I remember my mum’s exasperation at realising that I’d taken to one of the walls in our house with a brand new set of crayola felt tip pens. I must have been doodling gleefully for at least twenty minutes by the time she rumbled me. I seem to remember being quite proud of the scene I’d depicted, safe to say that feeling wasn’t shared. I guess I’d have been about seven or eight at the time. An independent magazine called Boat led me into design, I was working at a bar after uni — where I studied Sociology — and my mate Fred bought in their first issue for me to borrow. It blew me away and made me want to try and tell stories in a similarly gripping and beautifully created format.
I didn’t really have a plan, to be honest I was pretty fearful of picking a career of some kind and having to stick with it for the remainder of my days. For my parent’s generation, that was very much the deal and it seemed such a high stakes decision that I just put it off. I started working full time in the bars I’d worked part time in during my studies and just did that for a year or so. It wasn’t the worst situation in the world, but I knew I didn’t want to do that for much longer, so I was far more determined to explore my options at that stage than I had been previously. It really helped that the likes of Fred had a clearer idea of what they wanted, by the time he’d interned in NYC for BOMB and London for Dazed, I was starting to think that publishing might be worth exploring. When I started applying for internships I figured that they would be an opportunity to road test a few careers, I certainly didn’t expect to be moving to Milan a couple of months afterwards to work for Domus in the build up to Salone. Two months there, followed by seven in London and Athens with Boat and that was it, I knew I wanted to be involved in independent publishing.
I’m the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Intern, a platform for and by the creative youth. We believe that young people are the future and invest and trust in their innovative nature, producing a variety of content, training and support for and by the creative youth. I also lecture at Leeds Arts University, leading the final year personal professional practice module on the graphic design pathway.
More than anything I want to see graduates who aren’t afraid to make work about things they really believe in. Unless you’ve won, competition briefs are a big turn-off for me on portfolios. I’d far rather see you set your own brief than respond to one that thousands of other people have. There’s more value in being able to find problems and solve them than just solve a problem presented to you. It affords far more space for you to show your critical, analytical and conceptual skillset. Purpose driven projects also have a universal appeal and drive behind them that’s really powerful. There’s so many arbitrary ideas and things already out there in the world, that something which feels truly necessary gets my attention every time. It also tells me about the designer’s values and character, which are another key factor in deciding who to work with.
Don’t feel like your career should be easy to define or is restricted to the boundaries of a generic job spec. This generation of creatives will specialise in all kinds of things throughout their working lives and that should be empowering rather than terrifying. More and more we’re realising that to be fulfilled we need to be getting more than money out of what we do (that’s still important of course). We need to believe what we’re part of, be challenged by the role, have freedom to experiment and have a sense of ownership of what we create. Sometimes, it will take switching jobs or specialisms to keep that balance, but it’s so incredibly worth it to be able to go to bed at night feeling like you’ve done something worthwhile and to get up in a morning eager to go and make a difference. If you don’t know where to start with all of that, the IKIGAI exercise is as good a place as any.
I used to revile that word, I was convinced that it meant putting myself in situations where I was meeting people I probably wouldn’t like, in the hope that they could maybe open some doors for me. Over the past four years, I’ve realised two things. Firstly, that networking is actually just about making the effort to reach out to and meet with people whose work, ideals or ideas you admire or are intrigued by. You’ll always get the odd instance where you end up in a room full of total jerks, but if you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never know. Secondly, I’ve come around to accepting that one of my biggest ‘skills’ is my affable personality. That doesn’t mean that I can pretend to like people for the sake of winning a client (still working on that), more that speaking face-to-dace with people about what I do and how important it is, is the most powerful way to spread the word. We don’t necessarily consider soft skills like that as professional attributes, but they absolutely are, ones that employers in all industries are coming to value more and more.
SNASK — By Per Bjorklund for Intern