Posted on 17th July, 2019

If you’ve read parts one to four of our good graduate guide, then hopefully you’ve picked up some handy tips on how to maximise your chances of landing your perfect graphic design job for graduates. Despite this, as with any industry, there is still a chance that you might not be successful first time around… and that’s ok. In this final instalment, we’ll be looking at how, (after getting over that initial disappointment), you can use rejection to your advantage.

The Good graduate Guide Part 5

Graduate Tip Five: Draw positives not negatives

There is no denying that when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your application, portfolio and interview, being knocked back can feel very deflating. But it’s how you react to and learn from these experiences that will help you develop, grow and ultimately land the job of your dreams.

Don’t be afraid to ask for constructive feedback and when you get it, make sure you listen and learn. Knowing what you’re good at is an asset. Knowing what you’re not so good at is invaluable.

What if it’s your work?

It’s no great secret that creatives can be particularly precious about our work, (we put blood, sweat and tears into it after all!). As a result, there can be an instinctive tendency to take it as a personal slight if it comes under criticism. But, if you want to be a successful designer, you have to prepare yourself for the fact that not everyone will like all of your work all of the time. You’re going to need a thick skin.

Ask the company to provide some comments on what they felt the strengths and weaknesses were within your portfolio and then do your best to act on them. If they say your typography was excellent but you need to work on your illustration skills, then go away and do just that.

It’s also worth remembering that if feedback suggests that your portfolio isn’t quite right for the employer, that doesn’t mean you’re a terrible designer, it could just mean that you came up against someone who had more experience designing for a particular market or channel. If that’s the case, revisit your portfolio on a case-by-case basis and try to align it with the kind of work the company you’re applying to does a lot of.

Worse… what if it’s me?

So what if the company tells says you had a fantastic portfolio but you still don’t get the job. What if they don’t think you’re a good ‘fit’ for the business. Does that mean there is…wait for it…something wrong with you personally? In a word, NO.

When you have a business, it’s important to have a good mix of people in your team. A combination of people with different skills, experience and strengths can help bring the best out in everyone, and of course, help the business to achieve great things. Just because you’re unsuccessful, that doesn’t mean that the company didn’t like you, it may just mean that they’ve recently recruited someone with a very similar skill set.

And remember, interviews are daunting for everyone. No employer is deliberately going to set out to catch you out or make you say or do something silly (and if they do, would you really want to work for them?). Chances are they’re actually willing you on and WANT you to do well. They wouldn’t be interviewing you if they didn’t.

Interviewers will make allowances for nerves, but if you lack confidence, try to rehearse how you present your work in advance. You don’t have to be an amazing public speaker, just do your best to do your work, and yourself, justice.

Work on your communication skills, just because you’ll be working on a computer, don’t be tempted to hide behind it. Designers are communicators after all, so it’s time to start communicating.

A final note for graduates…

Remember it’s not just about the agency thinking you’re right for them, but whether you think they’re right for you too. You want to be a part of a team where you can learn and develop while enjoying yourself in the process. So take your time. Don’t rush into taking the first job offer if your instincts tell you it’s not right for you. You’re going to spend a lot of time at work.

Have you enjoyed the ‘Good Graduate Guide’?

Don’t forget to share all five parts of the guide with others who might find it useful too!

The Good Graduate Guide – Part 1

Posted on 3rd July, 2019

We’ve tackled the creative and now it’s time to get down to business. In this instalment of the ‘Good Graduate Guide,’ we’ll be exploring why as well as having a top-notch CV and portfolio, to be a successful graphic designer, you’ll need to be commercially minded too.

Tip Four: Be Results Focused

As we said in part three, first and foremost, graphic designers are problem solvers. When a client works with an agency, they’ll have a business objective to achieve or challenge to overcome. As their designer, you’ll pay a crucial part in helping them do just that.

You may just be starting out in your career, but it’s never too soon to start thinking commercially. Your clients are going to want a return on their investment after all.

If a client with particularly high bounce rates and a lack of leads wants to redesign their website, it’s not enough to just think purely about the creative, you should also be thinking about the user experience and how the website functions. Is it easy to navigate? Is all of the information displayed logically? Are there clear and effective calls to action in the right places?

If you’re branding a new product range, where does it sit in the market and who is the target customer? Is it a premium or value brand? Who are the competitors and how will this new product compare? It’s not enough to simply design something that ‘looks nice’, you have to think long and hard about how your creative will translate in the real world with the people who matter most. The client? Not necessarily (although of course, you want them to love it – they’re footing the bill after all)! The target customer should always be number one.

So how is this relevant in the context of your graphic design job hunt?

If you’re invited for an interview or sending a potential employer your portfolio, you can add real value and increase your chances of landing that dream job, simply by demonstrating that you’ve really thought about the commercial potential of your work. (Even if the project in question was purely theoretical).

