Placement Experience: Junior Graphic Designer at Waterline Media – Lucy Ferguson

Lucy Ferguson studies Graphic Design at the University of Portsmouth and is currently working as a Junior Graphic Designer at Waterline Media based in Port Hamble. She shares the highs and lows of her experience so far and why she thinks a placement year can “change your mindset, attitude and boost your knowledge!”

How did you find your placement role?

I was looking through the positions on the Creative Careers website carefully to find a role that was best suited to the area of graphic design I am interested in; print design. Most were quite far away, meaning I would have to give up a lot to go on placement, I wanted to stay pretty local to Portsmouth. I was told about Waterline Media by my partner who is also studying the same course as me. It sounded amazing, I looked it up, loved it, and sent my CV off to Creative Careers, got a reply straight away and an interview within a few weeks. It was an easy process from start to finish.

How many applications did you make? (Approx.)

I only applied for two placements (doesn’t mean everyone should just apply for two, I just got lucky with one that I really wanted), one being Debenhams in London and then Waterline Media in Hamble. My experience with Debenhams didn’t make me feel confident, I didn’t feel like I would fit in with it being a giant company. London was not the place for me. When I found out more about Waterline Media, it was perfect, local, did a variety of design and was a small business, one in which I would feel comfortable and part of a team.

How did Creative Careers support you in your placement search?

Through Creative Careers I was able to have my CV thoroughly checked. I was able to email them and get quick responses if I wasn’t sure about something. The thing I found most supportive was the 1-1’s where I could discuss my placement choices, what to expect and the processes of placement in which I found myself lost. The way in which the placements are advertised is very clear and Moodle has a mountain of helpful links and information which made me feel comfortable and confident with starting a placement.

…No need to feel lost or confused, this placement has been an amazing experience and the process to get here was easy with the help provided, so take it!

Company

Waterline Media are a creative agency, experts in design, photography, video, production and marketing. Mostly in the marine industry, they are in the process of expanding out to different areas, getting more and more clients by the day. I am very proud to work with a company which is growing, expanding and all-round amazing!

I work in the studio in the design department where me and one other designer handle all of the design jobs. Handling all the jobs has definitely been a new experience, the workload has increased, and it doesn’t compare to university in the slightest, a whole different experience for me. It is hard, challenging at times but very rewarding and has opened my eyes to a whole new world, the world of working! I will definitely go back into uni with a fresh set of eyes and a schedule. Working full time five days a week is tiring, but worth it when you see your designs being printed, displayed and receiving praise. I hope that when I finish my placement, I will have a greater knowledge of business, how things are run and also come back with all of the new skills I have learnt over the nine months I have been here.

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(Image above: example of a website design by Lucy)

Placement Role

My role is a Junior Designer involves dealing with clients on a daily basis, joining meetings, sketching up ideas for the clients, answering emails, everything you can think of! But as stressful as that sounds, it became a habit, an enjoyable habit which I would look forward to every day. I sit at a desk every day, which doesn’t sound amazing, but I love what I do! I am inspired by all the passion in this job and it allows me to be creative too. I use Adobe programs mostly and have also done some website design which was new to me but have learnt a lot from the people I work with. I am responsible for meeting deadlines, sending things to print, creating things big and small from business cards to giant coffee table books for billionaires, this placement has opened me up to so much more than just design.

I love it here, I feel very welcomed, supported and am treated very fairly, not to mention that I get along with everyone, which is so important! Everyone works as a team and is very helpful whenever I ask questions, they share their knowledge with me if I get stuck and I assist them when needed too. If anything, I do wish that I could be more involved with client meetings in person, but I do realise that some are very important and may not fit with what I am doing, I know I will be involved when I can be. I drive there and back every day and it’s definitely all worth it. I’m grateful for all of the people I work with and they have made my experience here so amazing, they have opened my eyes to a completely different way of working such as hitting deadlines and working to briefs in a very short amount of time. It’s so different to university and I couldn’t be happier with the way I’m being treated and supported. I have learnt a lot in my time here already and can’t wait for the other months to come.

Benefits

There are a lot of benefits to being a placement student! Getting a years’ experience in the working world I think is the biggest and most valuable thing I will be able to take away from university. It was, and still is an experience which came as a shock at first, but it gives me an insight into life after uni, what it is like to run a business and running a company, while also meeting deadlines within a short space of time. I learn something new every day, I meet new people every day, and that is something which I feel that uni doesn’t give you all the time. Other benefits include a relaxed atmosphere and lovely people to work with, helping me if I need it and teaching me techniques which I never knew before. If I started uni with what I knew now, I would definitely be ten times better with the knowledge I have gained.

