Ex UWIC students, Sean Rees and Emma Jones spoke today to third years about their journey from education to today.

Lecture notes to follow.


Both worked in multiple design agencies, makes me wonder why no one seems to be able to keep a job in this industry…

Moved to london. The busy, messy, noisy city. Very different from Wales

Attended D&AD New Blood to scope out the competition and standard.
It’s a good opportunity to get yourself seen! Make yourself stand out and you’ll make the right connections.

Sean Rees
First brief was from Mercedes benz. Amazing brief. Worked until 11:30pm every day! Was amazed to be working on such a prestigious brand. Didn’t win the brief unfortunately. The next brief was for pedigree. “It was a bit of a culture shock to go from Mercedesa to dog food!” “It didn’t really turn me on or excite me in terms of creativity.

“Eventually had an opportunity to work on ‘the Vodafone account’. Produce illustrations for the Vodafone shop, it was nice to be able to see something in the world that you had worked on. Continued on to develop artwork for packaging. Also worked on a booklet for a Vodafone photo shoot. Afterwards, had the opportunity to work on a campaign for Vodafone Music: worked with a set of icons that they adapted into a language, logo, and developed into an alphabet that was used on advertising posters and billboards. It was very exciting to see all this in the real world.

Was at Enterprise IG (now Brand Union) for two and a half years, so it was “All I knew was working with huge, heavy hitting, brands.” Might have been missing out on getting experience in print, and smaller areas. If you work on huge global institutions, there is a lot of risks involved, so you have to be a bit on the safe side. This could possibly hold you back a little bit. After Enterprise IG, moved on to BB/Saunders. It was far smaller, in total there were 4 people in the office, a complete polar opposite experience to the larger company. The smaller studio was a smaller, more enjoyable, environment. Were able to enjoy exhibitions and the area more. Had the opportunity to do a bit of art direction, print, and eventually work on the Nike account. Half way through the job, the recession hit, and Nike severely cut their spending on advertising, so things became a bit tight.

BB/Saunders, had to close, making everyone redundant. Left without a job in the recession. Went into freelance, if you can get the work, it pays well. Went to Carter Wong for about four weeks before being invited into The Partners, who have a reputation for being award winning. Worked on a project for a hospice in London called Go Red. This project won several awards!

Was enjoying working for The Partners, but decided to move on when the opportunity arose. Ended up at a company called Purpose.


Emma Jones
Knocked on doors, trying to get placements. First placement was in an advertising agency, a very cut throat environment with little collaboration. They weren’t very generous with work, so stole a British Gas brief from the photocopier, presented to the director and beat the ‘professionals’ by winning the brief. They weren’t happy…

Went to The Partners afterwards: made serious amounts of tea, 26 in one round! There was a lot of delivering, fetching, photocopying, scanning,  and mocking up. First project was for the London Design Festival. Had to source 800 tins of baked beans. Many late nights and early mornings later had relabeled them all and stacked them up. You get asked to do random things on placement. First brig project was on the Liverpool Victoria rebrand. Learnt a lot about photography, and pitching. Had something good for the portfolio at the end of it too!

Constant rejections from agencies were hard to take. Worked at Radford Wallice, making tea! Got to work on a brief for D&AD. Offered a job at Departures in Cardiff, meant leaving London.

Currently working at Departures in Cardiff. Much smaller client base, smaller budget, but more creative freedom. Worked on a copy heavy project for S4C, had high production values, even down to testing perforation depth! Next, worked on corporate logos for local businesses. In a smaller company, you are responsible for everything; talking to clients, getting print quotes, doing the dishes, etc. Photo shoots in studio were great for learning how it works. In a photo shoot with Welsh Rugby players, they had half a day to plan, and half an hour with the players! “It’s cool to see your stuff everywhere!”

