From starting my 2015 not too well, getting under-par grades in my first few briefs at University, to getting a job at Shape, This year has had more ups and downs than a rollercoaster.
When I was at University I had a strong urge to succeed and it was this drive which helped me gain a 1st class honours after two short years at Salford. Throughout my education at Wigan College the majority of work we had was print based, and we hardly touched on any digital work, and up to that point I never thought I would want to become a Web Designer. It was in my second semester in my first year at University when we were given a job which we had to design and build our own self promotional online portfolio. This being the first taste of web design, I was pretty bad at it, I never really understood the many aspects which are necessary within web, but are not necessarily present when designing for print.
Throughout my 2 years at Salford University, My interest for Web Design went from strength to strength, and I found myself wanting to choose that career path once I graduated.
In February this year, When I was coming towards the end of my final year at University, We was scheduled to go on a trip to Barcelona which essentially be an overpriced drinking holiday. Just a few weeks before we were scheduled to go, I stumbled across a blog post by Shape Design Studio where they were looking for someone to come in and complete 4 weeks work experience. It seemed kind of fitting that I would come across such an opportunity to work within a Web Design Agency so soon after taking a love for Web Design.
The Blog which started it all!
I quickly emailed them asking if the slot had been taken, and I was told to apply via their email. I decided there and then to miss going Barcelona and instead start to think about my future employment opportunities by creating a portfolio to send too Shape Website Design Studio and potentially gain some valuable work experience and possibly more. I really wanted to get my foot through the door at Shape as I knew they offered a bunch of Website Design Services, which would be of value to me, things like eCommerce Website Deisgns, Full Design and Website Development which would give me the opportunity to build my website coding skills, Branding, Photography, Illustration would potentially help me build a portfolio with more depth in terms of content. Alongside these Design services, Shape Website Design Manchester offer all of the Website Design basics like Search Engine Optimisation, and Content Management which would help me get a better understanding of what it takes to build and maintain big websites.
I spend a full day collecting my most recent work and put it into a pdf interactive document to send over. There was a difference with this application as the eCommerce Web Design Studio was asking for people to show why they are different and what makes me special as a person and designer. I decided to add my most recent illustration images which gave an overview for some of my more weird hobbies or traits. One being the every publicised aspect that as a cyclist, I do indeed shave my legs on a weekly basis (long story).
Luckily enough I was promptly emailed back and asked to call Andy at the studio for a chat. I picked the phone up, paced up and down the kitchen a few times, before finally and reluctantly calling as soon as I got the email, I say reluctantly as I have never been too good on the phone and it was admittedly one of my worst nightmares regarding contacting Design Studios.. I simple disliked the very thought of talking to these professional design studios and conjured up this image of how it is a whole different work than the one I was currently living in as a student.
Anyway.. I called Andy and was asked to start the next day, I couldn't believe it! I had been hoping and praying for this sort of opportunity and I had finally got it, I honestly couldn't believe it.
The next morning I started my work experience. I walked in the door, was given a warm welcome and sat down.. I’m not sure what I expected to happen but you get some stories of how people have gone to Design Studios to complete work experience and they never actually did much (if any) design work. Not here.. I was promptly given my first task, which was to completely redesign a whole Website, Talk about thrown in at the deep end.. no sooner had I sat down, and I was designing a complete Website. The brief was for MadeByRiley, A clothing brand who has been a close client for some time.
Maybe it was the nerves, or just plain shock, but I honestly didn't know where to start. I had studied for almost 5 years to do this very work, and I felt so out of my depth when faced with the scale of this task. Maybe I was expecting to design a few small newsletters, or create some simple business cards to which I would be given an obscene amount of time to complete.. Not only was I given this almighty task, I was given a day to complete. This was a huge test of character.
Throughout my work experience I was given some pretty big jobs, and trusted to complete these in a timely fashion, I was constantly learning new unknown skills on the job, skills to which I would not have ever even tried at home. The most out of sorts task I was given in all my time at Shape during work experience was to create some character Illustrations for a Website which we are launching in 2016. The job included me having complete freedom to do whatever I felt best and create 3 small scenes. Although this job took me quite a long time, maybe twice as long as an Illustrator, I got it done.. and the client loved it!
Which was a shock to me as this wasn't something I’d ever done before.
Although my work experience was only supposed to be 4 weeks long, I took advantage of Andy’s busy schedule and decided I would come until they literally told me not to come. I think in the end I completed 10 weeks work experience at Shape, and I loved every minute of it. We had one of those serious talks on my last day, with Andy and Jason explaining that they were looking for someone more experienced in code and the next employee would be required to have skills within this field. This was a little bit of a disappointment for me as I felt I was nowhere near the level required to fill that slot.
Luckily, after a few short weeks of completing my work experience, I was able to gain employment here which came as such a surprise when I got the phone call from the studio. I was so settled here that my first day, wasn't your average first day.. Which is usually filled full of nerves, questions and uncertainty. I started as I left my work experience, with a full re-design of an existing client.
It was almost as if i’d never left, I felt so at home here.
Since becoming the latest Designer here at Shape, I have had a whole bunch of different jobs to do, this makes for an interesting lifestyle due to me not knowing what I may be doing on a daily basis. I love this part of being a Designer, nothing is ever simple, and nothing is ever the same. People on the outside may look at my job and put an umbrella over everything I do and label it as Web Design, yeah you design websites.. They speak like every job is the same, which involve the same routine every one. Which couldn't be further from the truth.
Throughout my time at Shape, I have had a whole array of jobs and tasks ranging from Illustration based designs, to eCommerce and Responsive Website Designs. I have been trusted to undertake client meetings on the designs I have created, and have loved the whole experience of it all.
My first meeting came through circumstance where Jason, and Andy were both off on holiday and one client rang one morning asking when he could come in to talk about the design that had recently been created, to which he said I can be there in an hour. This for me was a huge character building experience as I was not expecting to be sat with a client when I woke that morning.
In total, Since joining Shape a few short months ago I have designed 9 new sites from scratch, which is my favourite part of the job, to have complete freedom to choose the style, colours, fonts, and how the website works and feels. I see it as a sort of puzzle, where each small piece comes together to create something much bigger.
I have just completed updating Shape’s portfolio and it looks mega! We have added 11 new projects showcasing some of our biggest clients and best pieces of design.
The biggest thing I have noticed whilst being in the design industry as pose to University, is that you have to be able to ‘juggle’ your work load and give things their own priority in terms of timescale for deadline and importance for each project, if one project is a big client, which will give us lots of exposure as a design studio that would obviously be given more time that, lets say a simple brochure design which we would only run a hand full through print.
I have gained so much experience working here, with the skills of all of the designers here, Andy has helped me hugely and has been patient understanding I am not a complete ‘polished’ Designer yet and I am constantly learning on the job and speeding up in terms of time taken per project
At Shape, the environment is pretty much perfect, it is an environment which is easy to work in, we laugh quite a lot and joke about each other quite regularly but when its necessary we can crack on and get work done. I think the key to the success of the studio is we all have similar interests and hobbies which gives us lots in common and we are all good friends in, and out of work!
Although the year started off pretty poorly, I am glad, and satisfied at where I am coming to the end of the year, I couldn't have asked for a more enjoyable and challenging job, with a positive environment here at Shape. I hope to continue my development as a Web Designer and build my skills on the code side of things, I hope to completely learn how to code a responsive website and build my experience and worth here at Shape.