What to bring to the table as a junior designer

5 min read
Jonny Pathan
People looking over some logo's

As a digital agency we get a lot of requests from aspiring designers looking for work experience, internships or a straight up junior positions. I’ve popped down some thoughts, tips and truths that will hopefully help you understand what good agencies are looking for.

CMYK example

Print

Ideally, aspiring designers should be able to grasp the principles of print.

  • You should know the difference between RGB, CMYK and spot colours. If you don’t know, go here now.
  • The difference between Vector and Raster graphics. A raster graphic such as a png or jpeg is made up of pixels. A vector graphic such as an EPS is made up of paths. Vectors are infinite quality, they are not pixels so they do not distort. Hence why most logos, print etc is done in a vector based program such as Adobe Illustrator.
  • Bleed. For some reason a lot of designers don’t even know what bleed is. To put simply, a printer has to grip paper to move it. How can you print to the edge of the paper if there’s a grip there? You can’t. Let’s use A4 as an example. We print our artwork at a larger size than needed on oversized paper e.g SRA4. When we cut our artwork down to a standard size (A4) we are left with print all the way to the edge. Bleed also allows for movement of the paper, and design inconsistencies.
  • Safety Margin. Always leave your self space around your important information on your artwork. This will allow for any paper movement or mishaps. Also, space is good, space is very good.
  • If you are using raster based software for your printing needs, make sure your document is 300DPI. Learn what DPI means.
  • Outlining your copy. Make sure you convert your text to outlines. This will convert any text to paths. This makes sure that when you send your file to the printers, nothing will change. If you send a printer a file that requires them to have the latest free font you’ve downloaded they will shout at you. I promise.

Digital/Web

In almost all of the portfolios we receive there is very little digital/web based work on show. This is essential and quite frankly worrying that it’s not heavily considered.

  • SVG’s. If you’re going to be working in the industry you need to know about SVG’s. Developers will request most graphics in Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) format. This allows for small files size, scalability and design control in browser such as animation and filters. Sara Soueidan has written some excellent articles that cover SVG in detail: http://sarasoueidan.com/tags/svg/index.html
  • CSS / HTML. I recommend at the very least taking this free online course to get your head around HTML and CSS. As a designer you will get left behind if you don’t have a basic grasp of front-end code.
  • Responsive. Consider how graphics have to be responsive to different device sizes. Take a look at this site for some very cool responsive logo examples. http://www.responsivelogos.co.uk/
Responsive Logo examples
  • Page speed. Every design choice you make has an effect on page speed, and the page speed of a website is a critical factor in its performance and therefore its ability to function well. Working closely with your front-end developer from day one will help achieve this. Consider how many images you use and how large they are, also think about how many different font styles your design uses. Loading too many different font weights and families can really slow down a website. Try these tools to help you: Pingdom, Google Page Speed Insights, Webpagetest.org.
  • Saving for web. Learn how to save for the web using Photoshop, optimising your images and assets as efficiently as possible. Images should almost always be in kb file size, and preferably below 100kb, although 100-300kb can be acceptable for a large hero image.
  • Appropriate file type. Regarding images, you should only really ever use PNG when you need transparency. Photographs should otherwise always be JPG. Graphical elements and logos however, should ideally be SVG. This ensures they are displayed at the optimum resolution on high DPI devices (such as an iPhone).
  • Accessibility. Everything you design for the web needs you to consider accessibility, which involves designing your product to be usable to as many people as possible including those with disabilities. You’ll need to consider how people with various disabilities will use your site – affecting colour choices (contrast), the size and positioning of elements, typography and other factors such as page speed and HTML.
  • Type / Fonts. Remember, that fonts have to be loaded from somewhere on a website unless they are system fonts. When designing a website you should have this in mind from the start. Checkout Google fonts or Typekit to see what’s out there.
  • Style tiles / Photoshop. Designing full blown mock ups in Photoshop is very limiting, how can you express behaviour, animation, responsiveness in a static bit of software? A lot of the design process now needs to be done in browser. Use style tiles to focus on just the core design elements in Photoshop, things like typography, colour, button styles etc. Then work with your developer to flesh out your designs
  • Colour codes. There are different ways of expressing colours in code, such as HEX codes and RGBA. We advise becoming familiar with these so you can work with developers more effectively, to communicate your colour choices.

Help! This is too much to learn!

