I studied Visual Communication at Ireland's newest university, TU Dublin in Grangegorman. Some of my first jobs were editing gaming videos and making YouTube graphics for people online. I used to make gaming videos edited to music when I was a teenager, and managed to gain quite a large following at the time. I helped run a channel with over 600,000 subscribers, the second biggest of its kind. People would pay me to teach them how to edit videos over Skype; it was all quite crazy but I actually learnt a lot that still stands today. It was amazing to see a hobby turn into something I could make money from at such an early stage. I also used to make posters for the golf shop I worked in during the summertime.
I didn’t really have a plan other than getting a job I was happy with, which I imagine is the same for most graduates. I guess when you graduate, after all your hard work, you sort of expect to have employers approach you about working for them. I found that you really have to go through the process of interviews and emails to get your foot in the door before any mention of a job happens. It's a lot more work after you have graduated, more than you think there will be. But if you put in the effort, no doubt you will be rewarded!
It's a great experience to even just get an interview with a studio — it helps you to speak confidently about your work and to meet people in the industry. Going from working 12 hours+ a day for my final semester to having nearly four months off work was a strange headspace to be in. I was constantly trying to make something to simply satisfy my urge to create. It's so important to create just to have an outlet, without a lot of context or pressure, and it also keeps up your skills for when you start working again!
The best piece of advice I’ve learnt is that if a design rule isn’t working for you, just break it. Sometimes I can get caught up in the technicality of things and best practice rules. But when you constantly adhere to rules it can really limit your creativity and possible outcomes. Rules only work if they are aiding your design and not restricting it — particularly with typography, there are several rules that always work, but sometimes they can be tweaked or broken which can make for some exciting results. The same applies to motion work, I really like exploring layering effects and combining layers and layers of things in after effects until I get something I’m happy with. This is where I have no rules and just explore ideas and potential combinations, and this is definitely what I enjoy the most.
I find I’m always working on something. Personally I prefer to keep busy creatively, I really enjoy learning new skills and software (I’m a bit of a tech nerd). One project that I’ve been working on personally for over two years is music production. I find it incredibly satisfying and can completely get lost in it. I’ve finished a few pieces but have never found the courage to share them publicly (maybe someday soon though). For me, doing creative work outside graphic design keeps me on my toes and helps to keep me motivated with learning.
Make the most of your final year, work hard, be dedicated and try to enjoy your last time of being a student, I will always look back on that time in my life. I was lucky enough to work on the Graduate Exhibition for my college with two others earlier this year. It was incredibly tough but it was by far my favourite period of college. I learnt so much and actually really enjoyed going in every day, it was the most fun I had over my four years and it definitely taught me the most. It was just great to be in a consistent space full of energy and ideas.
Also, get your portfolio started early to allow yourself to apply for any job that comes up. I would also recommend considering the projects you take on in your final year; it’s really good to have a variety of outputs in your portfolio in terms of getting a job. Enter everything and email everyone — you will genuinely be surprised with what comes from it. I got to visit London for an interview from entering a design competition, something I’ll never forget!
Design has already changed quite a bit since I started getting into it; more and more accessible software and technology has emerged and made it incredibly easy to learn the skills needed. This means anyone with a computer and the internet can access tutorials and design software. A lot of my learning in the beginning was self-taught. But it can be a bit tricky when you've spent time learning and developing your craft in an academic environment, then when you get into the real world, people don't really see design with the same depth as when you've been intensely studying it for four years. This can be really challenging as a young designer to deal with, especially in terms of client relationships — it can be hard to navigate your way into the business. Designers have to adapt. It's important to have a multitude of skills from typography and editorial to digital, motion, illustration, web development, and countless others. It's rare to see a designer that is a one-trick pony these days, and I think this shows how much design has evolved.
Having a degree in design allowed me to learn and grow my critical thinking, as well as my general knowledge of design practice. I am fascinated by technology, and I really cannot wait to see where it comes into play for design in five to ten years time. It's definitely the most game-changing aspect to design right now, particularly with digital screens becoming so prominent in daily life. I can’t wait to see what I’ll be designing with in the future. I think that’s what keeps design so interesting, it's always changing and trends come and go.