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Sepideh Zolfaghari, Graphic Design Student, Kingston University

14 min, 9 sec read
10:15 AM | 4 September 2015
by Melisa Dagli
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Sepideh Zolfaghari is a graphic design student who is approaching her third and final year at Kingston University. Enthusiastic, curious and hard-working, Sepideh has worked across all types of disciplines during her time at Kingston and doesn't want to stop. Her main aspiration is to create work which is exciting and engaging, and she dreams to work in advertising or on music videos. When she's not designing she's either reading about design, listening to music or planning her next adventure. 

What attracted you to wanting to work in the creative industries?

During my time at school a lot of my friends had their mind on what they wanted to go ahead and study, however I was never fully sure what area I wanted to explore. In high school we had to study a technology subject so I randomly chose graphic design.

I found myself going into this with no clue what graphic design was (I still don’t, as it’s a very tough thing to define) but after school I found myself looking into designers and reading up design blogs. At school the two subjects I enjoyed the most were art and graphics.

"I knew I wanted to study something I enjoyed, as in my mind if you study something you enjoy, you’re more likely to do better in that subject."

I knew I wanted to go ahead and study something I enjoyed, as in my mind if you study something you enjoy, you’re more likely to do better in that subject. This was proven in my GCSE grades, as I did the best in those two subjects.

Also, an automatic thing I did was search for adverts / music videos on YouTube that I had seen on the TV or at the cinema and looked at videos like ‘the making of _____ advert’ or Googling who created certain music videos which caught my eye.

I have always been interested in who creates adverts and music videos and how they were made. For me, I think the first set of adverts I remember falling in love with whilst I was in high school were Sony’s. The few that really stuck out in my head were the 'Sony Bravia: Colour Like No Other' adverts by advertising agency, Fallon. The one I remember admiring was the Play-Doh rabbit commercial with all the little Play-Doh rabbits coming out onto the streets of New York City.

"I remember reading an interview on Creative Review online and after I read it I was like I want to be a creative."

I remember reading an interview on Creative Review online and after I read it I was like ‘I want to be a creative'. I still dream of one day working on a project as exciting and on as large scale as this one once I leave university.

Also music-wise I was brought up around a lot of hip-hop music, thanks to my older brother in the days when he would pick me up from school blasting songs out of his car. One of the first artists I was introduced to was of course Kanye West, which lead me to researching his music more and music videos such as the 'Good Life' video directed by Jonas Euvremer and Francois Rousselet. I remember when I watched it I was curious to know how they made the video and always wondered what it’s like to work on such a great project. Curiosity has lead me into exploring design further.

How have you found studying graphic design at Kingston University?

I’ve really enjoyed my time at Kingston so far. I have done such a variety of projects like I mentioned in my first article I wrote for FutureRising. My second year has really helped me decide where my interests lie as a creative.

"The main reason I chose to study graphic design at Kingston is because it’s known for thinking differently."

The main reason I chose to study graphic design at Kingston is because it’s known for thinking differently. I remember going to their open day and seeing the work, talking to the students. I could just imagine myself in the environment. Something I would really advise with picking the university you want to go to is to do your research and talk to students who are there. Also look at the work being produced from students and go to their graduate shows. I can’t emphasise this enough! It heavily informed my decision.

The main thing that stands out about Kingston to me is that the course really moulds you as a designer / creative. They give you a brief and ask you to approach it in the way which you feel is best - it's up to you to apply the appropriate context. I have realised I wouldn’t call myself a ‘designer’. Why? I read the following in a book titled “What they didn’t teach you in design school” by Phil Cleaver and I felt the message below defines my current viewpoint as a creative:

"I have never regarded myself as a Designer. I am a Graphic Communicator because I create Big Ideas, not Designs. Surely, great graphic design is not merely the aesthetic arrangement of lines and shapes and typography, great graphic design is the transformation of a Big Idea into an unforgettable message! – George Lois."

