Maisie is a senior graphic designer at Jones Knowles Ritchie design studio, where she only joined in June last year. Before that, she worked at B&B Studio for seven years after graduating from her degree in Graphic Design. Over the last year, she has doing some illustration on the side and she is currently learning cinema 4D.
Maisie is also the co-founder of two social design projects: Think Food Bank and Happy to Help. Both initiatives aim to support people who are some of the worst-hit by the pandemic.
So, you studied Graphic Design? Did you always want to go into the graphic design industry? Do you remember a pivotal moment when you made this decision?
Yep, I studied at Falmouth University which I absolutely loved. I’m really fortunate as my Dad actually worked as a Graphic Designer so I’ve grown up knowing it was a possible career option. I really wanted to go into advertising when I was younger but decided that studying Graphic Design would give me more opportunities after I graduated and I’m really glad I did! I’m not sure I could handle ad-world!
Did you have a mentor or someone who you looked up to throughout your time at university and at the start of your career? If so, who was it and how did they help?
My tutors were amazing and super helpful but I never really had a mentor. B&B was full of incredible designers who I learnt so much from, and I was very lucky that when I joined B&B there was an incredible freelancer there (Alex Lazarevic) who I’ve been able to chat to over the years as a friend, but I did really wish I had more people to talk to in the industry when I graduated just to get general advice and guidance from.
How important do you think it is for newly graduates/new people in the industry to build valuable connections with those more experienced ? I have heard of a lot of grads having mentors who they look up to, as if they are creative older brothers/sisters – is this something you think is valuable?
I think it’s incredibly valuable. There’s so much you don’t know about the industry when you’re a student and you are extremely reliant on tutors and universities to guide you towards good agencies but I do think sometimes they can be a bit biassed. It’s also nearly impossible to tell from the outside how an agency really works, websites and instagram can be very misleading in terms of the real day-to-day design work that you would be doing there, placements and internships are invaluable for learning where’s a good fit but even knowing where to apply to or the kind of work you want to be doing can be so confusing when you’re graduating.
Earlier this year, you co-founded the initiative Happy to Help, which was to invite the creative industry to ‘fly the flag’ in support of the Class of 2021. This is such a lovely initiative, could you tell us a little more about it?
Yes! Happy to Help came about through a very quick Twitter exchange between me & Claudia Aggett. Claudia had graduated in the summer of 2020 and knew the disruption COVID causes first hand, whereas I was seeing it from an industry perspective. I was hearing of more and more agencies unable to take on internships remotely and I knew how important these were to develop as a designer. Last year’s graduates had been hit especially hard by COVID, it disrupted a year of teaching at a really crucial stage of their studies and meant that the usual connections to industry were nearly non-existent. We thought there had to be a way to let students know that the industry is still here to support them, and so came up with Happy to Help. We asked any creatives willing to offer their time either for a quick informal chat, or for a full portfolio review to add a flag into their name on socials, we also released a set of assets they could add to their profile photos or header images to let students know they were happy to be contacted. We created guides on instagram and lists on twitter that collated all the people involved so students could easily look through for people they’d like to get in touch with. We then let various universities and tutors know, to spread the word to students!
We thought there had to be a way to let students know that the industry is still here to support them, and so came up with Happy to Help.
The initiative blew up on social media, and, today, I still notice quite a few flags flying when I am scrolling on my feeds – did you anticipate this kind of reaction and industry involvement to the initiative?
We had no idea it would work so well! We created the entire thing in less than 24 hours alongside our jobs and really relied on the support of the industry and universities to get the word out there - Seeing how many people got involved and so quickly too was really incredible.
Personally, I struggle a little asking for industry help. As much as I love giving advice and offering a helping hand, I often feel intimidated and like I am being an annoyance when I approach anyone and ask for help. Do you have any advice for those (me🙋🏼♀️) who feel a little intimidated to approach those more experienced in the industry for advice?
Oh absolutely, same for me! It’s only recently I’ve been brave enough to message someone to ask if they would consider being my mentor as I’ve never actually had one myself!! I think the big thing to remember is that you really have nothing to lose, as long as you’re polite and considerate of the fact they might not have time to help you then any nice person would never be annoyed by someone messaging to ask for advice. I would ensure you say why you’re messaging them specifically, make it personal and considered and don’t just send the same copy & pasted message to anyone you can find on LinkedIn! Be clear in what you would like from them too, even if you’re not quite sure yourself, it’s useful to set expectations.
I think the big thing to remember is that you really have nothing to lose, as long as you’re polite and considerate of the fact they might not have time to help you then any nice person would never be annoyed by someone messaging to ask for advice.
You also started a new job this year? Congratulations! Could you tell us a little about the transition from leaving your first design job, after working there for 6 years (!!) to start your new one? Additionally, did the pandemic make this process any trickier?
I did! It was incredibly hard to leave my job at B&B, it was my first out of uni and there were so many positives about the agency. I loved the people and the projects we got to work on were amazing. However, I also knew it was time for a change and I wanted to keep learning and pushing myself - joining JKR has taught me so much in just the 6 months I’ve been there it was definitely the right choice. I think it’s important for every designer to work in a few different studios; you learn new ways to approach projects, new techniques and how to adapt to different processes.
It can be really hard to know when the right time to leave somewhere is and what the right journey is for you and I’d love for there to be more support for designers throughout their careers. The Middle School is a really great initiative for this and I think it’s really important for there to be more transparency within the industry about salaries, role expectations and development.
Weirdly the pandemic made the process of getting a new job much easier as interviews were all done over zoom, so no need for any excuses to be missing work or taking holiday to attend them! However I really didn’t enjoy starting a new job remotely and I have so much respect for anyone who managed to do 2 years of a job without actually meeting their colleagues!
I think it’s important for every designer to work in a few different studios; you learn new ways to approach projects, new techniques and how to adapt to different processes.
Do you have any interview tips for those currently on the job hunt?
Firstly, be confident in your work and what you can offer. I've interviewed so many graduates who tell me their work isn’t good or they don’t like how it turned out! If you don’t like it then take it out! It becomes a bit more complex when clients have input and certain projects are more successful at concept stage, but at university level you can have complete control over your work.
If you’re unsuccessful but really love an agency then don’t be afraid to ask for any feedback. I actually interviewed a few times at JKR, initially I was unsuccessful and I asked for a chat about what I could improve on. They felt my portfolio was very packaging heavy and they are branching into more branding than packaging, so I switched out my projects, applied again and here we are!
If you’re unsuccessful but really love an agency then don’t be afraid to ask for any feedback.
What are your go-to books, magazines, creative platforms etc that help you out when you hit a bit of a creative block ?
Websites I love include Creative Boom, it’s nice that, brand new - under consideration and design week, over the pandemic I’ve also really enjoyed listening to design podcasts creative boom and under consideration both have great ones that are nice to have on while you work to try and recreate a bit of the studio buzz! I also love instagram for inspiration, I just wish it was a bit easier to search on there! Some of the classic books are still my favourite, a lot of design has moved on from the clever logo era, but I still love A Smile in The Mind and The Art of Looking Sideways will never get old for me.
Lastly, if you could, what piece of advice would you tell your younger self, just starting her career?
I’d definitely tell myself to worry less, especially when comparing my path to others. It’s a cliche but it’s really not a race and I still have to remind myself of that now!
I’d definitely tell myself to worry less, especially when comparing my path to others.