, meaning that I've been fortunate to have had some very bright, hard-working, good-attitude students use our internship as a launching pad to promising careers. That's exactly what internships should be, and it validates my investment in that position.

Believe it or not, I still keep in contact with just about every intern who has ever worked for me. I love knowing where they've gone to, and see how they've thrived. I don't have time to initiate the contact, but I sincerely encourage all of them to keep in touch, and use me as a reference or resource for contacts. I always try my best to keep my word and email them back.

As to using interns as networking? I wouldn't quite put it as so self-serving. This business is a small community — everyone knows each other somehow, someway. Everyone has worked at the same places, for the same people, or is married, friends with, or dating someone who has. The design community is totally incestuous. So seeing former interns succeed and knowing I had some small part in it is more about karma.

What goes around, comes around.

On May.13.2004 at 11:24 AM
Tan’s comment is:

>I also interned at the studio of a recent poster to this thread and I would not call making coffee and walking the dog a design learning experience.

Not to defend Christopher, but a small design office is like shared housing. To prep for big meetings, I've cleaned the office bathroom, scrubbed stairways, empty trash, and yes, make coffee. I expected everyone in our office to pitch in as readily, doesn't matter if you were the boss or the intern. It's all part of working in a small office.

I've had our interns Windex the front glass door, plunger the toilet, clean the glue machine, inventory pens, alphabetize bookshelves, categorize paper samples, pump change in parking meters for clients, and a hundred other tasks that were menial, but still necessary. And I expected them to do it all with a happy heart. Cause I would.

Even now, I still change the toner, tidy up the production area, etc. if I happen to be nearby with a moment to spare.

It's all work, you know?

On May.13.2004 at 12:04 PM
jayna’s comment is:

I haven't had the time to go though many of the comments, so forgive me if I repeat someone else --

I never had the opportunity to do an internship when I was in college. Reason being, I was going to school full time and working three minimum wage jobs just to make ends meet. Something that's disappointing to me, from what I've read thus far, is the expectation that "I spent a lot of time and money on school, just give me a chance." Whatever happened to working your way up the ladder? Yes, I was fortunate enough to find myself a position in a growing media firm as a "designer" right out of school, but I was doing grunt work, plain and simple. From what I can tell that's where you start. Maybe it's unfair to the recent graduate to be completing someone else's designs or reformatting TIF files day in and day out, but at the same time they've got a job, they've got opportunities to move up in the company. What they do with those opportunities is completely up to them. I could be completely off-base, but from my personal experience you start at the bottom, get your foot in the door and then show them what you can do. The longer I was there, the more opportunities there were to do mockups -- alongside the seasoned designers -- to get my feet wet in real client projects and presentations. Little by little I was involved more in the creative process, and by the time I left the company I had gained real experience. As far as hand-holding and cleaning up the newbies' messes, I don't really think that even needs to come into the equation.

On May.13.2004 at 12:38 PM
justin m’s comment is:

Maybe it's unfair to the recent graduate to be completing someone else's designs or reformatting TIF files day in and day out

I would gladly do that work to get my foot in the door if that is what it takes. I realize I have lots more to learn. All I ask for, the few times I have dropped off resumes, is a chance to work for real designers and have the opportunity to watch them work and see what they do all.

On May.13.2004 at 02:04 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

An internship is partially what you make of it. There are definitely menial tasks that come with the territory. I can speak from my own personal experience. My internship at a magazine, between junior and senior years of college, was a great learning experience. My first 2 weeks were spent mostly fetching Diet Coke and correcting copyedits. Bored with this, I asked the AD if I could design a section or spread for the current issue. (Keep in mind I had very little design experience and wasn't in an art school at the time.) She was a little surprised and offered that I could watch her do it. But, within a few days, she gave me a few sidebars to work out and then began giving me more responsibility, including coordinating the photography for the front of the book and occasionally designing some articles.

There is no denying that some seek interns simply to have someone to answer the phones. But if you aren't getting out of the internship what you want, either ask for it, or leave. If you finish an internship without having gained some invaluable experience, then the blame falls mostly on your own shoulders.

On May.13.2004 at 02:27 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Plunge the toilet???