As well as an explanation of your intended audience, don’t be afraid to give your work some context. Where and when do you anticipate it would be seen and by whom? If your creative idea is for a multi-channel campaign, demonstrate how everything links together (and think about what the potential impact of that might be).

Nobody is going to expect you to be an expert, you’re just starting out after all, but having the ability to demonstrate that you’re thinking commercially will show us that you’ve got the makings not just of a good designer, but of a great one.


When you’re working in the industry, it doesn’t matter how beautiful your work is if it achieves nothing. Not everyone will like all of your work all of the time – and that’s ok. As long as they’re not your target audience.

Part Five is coming soon!

Enjoying the Good Graduate Guide so far? Be sure to check back soon for part five!

Posted on 31st May, 2019

The Good Graduate Guide – Part 1.

As many of you will know, at 52 Degrees North, we work closely alongside clients in the education sector. With exam season in full swing, employability skills high on the agenda, we thought we’d put together a few top tips for students. These are intended to help the next generation of aspiring designers land that dream graphic design job.

So spread the word amongst your students, sons, daughters, nieces, nephews… We’re delighted to introduce the ‘Good Graduate Guide’.

So let’s get started…

Top tips for students looking for that first graphic design job

The Design Industry

Design is growing – both in terms of value and demand. In the West-Midlands alone, there has been an 83% increase in design GVA since 2010. According to research published by the Design Council in 2018, there were over 1.6 million people employed in design roles in 2016. That’s an increase of over 99,000 since 2014.

Growth has been notably strong in digital design. Digital design has expanded by 121.7% to create 19,115 new companies and employ 51% more staff.

So what does this mean?

In short, it means if you’re leaving education with design qualifications, then there are a wealth of opportunities available to you. It also means you’ll be hot property – you’ll have skills that are in demand in one of the UK’s fastest-growing (and most exciting) sectors. Great news huh!

It also means that you’ll likely be facing some stiff competition when it comes to applying for that first job too…

Getting a design job (or any job for that matter) can be tough. It takes hard work, perseverance and unwavering commitment. You might get knock backs, but it’ll be your ability to bounce back and learn from them that will ultimately get you to where you want to be. We’re here to offer you some words of wisdom on how to stand out from the crowd (giving you the best chance of landing that dream role.)

Top Tips for Students – Number 1: Do your homework

‘Homework?!’ I hear you cry. ‘I thought I’d finished studying?!’ Well, we hate to break it to you, but there is more work to be done and it all starts with research. So let’s start with the (seemingly) obvious…

In most circumstances, addressing your approach email (or letter, if you’re going old school) to Dear Sir/Madam is a no-no as far as we’re concerned. You may think that you’re being polite (impeccable manners are a must), but it’s impersonal, and worst of all, it implies that you haven’t made any effort to tailor your message to suit the employer that you’re approaching.

This heinous crime is made all the worse when you are sending an email to an address that includes the person’s name. My name is Katie. I’m female (at least I was the last time I checked). You can find my photo on my LinkedIn, so why would you address me as dear Sir? (Top Tips) It’s a mistake as far as we’re concerned and the irony when you go on to say you have a ‘keen eye for detail’ is not lost on us.

As we said, you may think that this is obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of CVs and applications we’ve seen that are addressed in this way.

We’re not suggesting that you make things too informal. A message starting with ‘Alright mate’ is clearly a step too far. But first impressions matter, so make yours count. We’d strongly advise you to take the time to research the company you’d like to work with. That includes finding out the name of the person you need to contact.

Top Tips for Students – Number 2: Content of your message

The same can be said for the content of your message. Phrases that could be included in a blanket email like “I’d really like to work at a company like yours” and “I love the kind of work you do”. Without any specific mention of our company name or reference to a project we’ve worked on. This suggests that you haven’t done your homework. Have you REALLY looked on our website? Do you REALLY want to work with us? Then prove it.

If you particularly like the typography we used in X campaign or the branding we created for Y. Don’t be afraid to tell us. It will go a long way towards showing us that you have a genuine interest in us. – That makes us all the more interested in you.

(Top Tips) Bear in mind that when contacting a potential employer. You are asking them to do you the courtesy of reading your CV, looking at your portfolio, checking out your website or meeting you and potentially employing you. The least you can do is make an effort with your approach.

Ultimately, let’s not forget. If your applying for a design job, creativity is key. Don’t be afraid to stand out. You need to remember that you’re competing with others, all vying for attention in a crowded industry. If they give us a compelling reason to believe them and you don’t… you may have fallen at the first hurdle.

Part Two of our Good Graduate Guide. In this instalment, we’ll be exploring how to ‘Keep it Relevant’ when applying for a design job. Don’t miss it!

Cookie Consent: We use cookies to monitor usage and remember your preference.
Accept cookies?: More information