Graduated – 1989
After graduating Janet started her career at The Chase Creative Consultants spending almost 10 years there, she then moved on to become a Creative Director at The Partners for a further seven years. After a brief stint freelancing she is now Design Director at Frank, Bright & Abel where she works in the branding team.
The Disciples of Design Q&A
How and where did you secure your first job?
Companies like The Chase and The Partners had only just started when I was studying at Preston, and the design magazines always featured their work. Great ideas that made you smile and wish you’d thought of them. If you asked me where I’d like to work I’d have mentioned those two places, but never really thought I would.
After doing a six month placement in London I thought that’s where I wanted to work. But Ben Casey came to our degree show, and afterwards in the pub I managed to persaude him to interview me. I didn’t realise there was actually a job going. I come from Manchester so stopped off for a few days for an interview, then headed down to London.
A few weeks later, while I was still looking for work, Ben called and said “do you want this job then?” I headed straight back up to Manchester and stayed there for 10 years.
Do you think being a Preston student has benefited you in any way?
I think the way the years mixed and helped each other out at Preston was really good. I knew lots of people in the years above and the years below, and once you’re out in the real world you realise that Preston network is really strong. Many of my friends today were made over 20 years ago at Preston.
Doing a six month placement as part of the course was really good too – it gave you a real insight to working life so it wasn’t such a shock when you started work. But the biggest benefit was a way of thinking.
Having an idea, or reason, behind everything you do and design. That’s been important at all the places I’ve worked. But something I didn’t appreciate when I was a student is how important it is to be able to explain an idea to a client. And if you’ve got an idea and clear reasons why you’ve done something it really helps.
How has the industry changed over the years in your experience?
Well we didn’t have computers when I started work… that’s made everything speed up because something can look very finished very quickly. It’s important not to skip the ‘thinking’ time. Graduates do placements now. That didn’t really happen when I left, it was either a job or no job. Though it might seem tough at times it is a really good way of experiencing different companies and meeting people.
Where do you get your ideas from? Do you prefer collaboration or thinking alone?
Ideas really do come from anywhere, but you need to have new, fresh influences all the time. I don’t think you ever switch off. I still remember the one week projects in the first year at Preston. We had a whole week to think of one idea. And it seemed such hard work.
Now you’d be expected to come up with half a dozen ideas in an afternoon. Sometimes if I’m struggling I force myself to come up with 10 ideas. I don’t always get to 10. Some are really obvious. And some of them are rubbish. But you usually end up with more than one idea that you’re not too embarrassed to show anyone. And often you end up thinking in a different direction.
We typically generate ideas in lots of different ways. Group brainstorms. Some thinking time on your own. Sometimes more of a discussion bouncing ideas around. Over time you get a sense of the best way to approach a problem, or who around you might be good to get involved.
What would you have done differently at University knowing what you know now?
Taken time to explore more, and enjoy the creative process. You don’t appreciate the time you have to think about things. It’s much more time pressured in the real world. Taken more advantage of the facilities, photographic printing, letterpress.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The variety. I do similar things for very different clients. You get to know about lots of different types of businesses and organisations, and get to work with lots of interesting people. It’s true that no two days are the same. Also design agencies are usually quite interesting places to work, busy and high pressured, but not formal. You continue to learn from the people you work with.
What would you say has been the key to your success so far?
Working hard to understand problems. Listening. Being able to explain your idea. Knowing when to defend your idea and follow it through and when to compromise.
What is the most unusual thing you have done in your career?
The most interesting things are usually the things that take you out of your normal routine. I spent a day traveling round with an AA man to help inform me on how to redesign his uniform. Going out with workmen digging holes in a road to better understand a client’s business.
What do you look for in graduates and their portfolios?
An idea that has legs and can be applied appropriately across different applications, not one idea relentlessly applied. Enthusiasm, interest, willingness to get stuck in and help out.
Any advice for students entering the industry?
Work placements are a really good way of gaining experience and working out what you want to do. And making contacts. It’s still a relatively small industry and lots of people know each other.
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