Posted on December 20, 2014

How to start a career in design, tips do’s & don’ts

photo of IT guy staffIf you are looking for a career in graphic design or web development then this post may be of help. Whether you want to design logos and work in brand development or carve out a career in website design & build, the potential employer has a need for staff who can start to contribute to the company as soon as possible. Designers are in the service industry as valued collaborating partners. Each employee needs to start adding value to the design companies client offering through the introduction of fresh ideas and expertise and innovating new ways of designing solutions for Clients needs but without wishing to redesign our entire design process. To be able to do this the employer puts a great deal of value onto the designers expertise and a more experienced designer ought to slot in faster and start contributing to projects and agency revenue sooner and with less management. You need to this of what your target audience is looking for and put some emphasis on fulfilling those needs.

So what are the essential criteria that agencies are looking for? These are viewed in different ways with weighting on each and dependent of the position being offered. It is not unusual to change the criteria to fit an exceptional candidate.

  1. Work experience
  2. Projects worked on
  3. Software and platforms worked with
  4. Personality as it’s a people business
  5. The applicants CV (aka resume)

From being on the receiving end of thousands of applications and also having hired staff directly and through recruitment agencies we have gained some insight which may be of benefit to wannabe designers and other design agency support staff.

In short your CV must present points 1-4 in a way that the reader can understand and see the skills easily, without needing to decipher it. Get to the point gracefully. The design of your CV should not get in the way of the message.


  • Do some research, to reach the best placed person personalise the e-mail address and use their name. If you want to exploit your expertise in Mobile Apps then don’t waste an e-mail sending it to brand design specialists.
  • In your e-mail be 100% explicit in saying what you are applying for in the first line: Designer, Freelance projects Work Experience Placement or other.
  • Do include an introductory paragraph. If you just attached a PDF it won’t be perceived as a fun teaser, it may be ignored.
  • Make it fun, well designed, visually interesting, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think what would impress us or get noticed, but remember quirky does gets noticed but there is a limit.
  • Follow the accepted rules of a CV by including the most obvious things that an employer needs to know, such as including your contact details other than just your e-mail address.
  • Include a link to your online portfolio or blog but make sure that you are happy with the content as we will be judging not making allowance, that’s what humans do.
  • Give us links to projects or live websites that you have worked on
  • Tell us which design companies you have worked for even on a temporary, freelance or placement basis, they ought to all be of value. Placements are hard to get and show a lot of determination so don’t discount it – we wont. Real industry pro’s did spend their Summer working at small agency somewhere.
  • Include referees, seeing a name is better than saying On request. Employers should not contact these people unless we are serious about considering you and hence we would contact you long before spending time checking out your referees.
  • Ensure that your own Blog/Portfolio site has Google Analytics so you can see who has been in to your pages. Often design companies name their servers after themselves, so a deep visit might be worth a personalised follow up.
  • Do express your personality as that is important, it’s secondary to solid experience and raw talent even, but it is all part of the mix and you are marketing yourself in a People industry.
  • Do follow the potential employer of Facebook and Twitter, is may get noticed and also you may get advance notice of a big account win which may lead to a  recruitment need or new project they have just won which you may be really well qualified for.
  • We are a UK based company and prefer to see British English spellings, its not that we don’t like seeing American spellings, but even if it’s a global market place we need our web designer to know how to spell more than colour/color as our clients don’t expect to be proofing reading and spell checking for you.
  • Do proof read your application, not just via spellchecker but read it or get someone else to do it. If you cannot spell stationery it’s highly unlikely that we would ask you to design any. Stationary may be a correctly spelled word but it’s the wrong one.
  • Do apply yourself, applications from Fathers and Mothers indicate that you might have other/better things to do, such as important exams or just playing with your mobile.

This recently received e-mail application does have a few faults, but the pluses just outweigh the minuses. the enthusiasm and character flood through. Faults include; I am not Mr Martin, personlisation is eye-catching but for the wrong reasons if it is incorrect. Poor grammar does not work in your favour and US spellings are noticeable to us in the UK. But he has his own logo – I love that, he clearly is passionate about design. Including a skype contact is a great idea.



  • Forget to give us your contact details, your employment status (visa/work permits), language skills etc.
  • Send out a portfolio PDF as 10mb + e-mail attachment that is  as it wont get through many spam filers and you ought to be able to know how to compact it more efficiently.
  • Do not zipp your portfolio or CV as this will look like spam and many people will not open.
  • If your portfolio is full of student projects we can usually spot this so perhpas best to not try and hide this, otherwise we might look at it and think it’s full of either poorly briefed or badly executed projects.
  • Don’t include everything that you have ever done, often you will get judged by the worst piece of work not the best. It’s wrong but it’s human nature.
  • If you want to work in the UK from overseas then take 2 mins and use a Gmail or even a e-mail address, also don’t include a or e-mail addresses, they says a lot about you, perhaps too much.
  • Please don’t call it a resume we are a UK based company so use the right terminology, same reason as using British spellings.
  • Dont forget that the telephone is a useful tool for contact and research and a 1 minute call might save you 45 mins crafting a CV for a company who no longer exist.
  • Don’t exaggerate or lie, it will most likely be spotted even if we don’t tell you.

CV1This e-mail is hardly worthy of a reply, but I did (contact details changed). Yes it really does say “Respected Sir/Mam, Plz See Attach Resume” so is hardly inviting, in fact it displays a real laziness which may not even be true. But seriously how long does it take to craft a good covering e-mail and check the grammer? Even a sentence or two in the place where it is most likely to be read and have an effect.  Something to encourage us to even read the CV.  It takes hardly any time and it can be re-used over again so it’s a really good investment and a discipline.

image of an email with zipped attachement

Another real no no is attaching anything in a zipped file format as most people would be unwise to open anything like this from an unknown source. As it happens this is spam most likely containing malware, so be aware! Also your CV should not need to be zipped as you can compact your portfolio PDF.

We’d like to wish any job hunters good luck and thanks for reading.  If you wish to stay connected you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

By Neale Gilhooley, Evolution Design (updated 24/3/17)

Information resources:

Trade Press : We read The Drum who have a recruitment section > Drum Jobs

Good article for Creatives seeking work, practical
Tips On How To Land Yourself A Design Job  > DesignTaxi

Recruitment websites:

Time Recruitment – specialist office recruitment firm often seeking to fill temporary and permanent roles

AWS Recruitment – specialist charity sector recruitment agency in Edinburgh covering central Scotland

You can try going to this website for news about who does offer placements:

Or you could also try they try to arrange placements, if you are Edinburgh based.

Also if you want to move to Scotland have a look into registering here > contact