An Interview With A Graphic Designer - Oliver Jenkins
A Graphic Design student from Norwich University
We spoke to UK-based freelance graphic designer Oliver Jenkins about his time spent at university and how his degree has benefited him upon graduating.
Did you always want to work in graphic design?
Strangely enough, no. I’m sure if you asked anyone that knows me that I talk about design all the time nowadays though! Weirdly enough, I always wanted to pursue mathematics, but when I got to A-level, an art tutor gave me the direction to apply my growing passion for spending all my time in the art rooms. Thank god for that, I much prefer seeing my work actually come to life rather than just crunching numbers.
Did you feel that your degree helped you enter the world of freelance?
In the long term, totally. The nature of the creative arts and their institutions are founded on collaboration and that’s something that really gets forged into you in a creative degree from the get go. The lecturers and tutors knew what was the best advice to give each individual. These were guys and girls who had extensive experience in the industry or were even still active, so they knew freelance is a common route for creatives.
What university did you attend, and what did you like about it?
I went to the Norwich University of the Arts studying illustration. The university was great, unique even. The course itself was one that really encouraged individualism and exploration, which helped not only inform my direction as a creative, but as a person. The faculty took are real care in understanding the students that drove the work, just as much as the work itself - that was what I liked about it.
What did you learn about yourself at university?
That I always under estimated a project!
Did you have a favourite module at university?
I do remember one where we were put in a group and had to produce a magazine. So tough to settle on something when there’s five people throwing out different ideas! We did manage to settle on it being screen printed though, which meant I got to spend weeks in the screen print rooms. It being a very physical process just made it very different and introduced me to a whole new world of design.
After finishing university, how did you enter your target market within graphic design?
Well I had moved down to Brighton when I graduated, It was tough - I had to work as an intern in several studios, but it put me in the firing line of real live work, which is a bit of a trial by fire coming out of a degree! Having come from an illustration background I had to adapt pretty fast, as illustration work is fairly uncommon and niche whilst the bread and butter is branding & web design.
By working in a studio you came into contact with plenty of people and clients. I got lucky and a small business approached me for a complete re-haul of their brand. That was just from where they had seen me working on a project within the studio. Putting myself out there for people to see what I could do was what gained me traction. From there my focus became local small businesses, as they were under represented and were usually a bit more open with ideas, albeit with a generally smaller budget.
What are the best and worst things about being a freelance graphic designer?
The best thing is that you’ll work on such a myriad of things and equally as many people. You might find yourself working on a poster for a festival one week, then an entire re-brand of a cocktail bar. Just be prepared to keep up!
The worst thing is the lack of security - you have to constantly look for more work. You drop the ball on that and you can’t pay your rent! It’s a work ethic that’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.
Where would you like to see yourself in 3 years?
On a tropical beach sipping piña colada not having to worry where the next client is coming in from. Seriously? Hopefully have own small studio space with an employee or two. By then I would have probably diversified the work into other roles, such as UI/UX design for mobile apps as well as video production.
If you could provide advice for prospective graduates, what would that be?
Don’t be afraid to fail or make the wrong decision. Sometimes the best experiences & opportunities come out of a mistake or oversight. Just make sure you have the willpower to stick it out when those mistakes come around, as they will - I know firsthand!