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Design industry
careers guide

Fancy a career in the advertising industry? We have all the knowledge and tips to help you become a design pro.




What is design?

"Aims to solve a visual or physical problem in the world."

We use design to solve a visual or physical problem in the world. However, when it comes to the creative industries, we don't just solve the problem we do everything to make it the perfect solution. If it's being designed it's probably being sold so it's all about creating the most beautiful and desirable product, website, image, logo that you can imagine.

Dieter Rams, one of the godfathers of 20th Century design, said that good design should adhere to ‘10 Principles’. Whilst we don't always do things by the book, we must admit that his foundation for good design applies to almost every role in the industry. Later on in this guide we'll go into detail on the different design based roles you could find your way into.

In the UK, the design council stands for a better life through design, they believe in delivering real change through design and put peoples passion at the heart of our future. It's quite heady stuff but they are not wrong, design influences our life an incredible amount and therefore it deserves the upmost respect as well as the best of our efforts. If you're committed to perfection, you're in the right place.

It doesn't all go to plan though, that keyboard sat in front of you is one of the finest examples of a bad design legacy you'll ever come across. Not quite on the scale of exploding yoghurt pots for daily irritation but hear this out.

There was a time when everything typed was done through typewriters, the original layout was in alphabetical order and once people got used to it, they became pretty fast at typing. So fast, that if you worked in a factory, typing all day, you kept breaking your typewriter, that meant ordering parts, fixing machines and generally a lot of downtime for a person being paid.

So the Qwerty keyboard was invented, with the sole aim of slowing typist down so they couldn't break the machine. Problem solved. Fast forward to now and we've developed materials and technology to the point where it's pretty difficult to break a typewriter by going to fast, there are other ways, but that's not the problem.

The legacy of the qwerty keyboard means that we are all unable to increase the speed at which we communicate with each other via typing, considering the amount of typing required, we could be saving billions of hours of time a day just sending emails quicker and we would all have a better chance of hitting an essay deadline.

Taking us back to the more sophisticated world of Dieter Rams, the one area he missed was that design is never finished. There is always a way to improve the look, feel, materials, longevity, durability and these are all considerations to make when you are designing.

The effect of good design makes it seem like a very sensible options, it makes companies more profitable, it saves people time, come to think of it, it provides a better life.

So if you have always been interested and intrigued by how something has been created, if you enjoy imagining or sketching your own creations or if you are simply aware of good design and how it improves your life, it may be that you have a passion to get into the creative industries and specifically be a designer or work with designers.

Ten principles of good design

  • Innovative
  • Makes a product useful
  • Aesthetic
  • Makes a product understandable
  • Unobtrusive
  • Honest
  • Long-lasting
  • Thorough
  • Environmentally friendly
  • As little design as possible

How design works

It's hard to argue against the thought that everything on this earth has been designed, nature is debatable but everything you can see that hasn't grown itself has been designed by a human.

Here we have listed the common areas that designers end up working in and what that sort of work involves.

Graphic design; these guys work with graphical images. That might be in the form of illustrations, images or typography. Graphic designers often work on logos and artwork for posters you might see, nowadays this work is completed on computers with software such as Adobe Creative Suite.

Print design; focuses on the same formats as above, and with most of the work now completed on computer. In the past print designers would have used traditional printing processes such as a Linotype Machine. Nowadays, they have to make considerations for where and how their work will be shown, testing and perfecting colours and typography.

Industrial design; concentrates on the physical objects in our life. Whether that be aeroplanes, cars, laptops or your kitchen sink. Industrial designers would have sweated and thoroughly figured out the connection between product, the user and the environment.

Interaction design; has witnessed an expansion in jobs recently. Interaction design accounts for the digital products we use and the software that supports them. The first part is ‘User Interface Design’, otherwise known as UI Design. Here design is used to make sure you can navigate your mobile, email or your TV menu with minimum confusion and maximum enjoyment.

Alongside UI, is UX Design. This stands for User Experience Design, here the goal is to get you from A to B in the most seamless way. That might be using a piece of software on your machine or how you experience your favourite websites. UX design takes many cues from psychology, anthropology, computer science and industrial design to help build natural journeys that inform and deliver an outcome.

Across Industrial and Interaction design sit ‘Product Designers’ who invent both physical and digital products that people can use. With the influx of software, apps and websites, ‘Web Designers’ are sometimes called product designers for their skills and creations.

