We’re thrilled that Clark Stiles and Roxanne Daner of LA studio, Ludlow Kingsley, were able to take some time out to chat to us. Some great portfolio advice for design grads, why they love internships and even a tip on how to make ‘cute eyes’.
What do you look for in a great portfolio? CS: I kind of wish we could actually look at a physical portfolio, where a person walks through our door, sets their portfolio down on the table and takes us through it. Oh well! Things have become transient in the ever-evolving digital age. We receive 3-5 unsolicited emails a day from aspiring designers who would like us to consider them for a job. Half of them are merely copy-pasted messages and a link to their website where their work is jammed into whatever template they quickly chose from one of the many portfolio do-it-yourself platforms. Presentation is everything. So an honest, first person message that is written directly to us and communicates why they are interested in us specifically is the first sign that we may like this person. Next, we just want to see who they are and what they do. Once in a blue moon we get snail-mail with something hand made for us. This is nice, but it’s not going to make the difference if we don’t resonate with their work. When we click a link into a designer’s portfolio there are things we like to see, and things we don’t like to see. We like to see:1) You. To read a short but genuine bit about who you are and what your philosophy as a designer is. 2) Only your BEST work. If you have 5 or 10 or 20 great pieces, then stop there. A so-so piece in your portfolio can make is seem like you don’t know how to edit yourself and that maybe it wasn’t all that long ago that you figured out who you are. We don’t like to see:1) Derivative work. Be yourself and show us work from your point of view. If you worship someone else as a designer, then let that be an influence. Please don’t show us your version of someone else’s work. 2) School work. If that’s all you have, then find some friends with a band, or a dream business, or make something up, but don’t show us a project that doesn’t means something to you, like a school assignment. 3) Private stuff. Journaling is an invaluable practice, but just as no one really wants to hear about your dream last night, no one wants to read or see doodles from your journal.
RD: I know Clark has said a lot about this topic but I have one little thing to add. We absolutely love seeing new talent and work, but one of the most important things for me is the first impression. If you have a grid of images, make sure you crop those images in the most beautiful way possible, or present them however you need to entice us to click in further and explore more of your work. It sounds crazy, but it’s a big deal when you’re looking at so many different portfolios. What it does is really show us how you use your “designer’s eye” with all that you do.
Whats your take on internships? CS: We love taking on interns. It’s mutually beneficial and can turn into a long-lasting relationship. Half of our staff started as interns. We have a policy of paying our interns a livable wage. Hopefully, this is a widespread trend. In particular, if an intern is performing work that is being sold through to the client, then it’s only fair to pay them well.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? RD: I didn’t really know much about graphic design but loved art, making things and computers. I went to the Waldorf school growing up, so I was really used to making things with my hands, but had a special love for the computer too. When I was deciding what to do for college, I sort of stumbled upon a description of graphic design, and it sounded like something that utilized my talents. Once I began foundation year, I realized that I was on to something and LOVED the discipline and confines of design. I was able to illustrate, use type and bring it all together to create really special things, and that felt so good! I learned so much in school, and my first internship topped it off with real working experience. I still share tips and tricks that I learned interning at Funny Garbage back in the day!
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others? RD: Although I design here at Ludlow Kingsley, I’ve also spent a lot of time figuring out what my voice is as an illustrator. I’ve found that defining my voice has been an exploration and merger of two things: my natural style that just comes out merged with my vision for what I’d like something to look like. It tales a lot of playing around and trying different things. I find that the beauty and fun of illustrating is the control that you have, if you take a head and draw the eyes in the appropriate place they look normal; move them up and make them a little larger and suddenly it’s “cute”. I love how the slightest change really effects the overall feel and style.
Who are the members of your team and their roles? CS: We are a design studio of seven. Four of us are graphic designers, two are developers and one project manager. We all wear multiple hats. Our two founders are the creative directors, overseeing everything that comes in and goes out. One of our graphic designers specializes in hand-lettering, another in print-production, another in illustration and another in packaging. Some of us work on animation, some of us work on information architecture. We’re like an efficient kitchen for a big restaurant. We work on 20-30 jobs at any given time, and it’s important to have redundancy in skill sets, so work can be handed off to other team members without a hitch. We like to have open discussions about all things design and experience. Every Friday, we hold an internal meeting called “First Thing Friday,” where we get together and share inspiring things like branding, design, website functionality, solar eclipses, etc.
What advice would you give students starting out? RD: Figuring out what your strengths are is a great starting place. There are so many different aspects of design these days and so many talented people, but we can’t all do everything (though we do try). Know who you are and work on your voice. Tell everyone what you can bring to the table, and play around if you haven’t quite figured that out yet! Collaborating with friends or other designers is a great way to bring everyone’s strengths together and make amazing things.