On May.13.2004 at 03:23 PM
Tan’s comment is:

Yes, plunge the toilet. What can I say? Our office was in a condo building, and the regular maintenance guy was nowhere to be found. It wasn't as disgusting as it sounds. Someone just used too much paper or something.

Now there was this time when a client's giant dog had diarrhea in the middle of our conference room floor. Now that was a disgusting clean up job. Our office manager ended up volunteering for that mess.

Seriously, no design shop spends its time doing CA-caliber work 24/7.

On May.13.2004 at 03:31 PM
Christopher Simmons’s comment is:

Not to defend Christopher...

Actually, Tan, your comments defend me well, as I agree completely with every one of them. There's a lot of work that needs to get done, and only so many people to do it. The best interns are those who can see the big picture and find a way to contribute to it. We've had plenty who have taken the iniative on the least glamorous tasks — those are the ones you go out of your way to repay with design experience.

On May.13.2004 at 03:35 PM
g’s comment is:

An internship is partially what you make of it.

Definitely. I've had a few internships and I still wish I had been more eager with the time I spent at each. At one internship (a large studio), I was quickly depressed and jaded because they paid little attention to me. Of course I knew I was an insignificant little thing, but at the same time they selected me over many many applicants, so I assumed they had some "important" things to teach me or for me to do. And in comparison, at a previous internship (a small studio), I learned lots and the designers actually got to know who I was.

Now I know, no matter what you get, you have to SHOW them what you can do with your time there, be assertive, show them who you are, what you can do. I guess my sensitivity at that time goes back to someone's previous comment about recognizing our individuality, rather than just being an "intern" or "junior".

All the wisdom and info here I wish I had access to, a year or two ago! But its great to read it even now and apply it to my current design job now. And now I should email some of those previous internship contacts...must keep in touch!

On May.13.2004 at 03:40 PM
Stephanie’s comment is:

I graduated one year ago and worked as a 'temporary' at a design office on my college campus until January, and have moved home and freelanced since that time. I'd like to suggest a new discussion, or even comments within this one, about the lack of 'real world' training that goes on in design schools.

Until I began freelancing in March, I didn't think much about this 'hole' in my education, but it has definately hit me since then.

Freelancing has somewhat fallen into my lap. I did some pro-bono work in my hometown (I now live at home), which led to additional contacts and more freelance work. My intention was never to do freelance (I plan to get a 9-5), but now that I'm in the midst of it, I feel increadibly inexperienced and uniformed.

I've been getting checks, no tax withheld, and have no idea what to do with my taxes. I am meeting with an accountant next week to figure this out. I've had to submit proposals, learning how to do this by basically fumbling in the dark and paging through my Graphic Artists Guild handbook to find examples. I am somewhat guessing at the proper hourly rate for someone of my level, how to invoice, how to write a contract. NONE of this was taught to me in school.

The basic argument I've heard from my professors is that design school is about learning concept and theory and such, not about learning computer skills and business skills. But the reality is that most design graduates go out and WORK, they don't usually go on to graduate school or become college professors.

I can understand expecting students to learn the software on their own. There is time for that during school - and that is something that is really REQUIRED to do well in school. However, learning business and tax skills is not something that is required to do well in school and it is not something most students realize they don't know until after they graduate and then are fumbling in the dark like myself.

Any thoughts on the importance of teaching these skills during school?

On May.14.2004 at 08:28 PM
Phillip’s comment is:

Well, I have to say reading this thread has been very informative. I just graduated last week and have had the luck of relocating in order to start my first stint at a Chicago studio... tomorrow. Needless to say, the above has been somewhat discouraging.

My question to the partners/principles and experienced is this: What can entry-level designers do in their first 6-12 months to help the problem? Obviously, our profitability will be negated by the learning-curve, but are there ways we can give back and help to be an asset to the studio while we are learning the ropes? What can we do to spead up our integration into the studio?

On May.16.2004 at 03:28 PM
Phillip’s comment is:

...aside from remember to check our spelling!!!

On May.16.2004 at 04:06 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>but are there ways we can give back and help to be an asset to the studio while we are learning the ropes? What can we do to spead up our integration into the studio?

A good attitude like yours is a great start.

There's no one thing that's key. It's everything. Here's some examples of proactive things I look for in good juniors. Just off the top of my head.

