Graphic Design Tips from Creative Directors

Graphic Design Tips from Creative Directors

The Dots recently held a Graphic Design Portfolio Masterclass at Pentagram. This was to give Graphic Design students the chance to have their portfolios reviewed by the Pentagram Partners and some of the UK’s best Creative Directors, Heads of Design and Art Directors.

While the industry leaders were in the room, The Dots team asked them for their top Graphic Design tips to get ahead as a Designer.


What do you want in a Graphic Designer?


1. Ability to work in a team

A major part of working in this incredible industry is the potential to work with other people.

Jane Scherbaum (Deputy Head of Design at the V&A Museum) said that one of the foremost things she looks for in a Graphic Designer is:


‘team spirit’. When I am putting together a project, I want people who can ‘riff’ off each other, share their ideas.



2. Listen and engage

It may seem obvious, but it is essential to show potential employers that you can listen and take on board instructions and ideas.

Naresh Ramchandani (Partner at Pentagram) said that in a Graphic Designer he looks for “someone who listens – they’ve got to be responsive.”

The best way to progress is to listen to others and learn from what they have to say.


3. Take Chances

It may be easier to play things safe – but if you do not push the limits how will you be able to stand out from the mass of other Graphic Designers?

The key thing Timba Smits (Creative Director at TCOLondon) looks for in a Graphic Designer is:


somebody whose mission is to do something that everybody else isn’t doing. It is about the point of difference, the passion and the drive to want to achieve that.


Graphic Design Tips from Pentagram

© Photo By Jack Woodhouse


Endeavour to be unique and show your desire for thinking imaginatively.


3 Graphic Design Tips For Breaking Into The Industry


1. Use your head, and have some guts

Ben Marshall (Creative Director at Landor) said that to break into the industry, you will need to have:

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a bit of brains and a bit of balls! For example if you’re on a placement, you’ll have briefs, and you’ll have work to do, but actually keep an eye out for the bits in-between – there’s a much more powerful chance to make an impression at that point.



To summarize, be sure to find gaps in-between work where you think you can be useful and make yourself indispensable.


2. Be proactive

The industry leaders simultaneously agreed that all ambitious Graphic Designers should go above and beyond to get into the industry.

Corrie Anderson’s (Head Lecturer at Shillington College) advice for those aspiring to get into the industry is to:


jump in. If it is something that you are passionate about – go for it. Work hard at it. Don’t think that it is going to come easy, but enjoy the ride at the same time.


Leif Podhajsky (renowned Graphic Designer/Art Director) reinforced this point, by saying that you need to:


make things happen for yourself, you cannot just wait for something to happen. So go out there and do something different.



3. Follow your heart

As cheesy as the caption is, it is one of our favourite pieces of advice to all creatives.

Harry Pearce (Partner at Pentagram) said that you must:


get close to things that you care about, don’t just take a job for the sake of it, just wait […] that’s the main thing I would say.



Follow your heart and have patience. Something amazing could be just around the corner!




Looking to get feedback on your portfolio? The Dots host monthly Portfolio Masterclasses, focusing on a variety of professions. Register your interest in upcoming Portfolio Masterclasses here.

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Charlotte Miller

Good advice. Making your career happen rather than waiting for the opportunity to come your way was and is the best wisdom I was given. I followed this and it really worked for me.