Everyone is a graphic designer these days. Everyone has chosen the colour of their wallpaper, curtains, or the colour of their car. So everyone thinks they are qualified to make graphic judgements. After 10 years in advertising I found a similar thing with music — everyone smiled and nodded over the moving image, very few questions over the edit, the grading or the lighting, but everyone, almost everyone had something to say about the soundtrack.
"Have you tried Elvis?" "What about Nirvana?"
It said more about their musical taste than what was right for the ad. But they felt they could confidently contribute.
The same occurs with applications for jobs at SomeOne. We get hundreds of applicants for the few jobs that come up here. But some of them, man alive... I really wish they’d read what I’m about to write.
Your portfolio: I run a company. It’s tough. Complex. Very time consuming. I am time-poor. So your portfolio has one purpose: Dazzle me. From the first page. Show me what you got. Now is your chance to make me double-take. Make me actually stop the other thing I’m doing. I get about 20 seconds to jump through your PDF. Often on an iPhone. On the way to a meeting. So make it count. Beautifully crafted, brilliant ideas. And don’t worry, it need’t have actually been accepted by the client (although that always gets extra kudos). Show me your cut. The one that floats your boat.
And being SomeOne, we do want to see your logo work. But make sure it is applied to something, inventively, progressively, interestingly. Make a BrandWorld — not just an Illustrator vector whacked on a LiveImage Photoshop file. Show me how the work goes deep. How you use it to create a rich brand world... not another logo rubber-stamped everywhere. If I cover the logo, what else is there to tell me who’s talking? Make it all shine. Dazzle me.
Copy: Show me you can write, not just make other peoples writing look good, and you’ll get my attention. A witty, smart, appropriate CV will always add value. Never underestimate the CV. It’s old-school, but it tells me a lot. it tells me you can string a sentence together... which probably means you could speak to a client, which probably means you are confident, which probably means you are good. Probably.
Strategy: What was the big idea behind a project? We start all our credentials with a quick run through of: What the challenge was. How we approached it. What the results were. Why it worked. Where it worked. It’s a really simple construct, but if you can answer each of the sections, you get a quick and effective way of describing the creative work behind the creative work. Show me you think. And how you think. And where that thinking works.
You: If you get hired you will love what you do. You won’t quite believe you get paid to do it. You will always be amazed that you’ve managed to make a career out of doing stuff you love. In fact, You’re always going to be waiting to get found out. Everyday you get to go to a cool studio, in the coolest city in the world, to work with the coolest clients on the planet, to just do cool stuff for them, with the coolest people... then go out for drinks with them all. That isn’t a job. That is amazing.
So get excited. If you don’t want it more than the next person, the next person will probably get it. Don’t be annoying, be clever. Think — what’s going on right now? What is topical. What are they up to? How can I be useful? Then do it.
10,000 hours: You are probably young. Fresh from college even. And that’s cool. That’s how most of our designers start. But 10,000 hours is widely accepted to be how long it takes to be an expert. In anything. From playing the guitar to the way you operate on peoples brains. It’s the same with design. You need to do your time. There is no quick fix. You can’t be an overnight expert. So do your time.
The Beatles went to Hamburg to rack up their hours faster than waiting the usual 10 years (the average time it takes to get to 10,000 hours under your belt). They started playing at 8pm and got home at 8am. Every day. For Months. You are no different. To get noticed, to get hired, to keep the job, to get promoted, paid more, you need to be the first in, and the last out. Everyday. All the time.
Getting the job is tough. Keeping it is harder.
Other parts in the series:
What employers look for #1, by Eric Karjaluoto of smashLAB
What employers look for #2, by Jim Walls of 160over90
What employers look for #3, by Rochelle Fainstein of Sterling Brands
What employers look for #5, by Blair Thomson of Believe in
Photography of the SomeOne workspace by Alex Edouard.