1. Don't worry about your speed, but be aware of how much you have to go. Be eager, and learn as much as you can from the good epros in the shop.

2. Try to make mistakes once. Be shown how to do something once. Get in the habit of taking notes of everything. Don't just go "uh-huh" when a more senior designer shows you how to do something. And ask for clarification if you don't understand something. Write any and all instructions down, no matter how minute.

3. Finish whatever you're asked to do thoroughly, and be proactive and ask for more tasks.

4. Be confident about your opinions and work. Become more thick-skinned. No one wants to work with insecure, fragile designers who cry at any instance of criticism, no matter how constructive.

The thing your manager will be monitoring is how much can you manage. How well can you multi-task. How much responsibility you take on. And so forth.

And of course, don't be freaked-out and paranoid about it. Learn to enjoy the work and the learning, and try to manage the stress. They don't want to kill you, so if you look like you're overwhelmed all the time—people will be less likely to give you more responsibility. And eventhough it's easier on you, that's not how you want to be perceived.

On May.17.2004 at 01:28 PM
Michael Browers’s comment is:


Everything Tan wrote is in line with what I planned to tell you, only he said it much better than I would have. The only thing I can add is to understand that each person you work with will have different personality triats, you will need to learn how best to interact with each person to get the best results. I am in my fourth year of professional work and you are much further than I was when I started. I am impressed with your attitude and the fact that you recognize things I didn't truly realize until I had worked a year or so. Best of luck in your job search.

On May.17.2004 at 04:40 PM
Phillip’s comment is:

Tan and Michael- Thanks for the advice. It will truly help.

Today was my first day in the studio. I kicked it off by discussing my concerns re: expectations with my boss. Opening this dialogue seems like it will prove to be invaluable. Now that we are both on the same page, it will be easier to communicate my concerns and needs. Further, I have a clear understanding of what they expect from me now, and what they will expect me to learn during my first few months.

So, to all you other young designers, as hasty as it may seem, I'm going to recommend voicing your concerns about expectations right off the bat. At the least it will show that you are understanding of the situation and concerned with attaining a position that will create a positive outcome for both parties.

On May.17.2004 at 08:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

For all graduates out there looking for work.

This is a good place to start. Join AIGA. Get your stuff shot and posted on the site. Take a look at how other people display their work and write about themselves. Use that insight to your advantage.

Lots of firms begin their search for designers at this site.

On May.18.2004 at 10:30 AM
patricia’s comment is:

I guess I am the worst kind of recent graduate. Limited experience, AND old (41). Thank god there were places willing to give me a chance. I know this has been stated already, but it astounds me that these older established designers have forgetten that they were once just-out-of-school babies who needed some hand-holding, too. If someone hadn't taken a chance on them, where would they be now?

On May.19.2004 at 10:46 AM
Enzo Lezama’s comment is:

I got my break from a designer who had graduated 4 years before me. As a recent graduate, he had been hired by another designer 5 years older than him.

The now 9yr experience designer got a good job elswhere, so now our studio consisted of a 4yr experience designer that knew how to run his own bussines, and a 0.25yr experience designer that was learning everything.

I got the job because my new boss was still very much in touch with our school, knew my work as a student, had talked with my teachers, and was young enough that we enden up much in the same parties. That is how he knew i could be a very good designer, and fun to work with.

At the moment i have one foot on each side of the line, i have not crossed the 5yr experience threshold, but am already in a position to hire designers.

And i would certainly feel akward hiring someone a lot older or more experienced than me. It is another form of prejudice, but now that we need a new designer, i will go back to school, look at student's work, talk to the teachers, and go out to a lot more parties. I think it is my responsibility to teach what i have learned in the last 3 years to another graduate or student.

So if you are just out of school, it is a good idea to find out what other youg designers with just a few years experience are doing. I beleive they will be more willing to teach and help you. Really it takes no more than one or two years to get up to speed.

On May.21.2004 at 02:49 AM
Jason’s comment is:

What are the things they need to get "up to speed on" during those 2-3 years? Is it personal skills? Verbal communication? Written communication? Working under pressure?

