A Day in the Life of a Designer

Sarah Porter
  • Senior Designer
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It’s my turn to share my story on what life is like for a designer here at gm-design…

Tell us about your typical working day as a designer at gm-design

For me, a typical day looks something like this…

Once I’ve checked through my emails, my first port-of-call is coffee, to kick start my day. I check my schedule, and if there are any pressing deadlines for that morning, I have a quick catch-up with the relevant Account Manager to align on timings.

I then jump straight into my first job, creating digital asset proposals for an upcoming product launch for a global hair care brand, then move onto poster design concepts for a health client. In the afternoon, I am implementing client feedback on an educational workbook.

Overseeing the design team, I schedule time to sit with a junior designer to run through their latest work. Afterwards, I harness my typography and illustration skills to create social media posts for gm-design.

What are your favourite and least favourite things about working as a creative?

The variety of challenges, the satisfaction of creating something new and seeing the final result are what I love most about working as a creative.

I’d say one of the biggest challenges is juggling contrasting opinions. By keeping in mind that the briefing criteria should be the main focus, you’re able to step back and find the right solution as a team, with the confidence that it’s fulfilling all the client’s requirements.

When did you decide you wanted to become a designer, what inspired you?

From a young age, I used to spend hours drawing and painting. I always loved to create: writing little stories and illustrating them into comic strips. Drawing has always been a form of therapy and escapism for me. It wasn’t until I was studying A Levels that I realised there was a way I could make this hobby a reality.

I was struggling to see any solid career prospects in fine art, so I was considering English Literature as an alternative degree subject, thinking this broad skill could open more doors in the future. Then, vitally, my art teacher told me he could see I was a designer rather than an artist. This realisation opened my eyes to a vocation where I could use both my art skills and my creative, analytical thinking, for a valuable purpose that went beyond merely decoration.

Which steps did you take to get you where you are today?

As my Sixth Form only offered a broad Art and Design A Level, rather than a specialised Graphic Design qualification, I needed to follow this up with an Art Foundation course before I could go to university. This enabled me to experience various areas of creative study, including Textiles, Photography and even Welding!

When I started my Graphic Design module, I felt a step behind many of my peers who had already studied Graphic Design at A Level. However, this was my time to make silly design mistakes, use ugly typefaces, and break all the rules in order to learn them.

I felt like I developed my skills and knowledge a great deal at this time and discovered a love for typography that has stayed with me to this day. I chose a Graphic Design degree that also had an emphasis on Typography and was lucky enough to benefit from the large letterpress facility my university offered.

I was really fortunate to gain employment based on my degree show, and started working at a local design agency straight from university. I stayed there for six and a half years, progressing from Junior to Senior Designer, growing with the agency itself.

Then after a year in Australia, working in the different environments of a printers and an advertising agency, I returned to the UK with a more rounded body of experience, and landed at gm-design at the beginning of last year… hitting the ground running!

What 3 words would you use to describe your fellow gm. creatives?

Eclectic, inspired and ambitious.

Can you share your tips for overcoming a creative-block?

Research and looking for design inspiration is my first response. If I’m still uninspired, sometimes stepping back, working on something else for a while and then coming back fresh is enough to get me back on track.

If neither works, calling a group brainstorm with the other designers is a sure fix. We aren’t islands, and we shouldn’t sit alone struggling. The best ideas often come from collaborative work, as we all see different possibilities in a problem, and bouncing our thoughts off each other often sparks something great.

What are your favourite go-to sources for design inspiration?

Having Design Week sent to my inbox every day ensures I get at least a tiny dose of inspiration and industry news every day. But when I have the time to purposefully set about looking for inspiration, I log into Feedly to check my favourite design blogs, and browse my Twitter feed to see what design agencies have shared. I also visit websites like Smashing Magazine and Designspiration.

What advice would you give to any young people who would like to work in a similar role?

I’d recommend gaining as much experience as possible alongside your studies. Approach design agencies for unpaid work experience during your university holidays, even if you can only afford to give up a couple weeks of your summer break!

Real work experience will give you a valuable insight into the day-to-day workings of an agency and will look great on your CV. If you make a good impression, you could find your work experience turning into a job or internship. This will also help you determine whether being a designer is really what you want to do.

Your time at university is your opportunity to be really adventurous with the work you produce. You’ll rarely experience this kind of creative freedom again, so take advantage of it. Take risks and push yourself to create work you’re proud to put in your portfolio.

Any parting words?

Be proud of your successes and learn from any criticisms, just don’t take them too personally!

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