I wish I realised a lot earlier in college that research and understanding a topic/brief is the only way to produce work that is both effective and beautiful. Skipping this stage or not giving it enough attention will ultimately result in an unsatisfactory outcome. When I was starting out, there were some projects where I latched on to a particular concept too early on and limited myself in terms of being able to see a wide range of solutions or possible interpretations.
In the same way that many graphic designers did when they were young, I drew all the time as a kid. I had a general interest in creative things and carried on drawing up until it was time to decide what do in college, so it felt natural to try to do something that interested me. I had thought about fine art for a while but an art teacher who helped me prepare a portfolio for college had very strong opinions that I would be a bad artist but good graphic designer.
I think the main aspects that initially lead me to do graphic design are still the same for the most part. I enjoy making things that look nice and are smart, fun or helpful. I think the only thing that has changed is that I now have the skills to do this through the application of graphic design and visual communication.
Ask other students for their opinions and advice. Try to make sure you are getting constructive feedback and not just asking your mates who are going to tell you it looks cool, no matter how crap it is! Another tip that sounds really obvious but I wish I had taken to heart is that it's good to work hard, but it's equally important to take a break and enjoy yourself, especially in college where you are removed from some of the pressures of the real world.
The design community in Dublin is pretty small and interconnected. Most people know each other or at least have mutual friends, which is one of the reasons I feel there is a good culture of support among studios for graduates and students. I've had lots of great experiences with professionals taking the time to give me advice on my portfolio or to give an insight into their studio and things like that. Older designers here seem to remember what it was like being a student or recent graduate, and are willing to help out in very generous ways.
In terms of dream collaborations in Ireland, I would love to have the opportunity to do practical lecturing in Visual Communications. I would enjoy working with somewhere innovative like the Science Gallery at Trinity College. There are also a bunch of great studios such as Post, Detail., Bureau Bonanza and Unthink (and Red&Grey where I work).
In five years, I will hopefully be working in a positive and impactful place that places trust in my abilities and allows me to work with some autonomy. I would also like to be in a position to be able to mentor, teach or help younger designers once I have enough experience. Possibly working in Ireland but who knows!
I hope it's finally the year people stop putting skill percentage bars on their CV to tell you how good they are at Adobe Illustrator.