Probably, these things differ from person to person. But there must be one overarching element that each greenie has to learn. For me, it was humility. Coming out of a design school, where the designer was a demigod, I had to humble myself. A designer is nothing without the client, copywriter, creative director, and production team. So for me, it was all about thinking and working unselfishly.

And, I must mirror Tan's suggestion. Join AIGA. Get networked. Sell yourself.

On May.21.2004 at 10:14 AM
mazzei’s comment is:

"I applaud self-initiative and ambition — but I think a graduate's energy is better spent finding ways to get hired, rather than gambled away in what's basically a no-win situation by starting their own thing."

wow. glad no one said anything like this to me upon graduation. The teachers (aka people with some wisdom) I had actually encouraged graduates getting together and trying for a “collective” experience before going auto pilot to find a 9-5. The view was that if your own thing didn’t pan out the 9-5 was always there. This above statement seems “fearful” at best.

On May.24.2004 at 12:40 PM
Tan’s comment is:

So nancy — did you do that? Find your own "collective experience" before eventually going auto pilot to VH1? What do you ask/tell talented graduates who come seeking work with you? That seeking a 9-5 is for wusses?

On May.24.2004 at 01:03 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

Ah No, I definitely don’t think they are “wusses” they are simply going a different way then I did. It’s not about being “judgmental” about someone’s career path vs. my own. Yes, I had a studio with a college friend for 6 years before going the 9-? route and formed that studio right after college. I then wanted the experience of working other places and I have: at a premium network, an agency, photo magazine, record label and now VH1 a 24 hour network. There are so many different places in “design” I wanted to switch it up, move around someday I’ll go back to my own thing it definitely was my favorite job and the hardest. But to clarify: To me “a wuss” is a person motivated by ignorance or fear on any given subject but they turn it around to form some kind of bullshit intelligence, not someone seeking work after college. And I use the term “auto pilot” as a phrase for going in a certain direction because everyone else has not towards the design profession work ethic if that’s what you insinuating.

On May.24.2004 at 03:41 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>There are so many different places in “design” I wanted to switch it up, move around

I agree. There's just so many different types of firms and work environments. In-house, agencies, and firms of all sizes and varieties can offer a world of options, learning, and opportunities for students. This is the where the majority of our profession calls work — though it's not the only option. But it has always been a challenge, not a given fallback, to gain employment.

>To me “a wuss” is a person motivated by ignorance or fear on any given subject but they turn it around to form some kind of bullshit intelligence

I agree, that would be bullshit — but I think judgemental hypocrits are probably worse in this world, don't you think?

On May.24.2004 at 04:43 PM
mazzei’s comment is:

What’s the debate?

In-house, agencies, and firms of all sizes and varieties can offer a world of options, learning, and opportunities for students. This is the where the majority of our profession calls work — though it's not the only option.

hello, I’m not against people gaining employment, and I very familiar to what the profession calls work. The reason why I listed some of the other jobs I had after my own shop was to “agree” with your above comment...

But it has always been a challenge, not a given fallback, to gain employment.

Your using what I said out of context. Again, yes am FOR graduates working, I’m NOT against employment and I never said any job was considered fall back or “less” of a job. I was giving an example of how working for yourself CAN be rewarding and successful...at a “young age.”

“judgmental hypocrites” or “a wuss” you split the hair both are very dangerous characteristics when giving “advice” to anyone.

On May.24.2004 at 05:30 PM
Camille’s comment is:

I am a design student, soon to graduate in less than a month. I do think that young design graduates can be inexperienced and naive, but not all, and it it necessary for design firms to weed out the bad graduates from the good.

First off nothing in school prepares you for working with a cranky client who couldn't tell good design from a pile of crap on the ground

Design schools vary, and cannot be generalized like this. I attend an excellent design school in New Zealand, and the students here regularly recieve intern projects while studying. The biggest one I worked on was creating an identity and promotional kit for a musical group. After 8 weeks of meetings and concept discussions, the client decied they 'liked their old logo after all'. The fault lay in both parties; the client was unsure about what they wanted from us to start with, and also our concepts were too 'out there' for the client, in hindsight.

Through this project, we learnt a multitude of valuable lessons about communicating with clients.

We also attend classes where we are taught about subjects such as professional practice, what pay to expect, how many hours to work on a project, and recieve lectures from a range of people included in the wider area of the design industry; accountants to copyright lawyers to paper merchants.

