5 min read

Life after University, on the other side of the fence working at Shape

Mike Ashurst
Updated on 15 Mar 2024

Wednesday this week marked 3 months since I went full-time at Shape design studio after finishing 2 years at The University of Salford.

Earlier last week I attended my graduation held at the Lowry, outside the university building at Media city. Finishing with a 1st class honours made all of the hard work seem worth it.

It was around the time I was starting my Final Major Project at University, Some time in early February when I come across a recent blog post on Shapes website outlining they were looking for a young, designer with a sense of humour for 3 weeks placement. 

At first I didn't get the innuendo being used and frankly I am a little embarrassed if I'm honest!

I think I may have been a little blinded with sheer excitement at the prospect of getting the chance to get some valuable work experience in a Studio which had a portfolio of clients some would dream of working with!

I remember rushing to my computer early the next morning and sitting there hour after hour putting together a pdf online portfolio good enough for them to consider me. Most studios don’t see much of the applicant, and the hardest thing is putting a personality to the emails or wrk you send but I was in a unique position as Andy and Jason, both owners at Shape were my tutors at University and I got to know them well, more so Jason as we both had an obsession with all things bikes.

This, I feel was what set me apart from the many other applicant who were in my class, as I has similar interest and personality as Andy and Jason, Nevertheless I still felt some pressure to put together a quality, well designed portfolio which not only showcased my talents as a designer, but showed I was the “Prawn” they were looking for.

I remember I made a cringe worthy rip-off of the Starbucks logo.. Picture it, Same colours, same fonts.. but replacing the mermaid with a prawn, Cringe.. I know but it did the trick, I got an email straight back asking me to give the studio a call.

The next day I started my 3 weeks placement. For the duration of my FMP at University I attended the Studio 3 days a week, going in every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday with the following 2 days spent attending University to complete my work I had there. Looking back it was a busy period with me having to spend most of my spare time in the evenings doing my Final Major Project. I finished university with an open mind after completing almost 10 weeks placement at Shape and seeing first hand, how working in a design studio differs from life as a student.

Everyone knows, and gets given the same boring talks from their tutors about how easy we have it as students and how we will have a shock when leaving education to get a job, with the tutors being partly right in the fact that it is generally hard work and at times stressful working this profession, I am really enjoying working since leaving university! I wouldn't change it for anything.

At university we generally had 6 or 7 weeks to complete a brief, which was usually an advertising campaign or a small branding re-design, with us getting a mind-blowing full year to design and build a website with 3 working pages.

Working couldn't be any more different than that at University, I must admit I thought Andy was joking when I got my first full website design with him giving me 2 days to fully complete.

Up to now, 3 months in I have designed almost 10 websites, not to mention the numerous smaller briefs, the odd logo, adding extra pages to existing websites making for a thick portfolio of work, as apposed to the one I had built in the 5 years I spend in education from the 3 years spent at College after School, to moving on to 2 years at University.

Clients include:

Mike Moran Illustration, MadeByRiley, Bloomsbury Music, Turley, Recognosco to name a few, Most of my designs are still in the build stage or waiting for content from the client to push live.

This was a typically boring brief with boring content, lots of downloads and information. The hard part about approaching a brief like this is to pick apart the important information, create hierarchy and break things up so that the site is a simple as possible for the user.

I have just finished designing the recognosco webpage who are one of the largest speech recognition companys in the world. They didn't have a website design when we were approached to deisgn it, and with it I got to re-design their logo and create a brand guidelines for them which was fun.

Amongst the designs I have done upto now, I have been lucky to be given a variety of different project types which keeps it anything but boring, I go to work almost on a daily basis not knowing what I will do, which keeps things fresh and keeps me on my toes. Although I would'nt neccesarily class myself as an Illustrator I have completed a few Illustration briefs, one creating bespoke character designs for a restaurant which opens its doors soon in Manchester, and another more recently for a company called Turley who are "one of the UK’s most successful planning consultancies."

I feel I am slowly getting upto pace in terms of becoming a professional, efficient Web Designer, But I still have a lot of work to do, I still need to work on learning how to build sites which are fully responsive to use on all mobile and desktop devices. Having not done any such work as yet, On one side I am dreading the thought of having to code any sort of design in the studio as the level required to do so far surpasses that of creating a 3 working page site in Dreamweaver at University, But on the other hand I can’t wait to get started and I see it as another challenge where I’m sure I will be tested but It will ultimately make me a better designer. I don’t think I could have asked for a better place to leave University as my first proper job and feel lucky to be in such a position.

Working full-time has started to make me realise that working doesn't have to be a chore, or that place you hate to go to, getting a job I truly enjoy takes away any such feelings and going to work feels good. The daily games of Monopoly brings endless laughs, coupled with the friendly competitiveness of winning makes the dinners that much more enjoyable. We have an on-going leaderboard every month where the one with the least points has to clean the studio, Tom recently sat out of the games for 2 days due to the competitiveness being too much. he says its the best thing he has ever done ha.

Hiya, I'm Mike - Web designer at Shape. My articles usually consist of design related stuff.