I receive a continual stream of CVs and enquiries from designers and interns, and in a similar way to 'The X-Factor' and 'Britain's Got Talent', I usually have to spend time sifting through a lot of mediocrity to discover a small amount of potential.
As an agency owner I believe it's my duty to support and nurture those who work, and want to work in our industry. They are the future and in these tough times I appreciate that it's harder than ever out there. You need to make a significant first impression on a creative/art director and to do so I believe you should follow a few basic rules (if you're pitching yourself to human resources that's another kettle of fish). I don't want to see mediocrity, and neither should you.
A spread from You are the map maker
Not only academically (to me this is actually less crucial) but more importantly in how you conceptualise your thinking, how you articulate yourself and more significantly, your ideas.
Show attention to detail:
I need to see why you are better than everyone else. The fine details that make all the difference, even if that means stripping away unnecessary detail to produce a more effective end result. Recognising the difference highlights your true ability to understand your craft and the brief.
Demonstrate typographic understanding:
This means a lot to me. You absolutely must understand the basic principals of typography and grid systems — your CV is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate this. Getting the typography right and presenting a beautiful CV will have an almost guaranteed positive impact on my perspective of you from the outset. Laziness in typography, in my opinion, is the cardinal sin. There are many resources to help in this area. So if you struggle, do your homework and practice a lot. It'll pay off.
Ideally, I'd be looking for graduate level. But saying that, if you can demonstrate a creative talent and skill level that pulls the rug from beneath my feet I won't care how you got there. Studio experience is always really important for a non-junior role and preferably with an agency on my radar. Either way I'm looking for enthusiasm, passion, obsession, and the ability to gain creative inspiration in any shape or form, from anywhere — not just design blogs and other studios.
Show ideas and thinking:
This is absolutely key. The golden ticket. Work devoid of any ideas or thought to me is worthless and simply decoration. Demonstrate that you have a really strong conceptual mind and you're halfway there. Articulate those ideas into beautiful, original design and bingo! You won the race. Never, under any circumstances, rely on boring clichés and stereotypes.
Be original and never knowingly plagiarise work for your advantage.
Not now, not ever.
I prefer designers who are as equally obsessed about their chosen profession as I am. There really is no place in my studio, or any decent studio for that matter, for mediocrity of any shape or form.
Outside the Believe in studio
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 #4, by Simon Manchipp of SomeOne