Graduated – 2002
Matt’s placement year consisted of stints at Imagination, Johnson Banks, Start Creative (now Start Judge Gill) and Pentagram. After graduating Matt travelled extensivley working for periods in London, Manchester and Sydney before landing up in Edinburgh at The Leith Agency. He is currentley Design Director at Tayburn Edinburgh. Career highlights include refreshing a cherished Australian insurance brand and seeing one of his logos unveiled by John Prescott.
The Disciples of Design Q&A
Where and how did you secure your first job?
I blitzed the London design scene with emails and work samples until I got some interest. It’s a soul-destroying process but eventually I had a phone call from a place called Interstate. My details had been passed around and they wanted to see me. They were really old school – a library full of Jan Tschichold, twenty press-ups for dodgy kerning – that kind of thing. Great for a cocky graduate with zero type skills.
How would you say that your placement year helped you to gain employment?
When you’re begging for work the ability to name-drop is a massive advantage. If someone sees Pentagram or The Chase on the CV you’ll at least get an interview. You’ll learn how to present work properly so your graduate folio will look shit hot compared to your gap year snubbing comrades. Plus you’ll have some live projects to show you can do the job.
Who and what inspires you?
Studios like KesselsKramer and Sagmeister who show an endless ability to think outside the brief. I like some of the new breed of art crossover designers like Daniel Eatock, but I don’t know how he makes any money. He must design cigarette packaging on the sly.
Do you prefer to work alone, or is it more of a collaborative process?
I slowly go mad when I’m left alone so I need people to bounce ideas off. Plus it’s good to have a few non-designer friends to use as a sounding board to make sure your ideas aren’t too contrived. I knew a designer that liked to work completely alone – he had a doll’s head on a stick to keep him company.
Do you ever struggle for ideas? If so how do you overcome this ‘designers block?’
Get some fresh air and caffeine. Look at other creative sources like photography/fashion/product design blogs. Ffffound and TheSerif are useful for visual stimulation if cool graphics is your cup of tea.
You’re just returning from a two year stint as Senior Designer in Sydney. How was it?
Australia was advertised in the 1920s as a haven of higher income and lower taxes. Nothing’s changed – only now they’re looking for quality designers, and everyone’s good looking.
Moon are a young, massively energetic agency and top of their game, and took me on as a freelancer before offering me a full time job. It was great, I had my finger in every pie there, creating brands for insurance companies, backpacker van rentals, banks… I ended up heading a design team for 3 Mobile in Australia.
Has working for several different agencies benefited your career?
Staying in one agency is fine if they’re a big name and have a varied pool of clients, but moving around will give you an insight to how other agencies work, which is invaluable if you’re ever planning on starting your own agency.
You’ll also see how not to work – years ago a director read out to the whole company an email sent out containing sexually dubious content – amusing, but not great for staff morale.
What has been the secret of your success so far?
Always start with a pencil and paper, avoid bureaucratic thinking, and don’t eat cheap meat.
Has being a Preston student benefited you at all?
There’s a kind of freemason-esque comradery amongst ex-Prestoners, there are a lot of us in high places so there’s a quality mark associated with the place, probably something to do with the fluidity of ideas and originality that you don’t necessarily get from other college graduates. Find someone taught by Ron Bray and they’ll at least give you a chance to show your work.
Any advice for students entering a very competitive industry during the recession?
I started with a few months at Johnson Banks, where a freelancer put me in touch with his girlfriend at Pentagram, so if you’re nice, have some ideas and make a good cuppa (I used a teapot and traditional strainer) you’ll find doors are opened for you. Just make sure there are no stray pubes in your portfolio sleeves.
Can you offer any mistakes that others can learn by?
I once turned up to a second interview without my portfolio – sometimes you’ll need to see three or four different people before they decide you’re right for the job, which I didn’t realise. There was some akward head scratching and polite conversation before I was told I probably wouldn’t get the job.
Branding - Juice Associates
Logo - Made in Leith
Poster - Scottish Chamber Orchestra