Designers reveal how they got into the industry

Written by: Sarah Dawood
Published on: 2 Oct 2016

Last week, we wrote about a new college which hopes to offer students an “alternative route” into design. Now, we ask established creatives – how did you get into the field, and what advice would you offer young people starting out?


Jodie Wightman, creative director, Together Design

“Design captured my attention around age 11, during visits to newspaper printing plants, where my Dad was part of the big bad crew of engineers bringing computers and technology into the industry while mountains of metal type and wood block were being discarded. I was fascinated by the printing plates, with their backwards images and type, whizzing around and spitting out paper at the other end. I wish I’d rescued the discarded trays of type!

My advice is to be the best, the most passionate, the most enthusiastic and be willing to learn on the job – that’s where you will get your most important education. Never think you know enough: there will always be someone or something else you can learn from.”


Matt Baxter, creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“My introduction to design was partly down to the door-opening properties of a little yellow pencil. My D&AD student gold (won way back in prehistoric 1995) helped in a couple of ways; it gave me the confidence to make myself known to the design companies I really wanted to work for; and it helped get me noticed by them. My first job at the wonderful, much-missed Trickett & Webb was partly down to yellow pencil power.

So my advice to graduates is always this: say ‘yes’ to everything you can. Enter all of the design competitions, go to all of the events, join all the clubs, dive into the collaborations. The power of ‘yes’ will get you far. And when you’ve been around for as long as I have and need to be a little more protective of your time, you can take the occasional pleasure in saying ‘no’.”


Karen Hughes, creative director, True North

“No classroom compares to getting hands-on in a real design studio. During my degree at UCLAN I was lucky enough to gain a year’s work placement at The Chase. The experience transformed me. I came away with a completely new way of thinking about design that has stayed with me to this day. That’s not something that can be easily taught, it’s something that develops and refines by working for weeks/months/years alongside talented, creative people. So my advice is to get as much experience as you possibly can and soak up every bit of it.”


Gerardine and Wayne Hemingway, founders, HemingwayDesign

“Gerardine and I got into design by going to clubs, dancing, watching bands,  and steadfastly refusing to buy high-street clothes but rather by making outfits ourselves. We had no idea that we could be designers when as teenagers we emptied our wardrobes onto Camden Market and then opened a stall in Kensington Market. We were simply trying to pay the rent on our flat and afford the rehearsal studio costs for the band I was in. But we quickly learnt what makes consumers tick.

From then, it was small steps towards becoming designers. So all budding designers, I urge you to go clubbing, watch bands, dance yer backsides off, push the boundaries with what you wear and then get in front of people.”