As the newest member of Grey Coffee… I wanted to share an insight into my creative experience so far and also let you in on the truths about starting my first graduate role in the middle of Covid-19. I enjoyed developing my creative design practice throughout University and having gained industry experience as a postgraduate I am now embracing a Design Intern role with Grey Coffee which will help to further develop my skills commercially as a designer.
Read on to find out more about, the ups and downs of studying a creative design course, what industry design shows have to offer, key tips for current creatives, and what it means to be a Grey Coffee newbie WFH in what feels like an endless lockdown.
Studying a Creative Design Course
Uni was the best creative experience for me, having a dedicated creative space and industry-standard printing facilities at my disposal for the very first time was a blessing and I found I thrived in this creative studio environment. The studio space became my home for 3rd year and I took the opportunity to fully immerse myself in my creative practice, you would rarely find me anywhere else. Although this environment was very inspiring and collaborative, I also found it restrictive and comparative at times. I enjoy the ‘hands-on’ creative process the most, but due to course restraints I didn’t always feel I had complete freedom in developing my ideas and practice the way I envisioned. The intensity of this full-time course wouldn’t suit everyone but I grew to absolutely love it. Being part of a smaller institution was great for me as it felt more like a community, I embraced every opportunity within my course and representing the wider uni, this included being a student representative, attending industry workshops and being a key part of the uni netball team which was one of the highlights of my experience.
The opportunities and experiences offered throughout my time at university were pivotal in developing me into the person I am today. From trips to trade fairs abroad, professional guest speakers to industry live briefs and competitions, the course really did offer a huge chance to build my personal and professional development as a creative and this is by far the area I feel I gained the most!
Industry Insights and Design shows
New designers is an exhibition in London allowing industry professionals to discover and scout the next generation of design talent from graduate exhibitors. Having attended New designers as a visitor before and during my time of study, I had always aspired to be one of the ‘chosen ones’ who got to exhibit at the renowned exhibition. There had been 3 years of anticipation leading up to this point and incredibly, I was accepted as one of the 2019 graduate exhibitors.
Our uni was lucky enough to secure a larger space to exhibit and consequently took many more exhibitors than other unis, this meant the stand was a little overcrowded (overwhelming) and the experience was diluted, as was the opportunity. Networking was challenging and I felt frustrated that I couldn’t make the most out of this opportunity, with a smaller number of exhibitors I feel it would have been a much richer experience. Despite the above, I am glad to have experienced attending the show as a proud exhibitor. I took so much inspiration from all of the exhibitors and I am grateful for the experience and opportunity to exhibit my graduate collection at such a prestigious show, I have no doubt this will have added benefit to my professional practice.
During the New Designers show, my collection was spotted by a talent scout for future opportunities and this led to being shortlisted and chosen by a board of judges to exhibit within the ‘New Talent’ area at the Surface Design Show in London the following February (2020). I took time (around working full time) to refine my identity as a designer and it gave me the freedom to prepare a curated stand I was proud to present to Industry. In reflection, this was a key part of my creative career to date and I was so lucky to have such a rare experience.
The surface design show gave me the platform to have important conversations about my options for my design future, meet and learn from inspiring peers, build connections for future collaborations as well as allow me to invite key professionals to visit my stand and meet face to face. This was my very first creative opportunity as a postgraduate and I gained so much from the experience, it gave me confidence in my practice which I hadn’t discovered throughout my uni experience and this opportunity wouldn’t have come about without exhibiting as a student at New Designers.
Tips and Reminders for Creative Students:
- Enjoy your creative course: Embrace your creativity and develop and discover YOUR practice not what you think the tutors or peers want to see, grades are important but a rich studio ethos will prove invaluable to your post uni practice too. Get out of it what you want!
- Be a sponge: Take every opportunity to learn and drive your creative or professional practice, actively engage with industry events or workshops, this will arm you with skills other creatives won’t have and will make you employable and approachable.
- Talk to people: Engaging in creative, educational or business-led conversation is the best way to gain experience and confidence! This will naturally help you to gain contacts, network effectively and nurture those all important future relationships.
GC Graduate Intern Role
I planned to develop my creative practice further in 2020 and luckily I managed to complete a short design internship shortly before covid struck. Due to the pandemic, a design internship in France was cancelled, travel plans to South America postponed, I left my long term customer service position, moved back to Leeds (where I studied) and started a Digital Content internship.
In November 2020, an opportunity opened up to work for GC and it was one that couldn’t be missed. This role would provide the opportunity to further develop my skills commercially as a designer and kick start my creative career. Within the intern role I will be developing new skills within the area of brand strategy and developing my knowledge and passion for interiors and styling. I will also have the opportunity to gain invaluable insight and experience working across brand, digital and interior client projects.
I was particularly excited about starting this new role but was understandably apprehensive about changing jobs, embarking on my first ‘proper’ creative role and working remotely in the middle of a global pandemic. It was scary! Working from home in a makeshift office space has taken a lot of getting used to, and I’m sure I’m not alone in missing the little things like the morning commute or face to face team interactions. I have struggled with creativity and confidence working alone however I am 100% supported in my new role and this has made my remote working experience much easier.
Finding a purpose outside of work helps to break up the week. I have found that setting challenges, running/walking and getting outside at least once a day increases my morale and helps to alleviate the struggles of home working in lockdown. I am grateful to be engaged in a role that is exciting, challenging and enjoyable and I have learnt so much already! I have so much to look forward to and there are exciting times ahead, I’m looking forward to getting out to absorb new creative inspiration, network, set up in a co-working space and embrace new and exciting projects in 2021!