About 6 months ago, I was a Web Design and New Media student at the Academy of Art University living on loans and endlessly worrying how my life would pan out once that final semester was over. I was very fortunately hired for a visual design internship here at ROI·DNA literally on my last day of school (how poetic is that?). And a few months into that internship, I was brought onto the team here as a full-time Visual Designer. Needless to say, the last 6 months of my work life have been exciting and ever-changing. For any design student who is preparing to enter the workforce, I wanted to share 6 key takeaways I learned in my 6 months in the marketing industry that will hopefully benefit you.
1. If your school offers industry events, go to them!
As introvert designers (as let’s face it, many of us are), you might think that going to industry events might be a waste of effort. “Oh, it’s optional, so I’m not going to do it. I can use that time to work on homework” might be your mentality. It was mine for a while, but let me tell you how wrong you are if you think that!
Academy of Art put on an industry event for our department where reps from different design agencies were brought in to look at graduating students’ work. These sorts of events are so important, because it’s your first real chance at potentially getting your foot in the door somewhere. I went to this event with an open mind willing to talk to companies of all shapes and sizes, and little did I know I would be meeting the people I’d eventually be sharing an office with. If your school hosts these sorts of things, go to them! You never know where they’ll take you.
2. Being a designer means being social
Being a designer means being able to communicate your design decisions and presenting them. It’s a chance to build credibility for yourself and improve your confidence. The more confident you are about the work you’ve done, the more likely people are to agree with your decisions. It’s a skill I’m still trying to master, and am improving every day.
Communication is also key when bringing your new ideas to life. It’s incredibly important to ask as many questions to a client as possible before jumping into design to make sure you deliver a quality product, and also to assure the client that they made a good decision in choosing you. In short: don’t be afraid to talk about your work. People want to hear you talk (at least some of the time)!
3. If you haven’t used stock images before, you’re going to
I had never utilized stock photos as often as I have since starting work at ROI. In school, we were always encouraged to take our own photos. Using stock images was always looked down upon. “You’ll never use stock images. Professionals take their own photos” was what I was often told. This is, to put it bluntly, mostly untrue. In the professional world, companies use stock images all the time. Finding just the right image is a skill all on its own and you’ll never find the perfect one in just 5 minutes of searching.
I’ve become so familiar with stock images that I’ve begun to realize how often major companies use them. This may seem obvious to most industry professionals, but it’s eye-opening to a newbie like me, especially coming right from a school that discouraged using them.
4. You must design your work knowing that it will (most likely) get changed as the project moves forward
More often than not, the work you design does not fully match the completed end product, so you must design your work knowing full well that it will get changed along the way. And to be honest, that’s a good thing as that means that ideas evolve and grow during the design process.
For example, when designing websites for clients, you’re basically giving them the groundwork to use for their own needs later on. This means they will use the modules you designed for other criteria where it may not be particularly appropriate (at least in a designer’s eyes). The skill of knowing when to and when not to push back against the client is crucial in this industry. And on top of that, being open and receptive to client and peer feedback is incredibly important to your professional growth. There’s just so much to learn!
5. The pace at which things change in the marketing industry is faaaaaaast
When working at a marketing agency, the rapid pace is to be expected. Going into my internship at ROI, I knew things would be fast-paced, but I never expected it to be quite so quick. Programs and plugins we use quickly go in and out of date, client projects start and finish, landing pages turn into websites, and most projects were due yesterday (okay, maybe an exaggeration). It’s always a roller coaster ride!
I can’t complain though, the rapid pace keeps things exciting here. There’s never a dull moment working in a busy agency like this as there’s always something changing that keeps things fresh. The days fly by here as a result. And of course you know the saying — time flies when you’re having fun!
Finally, and most importantly:
6. Participating in after-hours company events is so, so important (and fulfilling)
ROI·DNA encourages our team to spend time with each other inside and outside of work. They give us several opportunities to do so, whether it’s a catered lunch, an industry event, a company field trip, or even just our bi-weekly happy hours. This special time we spend with each other is so important. These are the people you’re spending your work life with, so it makes sense that you should get to know them! The more friendly you are with your colleagues, the more you will enjoy your time spent at the office.
If I’m being honest here, I think the best aspect of working at ROI is the people I work with. I’ve never worked with so many cheerful and creative people before. I truly believe that enjoying your job is directly related to how well you get along with your colleagues, and my time at ROI·DNA has definitely reflected that in a positive way.
And, in conclusion…
I have really enjoyed my time at ROI·DNA so far and look forward to continuing to dive in. I’m still learning new things every day, and this list is ever-expanding. It’s never a dull moment at a marketing agency and I highly recommend it. By the way, we’re hiring!