National Careers Week – User experience and creative designer

DesignerTell us about your current role

I am a User Experience and Creative Designer at CASCAiD. I’m responsible for controlling the user experience, what they see in our programs, how they interact with the software and what feedback they get.

I also manage the design and look and feel of the CASCAiD website and our marketing material such as brochures and leaflets. I do a lot of web design as well as looking after the corporate branding and working on various design projects.

What was your journey from education to your current job like?

I enjoyed art and design at school, so when I made choices about GCSEs I did Art and Design.

I did well in all of my GCSEs so I chose A level subjects that I enjoyed. I did Art and Design, Computer Science and Chemistry because I thought that this would give me a good range of subjects. I enjoyed all of the subjects but got an A in Art and Design, a B in Computer Science and a C in Chemistry so this confirmed that art and design was what I wanted to do.

I did quite a lot of research about what was the best route into graphic design, which was what I was particularly interested in. I did a BTEC Foundation Diploma at DeMontfort University. The best thing about the course was how broad it was. It included all of the art and design disciplines including life drawing, photography and sculpture as well as more commercial work. Being exposed to this broad range of disciplines helped me to discover what I wanted to do.

I then went on to a degree in Graphic Design at Leeds Metropolitan University where I got a 2:1.

After that, the challenge was getting into my first job which is always difficult without experience.

The good thing about design is that you can develop a portfolio of work to show a potential employer what you can do. It’s better than just a CV because it shows the types of work that you can actually produce.

I sent out a speculative email to lots of design agencies and companies that had design departments offering to meet and show them my portfolio. It was from this that I got my first job. A design agency was impressed with my portfolio and offered me a job.

When I was made redundant I did freelance work, designing for different clients. This and the other roles that I’ve had have helped me to work on different projects and to keep my portfolio up to date. When my last employer relocated, I applied and successfully got my job at CASCAiD.

What advice would you give to a young person who was interested in your career?

The landscape in this field has changed a lot in the last ten years or so. When I was starting out, I did a lot of designs by hand. Now technology plays such a huge role.
I’d recommend that you start producing design work in your own time. The best way to find out if you’re good and if you really enjoy this type of work is to get some practice. Try creating websites and start to develop your own portfolio of work. This will give you something to show at course or job interviews and help to give you the edge because they can see what you can actually do.

I’d also recommend starting off with quite a broad course like I did. It gives you exposure to lots of different aspects of design. You can then find out what you like and what you’re good at before you specialise.

And finally, what career did you want to do when you were younger?

I’ve always wanted to work in design. At primary school when I was about seven or eight years old I copied a drawing of a cartoon character by hand and my teacher and other kids were impressed. That’s when I realised that I was good and my interest really grew from there.

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