Typically a web designer will understand design and code (computer languages) such as HTML and CSS, their job will be to bring websites to life for a developer to build logic behind the scenes. More traditional product designers use Computer Aided Software (CAD) and Computer Aided Machinery (CAM) such as AutoCad and 3D Printers to bring their creations to life.

Interior Design and Fashion Design focus on materials, shapes, the combination of different elements to build a complete picture. The same principles of good design always apply but they are consistently working with different spaces, shapes and sizes.

Architecture; is an area in it's own right but very much and design based role that requires a lot of technical knowhow. Architects can spend up to 7 years at university and on placements until qualified but there's a chance you'll be designing the worlds biggest skyscraper or the next best house.

We mustn't forget the disciplines of furniture design, urban planning, landscaping and even quirky but very important areas such as policy design and service design.

Overall, if you have an eye for problem solving, a dedication to learning a skill so that your imagination can come to life and build an understanding of what makes design so important, we think you are the perfect person to go into this industry.




Design examples

  • Berg’s Little Printer
    Berg, 2012 (Product)

  • GOV.UK
    Government Digital Service, 2013 (Website)

  • PillPack
    Ideo, 2014 (Product)

Jobs in design

Many types of designers need specific skills. For example, graphic designers really need a strong grasp of image software such as the Adobe Suite and web designers should really know a thing or two about HTML and CSS. That doesn’t mean to say that you can’t work in design if you don’t have these kinds of skills, you can still join the industry that you are passionate about in a supporting role whilst you up skill.

Supporting roles

As with any agency, there is an opportunity within a design agency to be to work in accounts or client services, making sure you understand their needs and relay it to your team of designers.

Skills required:

  • Organisation
  • Understanding of design
  • Communication
  • Self-motivated
  • English and maths
  • Sociable

Roles:

  • Account Executive
    £18k to £25k
  • Junior Project Manager
    £22k to £35k


Design

The variety of roles above include a wide skillset, you will most probably focus on some particular skills but could also become a jack of all trades.

You’ll need to be aware of the latest design behaviours and have plenty of ideas up your sleeve. Being strong in image and editing software such as the Adobe Creative Suite is a must and a great place to start.

As a designer, you will ultimately work on solving the problem, whatever it might be. They might sketch up illustrations, wireframe a mobile app or plan what materials should be used to build a product.

Skills required:

  • Appropriate software knowledge and experience
  • Idea generation
  • Idea creation
  • Understanding of end goal and deadlines

Roles:

  • Junior Designer
    £18k to £30k
  • Junior Web Designer
    £18k to £30k
  • Junior UI/UX Designer
    £18k to £30k
  • Graphic Designer
    £18k to £30k


Production / Technical

Production is the final part in the design jigsaw, it takes the final concepts, agreed creative work and gets it into the required useable format.

If anything needs to be built, like the product or the app mentioned above, the production team will then get to work making it a reality. If anything is going to print they will test it first and perfect it.

Not all agencies have their own production team.

Skills required:

  • Understanding of code (HTML/CSS/PHP/Ruby/Python)
  • Application or device specific experience
  • Design experience

Roles:

  • Junior Developer
    £18k to £27k
  • Front End Developer
    £25k to £40k
  • Junior iOS Developer
    £22k to £30k
  • Junior Android Developer
    £22k to £30k



Design companies

Below we’ve listed a bunch of design agencies who specialise in graphics, print, product, industrial and web design. And if none of these take your fancy, you’ll often find design roles in advertising, marketing and branding agencies too.

Small (0-50 people)

  • Seeper
  • Catch
  • Why Not Associates
  • SEA Design
  • Magpie Studio
  • Tynan D’Arcy
  • Elmwood
  • R Design
  • Design Studio
  • Hatrick Design

Medium (50-250 people)

  • ustwo
  • Berg
  • Human After All
  • The Agency of Design
  • Barnbrook
  • BoagMcCann
  • Big Fish
  • Williams Murray Hamm
  • Purpose
  • Johnson Banks

Large (250+ people)

  • Bostock and Pollitt
  • Frog Design
  • Seymourpowell
  • HMKM
  • Pentagram
  • The Partners
  • Ideo
  • Turner Duckworth
  • Imagination
  • Conran + Partners



  • Designing Design by Kenya Hara
  • The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • Dieter Rams: As Little Design as Possible by Sophie Lovell
  • A Book Apart, Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro
  • Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge
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