MY YEAR ON PLACEMENT
By Safwan Noorgat
Name: Safwan Noorgat
Based in: Manchester
Status: Final Year Graphic Design Student
University: University of Huddersfield
Aspiration: UX/UI Designer
Linked In: Safwan Noorgat
1 year, 1 week and 271gb of graphics, photos, videos and animations later, I have completed my placement year.
I thought it would be the perfect time to reflect on the past year as I have learnt a great deal not only in design but I have managed to pick up many lessons/skills along the way. I’m going to describe the whole year starting from the interview process all the way to the end and sharing my thoughts along the way.
To anyone applying for a placement or is currently on a placement I hope this helps a little. Enjoy!
Know yourself and your work
After applying to several areas ranging from design studios to in-house design roles, I landed my first interview in the middle of May 2019. The company was called La Marzocco, an espresso machine company that make and sell espresso machines for both commercial and home use.
The interview went very well and I found that being able to understand my own projects allowed me to answer the questions effectively. Rather than it feeling like a Q&A, it felt more like a conversation. I showed my portfolio, I discussed my projects making sure I described the “why” in every project. Why I created this piece, why I chose this colour, why my design choices were relevant. This not only showed that I was able to talk through my project but it also meant that I was able to describe my design process simultaneously.
Be creative and think outside of the box
After my initial interview, I was tasked to create a promotional piece for an annual coffee event held by La Marzocco called “Out Of The Box”. All candidates were tasked with the same brief, so I knew I had to stand out somehow.
After jotting down some ideas in a sketchbook, I finally landed on an idea that I thought would be creative enough to give me a shot at standing out. I created an interactive poster using origami. As you pull on a tab at the bottom of the poster, the information is revealed. I then created and submitted a PDF with my process from sketch to outcome with images and videos demonstrating how I built the poster from start to finish.
Interpersonal skills are really important
A week after submitting my design I was asked to travel down to London for an interview with the GM of La Marzocco UK. I felt nervous as it was my first interview in London and my first trip to the capital alone. The interview went very well and during it I was offered the job. I was shocked that it was over so soon, yet I was relieved that I didn’t have to wait for a phone call to reveal the outcome. I then spent the rest of the day exploring the city…
From the whole interview process, it was clear that social skills were very important in landing the role. Though my portfolio played a part in getting the job, it was my ability to create conversation and socialise with the interviewer that ultimately gave me an advantage.
My contract started on 24th June 2019. I quickly learnt that I had to be very adaptable to fit this role as a Content Coordinator. In my first month, I did everything from logo design to promotional animations. Being the only designer in the UK, meant that I was in charge of all design aspects of the company. This was something that I wasn’t at all prepared for, but I was definitely up for the challenge. Throughout the year, I regularly switched between software (Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premier Pro, InDesign and even some Cinema 4D) to ensure I was able to meet expectations and deliver dynamic and relevant content.
Learn to adapt to the task at hand and if you don’t know something, rather than seeing it as a negative, see it as a way to improve your skill set. Many design roles may require you to use a range of software and this is the best way to develop your skills as a designer.
Go into any role with an open mind
As well as developing my hard skills, I also developed a greater understanding of working and the world of business. I represented the company through the way I presented myself, how I interacted with customers, and the importance of having a clean office. I’m thankful that I got to learn these transferable skills as they will be very useful in the future.
If you’re going into a placement year try to be as open as you can to learning everything. Sit in on business meetings, learn from your colleagues, question your managers, and really become a fundamental part of the team.
1) Be adaptable
If you don’t know how to do something try to learn or find a way to use your skills to your advantage.
2) Keep an open mind
Be willing to learn more than just design, learn how the company works and the skills associated with all departments.
3) Think outside of the box
Though this is a cliche it genuinely works, if you’re tasked to create a flat illustration see how it would look if it was animated or see how it would look with a different colour scheme just try something different! Giving your client/manager/boss options is very useful.
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This comes without saying, any role will have x amount of pressure associated with it. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days however if you ever feel as though the workload is unbearable or you really can’t do a certain design, you’re allowed to say so. Always make your voice heard. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I found that sometimes asking a colleague to critique your work will allow you to overcome that creative block!
5) Have fun!
Finally, have fun! You’re out in the real world doing real work that will be seen by a lot of people, embrace it and be proud of that. Enjoy making new connections and friendships along the way and be excited to learn anything and everything. This will not only help you now but it will be pretty beneficial in the long run.
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