In the recession, left Departures for a job in Form. Moved back to London. Form was a “really cool agency”, with lots of fun young clients. WOrking at Form got to work on a lot of print projects. the people at Form were quite well connected, so got to work with a lot of musicians. “My way of working was very different to there’s, so I quit.” You have to be happy and enjoy what you’re doing. Above all, “If you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing, it’s not going to be great work.” Moved to Fig Tree. Worked on briefs for HTC, The London Fashion Show, Orange, and Blackberry. Working for a big brand can still be really interesting.


For The Journey
Salvador, Salvador Design – “Your degree grade is not the be all and end all. Employers look at your portfolio and you. A degree is just a piece of paper.”

Sean Rees – “On al the interviews I’ve ever had, I’ve never been asked about my degree. It’s all about your portfolio and the quality of your work. The mark isn’t all that important.”

Emma Jones, Fig Tree – “Don’t act like a placement.” have confidence in yourself and don’t assume that you’ll be doing all the donkey work. Have confidence in yourself, have opinions, and push yourself to get involved in design work. Throw yourself in there as a designer.

Piers Komlosy, Purpose – “No apologies.” Never ever ever put anything in your portfolio that you’re ashamed of. Don’t tell the interviewer about mistakes, be confident in your work. Just don’t.

Rob Howsam, Purpose – “Get out there. Make yourself useful. Then make yourself indispensable.” It’s often people who immerse themselves in the work who become indispensable.

Sean Rees, Purpose – “Go to the pub. Don’t get pissed.” While you’re at work, everyone’s ‘at work’, so it’s hard to get to know people. The pub is where you can get to know your colleges as people. Just don’t get pissed.

Tim Brownm, The Partners – “Don’t be a dick.” Our industry is small. If you’re a dick, everyone will know you’re a dick.

Aled Phillips, Departures / John Holton, Figtree / Michael Paisley – “Don’t chase the money.” Be prepared to be skint for the first few years. Phocus on the work you want to do, get into the places that do that work, and don’t worrk about the money.

Nick Couch, Figtree – “Your Mac is a tool.” It’s easier to sell ideas when they’re sketched than macked up.

Nick Couch, Figtree – “Don’t stay in your first job for more than five years.” You might start to stagnate a bit if you stay too long. Even negative experiences will help you to be a more rounded designer.

Nick Couch, Figtree – “Have the generosity to design not just for yourself.” Realistically, you’re not designing for yourself. It’s about being a designer, not an artist.

Lucie Raufast, Figtree – You’re not a superstar.Be Humble.” Do not have an ego, it’s very off putting. Be humble, take advice, there’s always someone better than you.


How do you approach companies in London?
The best thing to do is to have a beautifully designed PDF. Designers are busy. 8-ish pieces, short, well designed portfolio, and a short email. I am… I want to work with you because… Here’s my PDF. It’s important that you have an email of a human being. Have a bit of courage and call them, ask who to send it to or it might end up in their junk. Call in advance and spell their name right!

Do you have work lined up in London before you moved there?
Sion – offered a job half way into year two after placement. If I hadn’t had that, it would have been an issue. It’s expensive. It’s a risk. It’s harder when every thing’s uncertain. Get on a placement chain. As long at you’re half decent, you’ll be handed on. Some placements aren’t paid. Unless your parents are rich, it’s very hard.

Any advice how to pick yourself up after a low like being made redundant?
You just do. Networking is very important. Tell people when you’re freelancing. It’s a nice industry who are very supportive of each other, despite being in competition. Ride it out and carry on. It’ll work out. Have a bit of courage, there’s a lot of awesome people out there who will say “this is too hard” and take the easy approach. You might earn more, work less hours, and have more holiday, but it depends how much you want it.

Would you have time to read a letter?
Send work. Letters will most likely be lost/discarded. Wouldn’t recommend weird stuff, it’s a bit weird and stalkerish. There’s no chance you’ll be contacted if you do something overly wacky! Treat it like a brief and do it well. Do it nicely and include work. If it’s out of the ordinary, its got to be good.