The years are structured really well and the tutors at Kingston each have their specialism so you know who to go to with a project. All the tutors have been a great help throughout my time at Kingston, especially Zelda and Paul who were my first year tutors. You can approach them with a question or two and they will always make time for you.

Also the relationship between the 1st, 2nd and 3rd years is great. We are encouraged to talk to all years and we have tutorials with each other, so it’s really nice how we aren’t sectioned off and we can easily walk into each other's studios. I love how collaboration is really encouraged and we do many projects each year, some individually and some group based.

"There is always something to be thinking about and doing with the amount we are given!"

There is always something to be thinking about and doing with the amount we are given! They work you hard which is great, as it shall prepare me for the industry. Every time I’ve been to a talk, event or a studio visit there is someone from Kingston who works there / someone who knows someone from Kingston, which is really encouraging for us as students to hear!

How did you land being apart of the Wimbledon Media & Photography Team? How did you find the experience?

One of the first projects we were given during our 2nd Year was about creating a 3 minute film based around a random sport we were given. My friend Sam and I enjoyed that project so much that we wanted to see if we could possibly contact Wimbledon to experience more sport driven work.

We thought nothing of it and to be honest, we didn’t expect a response. However we got one very quickly and they were eager to have us down at the qualifying rounds to join the Media & Photography team and go around various matches and photograph them. They were great hosts to us and gave us badges which gave us access to just about everywhere and gave us food, drink and all which we didn’t expect either!

I think landing exciting opportunities is mostly down to yourself, and simply sending your work out and contacting the right people. I used to be incredibly shy about sending my work. I used to think ‘Oh but I don’t want to pester them…’ or ‘I am not good enough.’ Don’t get me wrong, I still think this, but a friend of mine, Marianne, told me to just simply send out my work and not to worry. Since then, I always have that lingering in the back of my head and I send my work to appropriate people. I can’t thank Marianne enough for her words of encouragement throughout my time at Kingston. Even though she’s graduated she has always been someone I can approach with questions and feedback on work and we chat and meet up whenever we get the chance.

"With your work, don’t just send it to anyone. Really consider if your work links to theirs."

Also, if you’ve sent your work and don’t hear back after a week or so don’t be afraid to pop a polite email maybe to remind them about your initial email. It’s happened to me before where I hadn’t heard back in ages but then I sent a reminder and they responded the next day. Designers are busy people and receive many emails a day so there is no harm in doing so. Plus, it shows you’re eager!

Tell us about your experience working as a freelance graphic designer for UKYouth?

My friend Paige and I have been going back to our art foundation to do talks about Kingston and answer any questions about applying if people are interested. Since we met at college we ended up going to our art foundation together and we established a great friendship plus a really good working relationship too which is a huge plus.

During our first year when we went back to do a talk about our course, our foundation tutor, Mary (who is a legend in our eyes) told us about a freelance design job going over the summer and asked us both if we were interested. We took the details and straight away set up a meeting with the lady who was running the job. They were interested in us and we were interested in them so it worked out perfectly.

They asked us to work together with them and the Cabinet Office to design a teaching pack they had created on Democracy for digital platforms as well as print to be distributed across the UK. It was a mammoth task as they were large packs.

"Initially it sounded pretty simple, but there was so much to the project we didn’t realise until we got stuck in."

We came up with various concepts and visuals which we pitched to the UK Youth Council, and then they asked us if we were keen on visiting the Cabinet Office in London. So we had to create a presentation to pitch our concepts and what we had started off with, which was initially quite a nerve-wracking thought, however we were both really excited to do this as we got to see the other client and gain more opinions.

Throughout the whole process we had many meetings with the lovely Tracy who was the leader of the project from the UK Youth Council and our foundation tutor Mary got involved to help with the design aspect. The project really tested our design and time management skills as well as how to deal with technical faults under short deadlines. At times this was hard as we were all in different locations so we had to really be patient and work collectively to solve the small issues.

