Jump Start 2: Where to work – small studio
One important question that graduates-to-be have on their mind is where they'd like to work. That's because graphic designers, for better or worse, have several main options to choose from:
- Join a small studio?
- Join a large agency (or publisher)?
- Work freelance?
- Start your own company (or partnership)?
My general bit of advice would be that rather than trying to 'do what sounds good' (ie. type or name of studio), ask yourself what kind of designer you want to be and what makes most sense at this stage of your career. Oh, and let's not forget that Adrian Shaughnessy discusses the above options points to some degree in his very helpful book How to be a graphic designer without losing your soul.
Part 1: Joining a small studio
I don't have any figures on hand, but once heard that the average size of a London design studio is around 5 people. Based on my experience, the majority are probably even smaller than that.
Working for a small studio has its advantages: you tend to be involved in practically all design tasks, from concept to production – simply because there are not enough hands to split up the process into dedicated teams, as is often the case in larger studios. Of course, the flipside of the coin is a greater responsibility and steeper learning curve. If you like responsibility and are a quick learner, great, if not, then think carefully about your decision.
Small studios are also more intimate, many occupy a single room. This means that the social atmosphere gets amplified: if you like your colleagues you'll have a fantastic time, but if things go sour, your days can feel very long indeed. It's therefore a good idea to spend some time with the team (especially to see how stressful situations are dealt with!) before you sign a long term contract. If you're worried, just speak openly about your concerns. If your boss isn't interested, it's probably not a good place to be anyway.
Job security and average pay are often said to be lower in small studios, however, boundaries are very blurry in the design industry. I've actually heard more bad stories about poor pay, long hours and dubious contracts in larger agencies (probably because it's easier to get away with it if you're larger).
There are many brilliant small design studios in London and if you find one you love, your working life can be very rewarding.
Watch this space for Part 2: Joining a large agency/publisher