Yes, many design graduates are naive/dim, but not all.

On May.24.2004 at 06:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>“judgmental hypocrites” or “a wuss” you split the hair both are very dangerous characteristics when giving “advice” to anyone.

Ok, I give. Yes, working is such a personal experience. Giving advice on this subject with the advantage of hindsight leaves a lot of crucial things out. But advice is just that, advice. Not truisms.

And I don't mean to twist your words. But in fairness, I think by calling my earlier advice as "fearful" — I think you're twisting my words to the same degree. I ran a freelance business with some friends for about a year when I was in school, and then had my own shop for 6 years. So my perspective came from experience, not conjecture. And like you — I've seen both sides, and no one path is right for everyone.

This thread is about employer's perception about (against) young graduates. It's a difficult market to begin with. So many graduates who can't find work are saying "To hell with the firms, I'll start my own place." — which I think is a sign that they're giving up too early. So I'm advising them to persevere, be tactical and tenacious about finding work — if that's what they're after.

If what they want right out of schools is to start their own place, then fine — more power to them.

Fear has nothing to do with this. It can take more energy, confidence and courage to go after a dream job (like at VH1) then it does to try and open your own practice.

Though one option has slightly better odds.

On May.24.2004 at 06:12 PM
jb’s comment is:

Hiring Young, Recent Graduates — Why or Why Not?

Why Not seems to be covered already, so here's why you should hire young recent graduates (not that older or more experienced designers lack these, but they seem to be of higher proportion in younger folks)?

* fresh perspectives and ideas

* knowledge of current and developing trends, styles, etc.

* ambition> translated: eager and willing to work hard

* malleable: you will play a role in shaping someone's career...you can more easily shape them into the type of person that you want (because they are willing to adapt) rather than trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

Not all young and recent grads are awesome designers, but not all are inexperienced and irresponsible either. It would be a mistake to hire just any recent graduate to get new ideas or passion for design, but it would also be a mistake to elminate someone from your candidate pool because they lack 3-5 years of experience.

On May.25.2004 at 12:08 AM
mazzei’s comment is:

Tan I think we are agreeing at the core of this conversation. However, I think you do have to operate in the “truism” world when giving advice to people who have little or no actual experience in the subject in this case “graduates out of school” if you were talking to me with years of experience I could take the advice or leave it, graduates don’t have that hindsite so it’s important to monitor how you “come off”. As an “employer” myself I have to watch the advice I give to younger designers everyday here at VH1. I agree with most of what your saying I think your initial comment, the one I responded to first sounded like you were giving advice NOT to do something I didn’t get the “perseverance” message your talking about.

“It can take more energy, confidence and courage to go after a dream job (like at VH1) then it does to try and open your own practice.”

Agreed, as for “dream job”, that’s another thread as you stated earlier it’s work. Long hours, short weekends, high turn over, a 24 hour channel is sooo much maintenance.

On May.25.2004 at 02:19 PM
Don’s comment is:

In southern California if you are looking for a designer, you simply need to throw a rock. Darwin's theory at its' best, I think. There are always exceptions to the rule and my commitment to "giving back" doesn't keep the studio lights on. There is much truth in the perilously slow rate that nine out of ten near-grad/post grad students move at - and that direction is not necessarily forward. Weekly (let alone daily) goals become hard to hit and the thread that unravels a time driven process. Students as a majority lack the applied technical knowledge to execute concepts efficiently, and semester long deadlines that yield slick computer printouts are no proving ground. There should be standard applied programming that observes realtime projects and execution. I believe in supporting our region's professionals-in-training, but finding the perfect skill set among this group is much like searcing for the proverbial needle. Students that are active and get involved intheir community raise their visibility, and their chances of building relationships that open doors. Frequency, follow through in the face of rejection and perserverance are all part of the real "Real World." How many jobs is each person ulimately seeking? If one is the magic answer for each position than the odds are always driven by the number of applicants. If you really want it you had better be ready to prove it - over and over again. Good luck.

On Jun.07.2004 at 02:20 PM
Diane’s comment is:

Andrew Waters> Well said!

On Jun.08.2004 at 10:31 AM