JASON SIMMONS, ART DIRECTOR, MACUSER
You need to have the knack for knowing what will and won’t work as a design. It can’t be taught, it’s something you pick-up over years of absorbing design and images. If you don’t have that “certain something”, you won’t get very far in design, no matter how many applications you master or fonts you have in your collection.
One of the hardest things to do is be honest with yourself. Looking at your own work day in day out, but still being able to recognise when something isn’t working. Being a sales person isn’t something considered to be essential for a designer but it can be a very useful skill to have. It’s no good having the greatest concept in the world if you can’t convince the other people involved in the project (read suits) that it’s worth investing time and money in.
PETER STITSON, ART DIRECTOR, DAZED & CONFUSED
You need organisation, attention to detail, awareness of trends in all areas of creativity including typography, art, photography, fashion, music, film, writing and politics. Know your history and do lots of research. Always carry a sketch book and a camera.
Get an internship on a publication that inspires you. Create your own magazine. Content is king – don’t hide the message behind style.
ROB IRVINE, ART DIRECTOR, LIVERPOOL ECHO
You need to be a team player. The writers and photographers are relying on you to portray their work in the best possible light.
Respect what they do. You must love words – many designers are so busy being clever they forget to take a real interest in the story. The better you know the story, the better you will portray it. You should never stop wanting to learn. Newspaper design is constantly evolving. Look at papers and magazines from as many cities and countries as possible.
I came into newspaper design from a reporting and newsdesk background and it worked for me. You can go straight into production but you’ll never have the opportunity to get out of the office on sunny days or to make up ludicrous expenses claims. The minute it stops being fun, do it differently – and don’t sit too close to the screen.
CEPHAS HOWARD, SENIOR DESIGNER, THE GUARDIAN AND OBSERVER DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT
You have to really enjoy design, be constantly creative and be good at typography with an eye for how to make a good image look great. You need to be able to work fast when necessary without losing quality.
Be inventive, always push the boundaries, even if only a little at a time.
It also helps if you’re a little anal in your attention to detail.
Try taking the same space, the same fonts and the same copy and make 50-100 different but great-looking pages in black and white and you’re nearly there. It’s no good just mailing off CVs to just anyone. Find out who is really busy, or recruiting and might need someone to do some scanning or some donkeywork for free. If they like you and you work hard you’ll end up getting paid and hopefully with some work. Look countrywide for companies where you will fit in. Mine any contacts you have and always look for more.
Get on a contract as soon as possible.
Freelance seems like more money at the time, but you can’t buy peace of mind.