Whilst the above may seem like a lot to take in, and a lot to expect from somebody in the early throws of their career, competency across a wide range of different subjects and technical skill sets is crucially important for a designer/developer. People that work in the world of the web often have to adopt a polymath-like attitude to their work, it requires you to know many different things to a very high level.

At the very least, a willingness and ability to learn with a positive attitude towards developing your skills are actually the most important attributes you need to have as a person to succeed.

“I picture the most demanding challenge; I visualize what I would need to know how to do to meet it; then I practice until I reach a level of competence where I’m comfortable that I’ll be able to perform”Chris Hadfield (An Astronauts Guide to Earth)

You can follow our co-founder and creative director Jonny on Twitter for more ramblings and tips about business and design here. @jonnypathan

Social Media Management Software

In order to promote your business and reach consumers that spend an entire 24 hours a week online, you need to make sure that you have a viable social media strategy in place.

By posting unique and interesting content on your social media platforms, and by actively engaging with followers, you can start to turn this into a funnel for generating leads.

In order to stay on top of your social media strategy, it’s important to have some form of social media management software to do some of the heavy lifting. Software such as this is imperative for scheduling, tracking and monitoring social media content.

At its best, social media management software can help you not only plan your content months in advance, but also remain reactive by letting you tune into ongoing news stories or trending topics.

Screenshot of Hootsuite's homepage

We recommend: Hootsuite

There are a whole bunch of social media management companies out there and all of them offer roughly the same sort of package but Hootsuite is the only one that offers an actually free service (as opposed to just a free trial period).

They do try to hide it on their website though so make sure you follow this link in order to get to the right page.

The free version of this software lets you:

  • Manage up to three social media profiles from a choice of channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn
  • Schedule up to 30 posts in advance at any point in time
  • Track follower growth, likes and comments
  • Integrate two RSS feeds in order to find and share compelling content
  • Access Hootsuite’s online help center and community forum

Of course, there’s also a number of paid-for packages that you can buy from Hootsuite that give you access to a great number of services including higher ad spend budgets, automated post scheduling and custom analytics.

But if you’re a small business looking to get started, the free version of the software should be comprehensive enough to allow you to get your social media strategy in motion.

Website Tracking Software

We’ve said before that the secret to a successful lead generation strategy is to keep analysing and refining your methods. Well, website tracking software is the best way to conduct this analysis.

By digging into the analytics of your visitors’ actions, you can start to gain a better picture of why people come to your site, what they want from it, what they dislike about it and how you can improve upon their experience next time.

There are a wide variety of services that can fall into the category of website tracking software, including heatmaps, funnels, user polls, surveys, visitor recordings and more.

Basically, any kind of software that collects data about the ways in which your visitors interact with your site can be considered website tracking software.

Screenshot of Hotjar's homepage

We recommend: Hotjar

Whereas there are a multitude of smaller software companies that focus in on just one website tracking service, Hotjar offers an array of useful tools.

Hotjar tools include:

  • Click, move, scroll, download and share heatmaps that can also be split by device type
  • Visitor recordings that allow you to replay sessions of real site visitors
  • Conversion funnels that identify on which page and at which step the most visitors are leaving your site
  • Form analysis that can help you to discover which fields take too long to fill, which are left blank and why your visitors abandon your form and page
  • A customizable widget that allows you to create pop-up feedback polls
  • Responsive surveys that can be distributed through web links and emails, or featured your site just before your visitors abandon the page in order to discover what their concerns are
  • The ability to recruit test users in order to get instant feedback on your site

Hotjar’s free service is able to collect data from 2000 page views a day and will give you access to up to 300 visitor recordings and 3 heatmaps, forms, funnels, polls and surveys. Unlimited users can be added to your account and Hotjar will also store your data for a full year.

While we’d normally recommend free services when possible, it’s probably worth paying for Hotjar’s Plus plan to begin with.

For just under £25 a month you can collect data from 10,000 page views a day and have unlimited services and reports. Plus there’s even a 15-day free trial for you to test out whether you like their software or not.

Remember

Lead generation doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour.

What’s important is that you put real effort into all of your interactions with potential leads - whether that’s through educational and informative blog posts, social media interactions or even just a chat on the phone.

If you believe in your business’ ability to help its customers then all you have to do is let that shine through.

Ultimately, these tools are just there to help you meet potential leads on their level. The rest is up to you.

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