Paige and I definitely learnt a lot from this project and since then we’ve worked on a few more projects together and we keep learning from each other every time we collaborate which is great and I look forward to working with her on future projects.

Which creative agency would you love to work for and why?

This is such a tough question! There are numerous studios and agencies out there, which create such remarkable work. I could give a list, which would stretch from Brighton to Scotland of these agencies.

"I feel so lucky to have London right on my doorstep where there are many opportunities, it’s just about going after them."

I feel so lucky to have London right on my doorstep where there are many opportunities, it’s just about going after them. I recently visited Wieden + Kennedy which is a very exciting agency. Their studio in London really reflects their approach to their work as it is just so fun and fresh. Another agency I am really keen on is Mother. Once again another agency who create stand out work from clients like IKEA to to Stella Artois. Whenever I see their work it leaves an imprint in my mind and they always create an advert which communicates the fact in the time scale given perfectly.

On a slightly different tangent, I am interested in music and film too. There are some great directors out there who I would equally love to work for. Firstly Us ( who are a directing duo (Chris & Luke) who actually studied at Kingston together and that’s how they met. They have directed work for many like Cadbury’s, Nike, Benga and Labrinth to name a few.

"Seeing that they have come from Kingston really ignites a spark in my enthusiasm and has driven me to explore film and art direction more…"

Seeing that they have come from Kingston really ignites a spark in my enthusiasm and has driven me to explore film and art direction more as their work is so well constructed, considered and filmed. It’s something I would love to see myself exploring in the future hopefully with my friend Paige.

The last people I shall briefly discuss are Megaforce. They do work along the same lines as Us. They are a bunch of four directors (Charles, Clément, Léo and Raphaël) who have worked for people like Dizzee Rascal, Kid Cudi, Eurostar and Nike. Their most recent piece of work was for Rihanna in her BBHMM music video, which looked super. In fact they directed it collaboratively with her, which sounds like an exciting prospect, however must have been a challenge at the same time. Seeing these agencies work, I would love to be a part of the process of filming a commercial or music video.

I think something all of these creatives have in common is that the work they produce is worth talking about.

"One day I would love to simply hop on the tube and just overhear someone say to someone ‘Oh did you see this advert / music video on TV last night?’ and to know that you’ve worked on it."

One day I would love to simply hop on the tube and just overhear someone say to someone ‘Oh did you see this advert / music video on TV last night?’ and to know that you’ve worked on it. An ultimate goal, would be to work on an OK Go music video as they make such remarkable videos. Check them out if you haven’t. That’s work I would love to be able to create after university and hopefully in my final year at university too!

Which advert campaign has caught your eye in the last 6 months and why?

One that has caught my eye recently is the Harvey Nichols new rewards advert by Adam&EveDDB. Harvey Nichols are known for creating quite stand-out adverts, which are quite cheeky. The concept is based on real CCTV footage of shoplifters from the store with colourful animations over the faces of the shoplifters to cover their identity. At the end of the ad the tagline pops up of ‘Love freebies? Get them legally.’ Then a screen pops up promoting the rewards app by Harvey Nichols.

I think it’s so well executed and stands out in comparison to your standard advert, which would just advertise this app and what it does. However Harvey Nichols have approached it in a more conceptual way, which embeds itself in the viewer's head and it’s provocative. It’s not a boring advert to say the least, and I love how Harvey Nichols like to take a risk when it comes to their adverts. In my opinion it pays off.

Sell yourself. Why should someone hire you?

I think you should be able to sell yourself in a short and sweet way. When someone asks me this question I imagine I have an elevator ride to go from the ground floor of a building to the top and be able to sell myself. The average length of an elevator ride is about 30 seconds so technically you have about the length of a tweet to be able to sell yourself. (In New York you will be luckier as apparently the average length of an elevator ride is 118 seconds.) So here are my 140 characters:

"I’m Sepideh and I am a thinker, maker and doer. I want to make you think ‘I wish I did that.’ Give me a pen and paper and let’s get to work." @hellosepi

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