Interview with student Christopher O’doherty

I was asked to be interviewed by a current student on a Graphic Design degree course at Worcester University. It was quite a strange feeling to be asked at first, as it really doesn’t seem that long ago that I was a student at University! I’ve been a graduate for 3 years now and so much has changed in myself as a designer and how I approach and undertake work. It’s not easy coming out fresh from a degree and entering the working design world.

It was a pleasure to answer Christopher’s questions and I have included a transcript of the interview below so that other inspiring designers can have a read and maybe find it useful.

Hey Rachel as we discussed before I was going to have a quick interview with you about your experience in the Graphic Design industry.

First I want to ask why did you decide to pursue a career in this industry?

I went to Hereford College of Arts and did a 2 year National Diploma in Media Arts. It covered graphic design, photography, film and animation. It was great to be able to get a feel for each area in the media Arts and I instantly loved doing the graphic design project briefs. I have always been really interested in layout design (magazines, posters) and also I’m a huge fan of typography as well. So this is the reason I chose to do a BA Hons degree in Graphic & Media design and when I finished that, I found work in a printers doing a lot of layout design and eventually through that got the confidence to start my own freelance business which has been great!

That’s interesting I remember reading that you worked for Orphans Press, what was your first project there and what challenges did you encounter?

Yes, Orphans Press was my first Graphic Design job and I was lucky enough to get the job straight after Uni. My first project was to work on a website for a local interior designer. It was a minimalist website showing off photos of her stunning rooms and it also had to include a modern gallery page. I still look back at that project and love it! There were MANY challenges working at a printers such as sending the files to print in the correct way, getting to know about paper stock, the differences between litho and digital printing, how to layout a book and turn it into an ebook, working with large format printers, mounting designs, working with the print technicians and the web developers and being able to bounce ideas off of each other. Being part of the team within a printing business was a lot different to being at university but it gave me great business skills and confidence talking to clients.

​Of course confidence with clients is a must and can be hard to develop as I have been learning at university. It must be interesting working first hand on the practical side of the print process rather than just the design concept,  from your experience so far what would you say was most important, draft-manship or software knowledge?

From my experience so far, I would say draftsmanship is a very important skill to have as a Graphic Designer. It is significant to be able to brainstorm an idea and research it thoroughly before going near any design software, even if it is just a creative meeting with your designer colleagues or a quick sketch on a piece of paper. Software skills are very important too but this is a skill you can develop over time. I had quite basic software knowledge when I came out of uni as I liked creating ‘hands on’ graphic design mainly (letterpress, paper and scissors etc!). But over the last few years I have become very confident in my software abilities and I’m still constantly learning new things and always will!

​I agree in my experience so far, a good level of draftsmanship is required before applying software treatment from my experience, especially in planning typography placement. How would you say is the best way to apply substance to a design? Getting a feel for its purpose?

I have personally found that the best way to apply substance to a design is to thoroughly research the client/ brand. For logo’s and websites, I have my own questionnaires that I get my clients to fill in before I start the job so I can really get a feel for what they are wanting from my design, it’s purpose in the world and the target audience it’s aimed at. Once you have a knowledge of what they want, then look at competitors branding and start doing your own research into styles and colour palettes. Keeping up to date with modern trends in design is really important, I am subscribed to various daily emails from the design industry and also I’m a big fan of Pinterest and follow a lot of designers on there which I check daily.

​Very interesting, I have always made effort to consider current trends but never thought to do client questionnaires. That seems like a very effective approach having seen your portfolio of work. Speaking of which, where would you like to see yourself in the design world 5 years from now?

In 5 years times I see myself being a Creative Director of my own graphic design studio. I’d love to be able to work for people all around the globe from various cultures as well. I’d also really like to set up my own online shop selling my own prints, wedding stationery and other print based products as I love all things paper since working at a printers.

So my final question would be to ask if you have any nuggets of advice for upcoming designers, without giving your secrets away?

My advice to upcoming designers is to do what makes you really happy within the Graphic Design industry and don’t be afraid to try new things. When I went freelance, that was so scary but if I didn’t go for it then I wouldn’t be enjoying the benefits that I do now, which is; the freedom of working on specific projects, working my own set hours and getting a name for myself in the industry. This advice can also be applied to your work; always try new things instead of staying in a design rut and always be learning new things and adapting to your environment and technological changes.

​Thats a very good approach, we seem on the to be on the same wavelength as I am always trying new things whether its new software or just new practical techniques, thank you for the advice and for sparing the time to answer my questions.

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