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What I Learnt from Working for a High Flying Design Agency in London (Part One)

I briefly mentioned in my previous post, What Is Interior Design, about the first job I had as a designer which has had a massive impact on the way I approach my work today. And this is what I want to cover – the important working life lessons and experiences I gained from living and working in London.

The first job I had as a designer was as an intern for a Global Design Agency in London, where I then went on to become a permanent member of staff as a Junior Designer. I worked for the company for a total of two years before then moving back to my hometown in the Cotswolds to further my career in the residential field of Interior Design.

I was extremely lucky to land my intern job straight after finishing my degree and the projects I was lucky enough to work on were for some of the most luxurious automotive brands – an experience I will never forget.

Anyone who knows me personally reading this will know that those two years in London were undeniably the most challenging years of my life. That may sound pretty dramatic but I had moved from one city to another within the space of a month and I didn’t really know what I had let myself in for! Plus a few curve balls thrown in the mix for good measure.

So that being said…

What did those two years in London teach me?

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Well… Where should I even begin !

The lessons I briefly explain below all relate to each other quite a bit and so I may write a more in depth post per lesson at some point in the future. For now though, I have split the lessons into a two part series.

Time Management

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As you can imagine, working in the design industry is full of deadlines. That aspect of work is very similar to university with regular meetings to track progress however when you first step into a job it takes a while to understand how the company works. From organising files on the server, updating timesheets, learning the standard ways of drawing on AutoCAD (or similar), how presentations are laid out and any other bits of employee admin… All of this takes time – the more you can get exposed to in your first month the better because once you understand how the company likes to present themselves in terms of finished drawings and presentations you can then start to manage your own time and get to know how long particular tasks will take you.

I found that as an intern I would need to allocate time to printing. If there was a client meeting or presentation, regardless of whether I had been asked to print anything in advance for it, I would need to keep 30-60minutes prior to the meeting free in case there were last minute requests. Also as designers we love to see our designs printed larger on A1 or A0 which obviously takes much longer to print than A3 drawings, so my advice to any new intern or designer is to over-estimate how long it takes to prepare for a meeting!

Skills like being on time never really gets tested until you start a proper full time job either so I always plan my time backwards from deadlines / meetings.

Communication

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This may sound like a really obvious thing to learn when working or as if people should know how to do this already, but I am actually amazed at how poorly people communicate! As a designer you are more likely to be working as part of a team to produce the finished work than on your own.

One thing I have noticed a lot of is the lack of communication when it comes to deadlines and the requirements for them. People often assume that passing information through others is enough for the message to be understood and implemented but sadly this isn’t always the case. If the messenger has other things going on (in and outside of work) they are likely to forget or miss out details that may be extremely important for you to manage your time. You have to personally ensure that the message you are trying to get across has been fully understood by everyone involved, if this means repeating yourself then that is what you need to do in order for people to fully understand what is involved.

One of the keys to being a successful designer is communicating everything to the right people, at the right time. Escalate problems with the right people who can help you resolve them, discuss ideas with others to get initial and informal feedback and let others know when they have done a good job!

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Stay tuned for the next post where I will be sharing the last three lessons I learnt whilst living and working in London!

See you soon,

Jessica xo

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