It’s been a rollercoaster, had its ups and downs, good and bad days, but I have learnt that not everything goes right the first time, with a good amount of research, experimenting and planning you will get to your solution, something which I panicked about at uni creating more frustration than needed. So now when I go back to uni I will return with a head full of new knowledge and a calmer mind set, as uni in comparison to the working world is a lot nicer deadline wise! Now I have realised that!

Best & Worst Things

Whilst being here, I have made things from business cards to printed material and websites, receiving praise every step of the way. I think my biggest achievement here has definitely been a logo which I created for the company Aesthetics Collective, and a 250 page coffee table book for the billion dollar yacht ‘Elandess’ which I will receive a copy of. This book includes gold foiling, embossing, perfect binding and other print techniques which make it that little bit more special.

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(Image above: Lucy’s Aesthetics Collective logo design)

The worst points for me have been corporate documents, editing Word documents and creating training booklets. This isn’t the path I want to take, but to get to the good stuff, you have to fight through the bad. It’s a design job and you can’t always get what you want, so I face it with the mind-set that in the future I will be able to do work that creatively challenges me, and I can’t wait to get back into that!

Concerns

I wasn’t sure about it at first, I didn’t want to be away from my partner (who is also on placement halfway up the country!) and I wanted to graduate with my friends. I was told how valuable this placement is, how much more employable it makes you, so I jumped into it, without even thinking about the bad. I didn’t want my worries about my partner or friends to stop me achieving the best that I can. It has all turned out perfectly though! I still see my friends and I’m still with my partner! If you make it work, and want to be successful, you WILL make it work. I shouldn’t have been scared at first of what is going to help me out so much in the future.

I worried about pay, driving an hour and back every day, losing friends, not getting along with the people I work with, everything you could worry about, I did… and I can say now that there was no need to worry, I have no regrets and if you’re given the chance to do a placement, do it, it will change your mindset, attitude and boost your knowledge.

Skills

A lot of stuff which I’ve learnt on placement I didn’t even know at university! I learnt the correct way to print, how to print, different techniques and shortcuts to make life easier! I gained the skill of confidence in myself too which I feel very proud of! I am proud of myself and the work I create and have found value in those two things. I’m a better speaker than I used to be, and I have developed and grown creatively too, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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(Image above: Lucy’s skills have been put to practise in this brochure she designed)

Training

Training was pretty minimal, I was put straight into it, the stress and the deadlines, but it was so worth it! I got help along the way by some lovely people who I work with who boosted my confidence, something in which I went into this placement not having much of. In this job I have learnt as I go, more challenges get sent my way and I try and solve them myself before asking others.

Highlights so far

It’s all gone so quick here, and so much has happened, I’ve definitely been a valuable part of the team, and to be told that by my boss who is ripping his hair out and is always busy was very flattering and made me feel great! I was also offered a job over the summer and have already been asked to continue working here after I graduate, so out of everything, those are my highlights. To be valued where you work makes you want to work harder and make people happy! Being part of a placement can set you up for life, get you a job and put you into contact with people, which is so worth it.

Future

I think my career path might stray a bit further from what I am doing now. I have always liked to be hands on, messy and creative with crafts and design, so I think this has opened my mind up to the office working world. It’s definitely been fun, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like to see how in the future I can combine what I am doing now in the studio with something more artsy such as a screen print studio of my own, or my own handmade stationary brand. On placement I have definitely found my love for print and paper.

…Even if your placement isn’t the Graphic Design field you feel is for you, it’s so worth going for as it will open your mind up to your future, allowing you to explore different routes and career paths…

My final year I will come back with a head full of knowledge and completely smash it and graduate with a 1st. Waterline Media have offered to help me in my final year with printing and getting into contact with important people if I need it and I couldn’t be more grateful.

My plans after my degree are still unknown, I still want to explore myself and what I can do in my final year, but as I said above, I have definitely found my direction. I’d love to set up my own business with my partner and have a studio, but anything could influence my future, and placement has definitely done that. There is still so much to learn!

Advice for students thinking about doing a placement?

Go for it!

I wasn’t so sure at first, I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend for a year, I wanted to graduate with the friends which I made during my 1st and 2nd year. However, I didn’t want that to hold me back from gaining experience. A year is a year, it will be over before you know it, so gather and absorb as much information and experience as you can in that short period of time! For me, experience is more important, I will now be able to leave university with a degree behind me and also be able to say that I’ve done a placement, making me more employable! I’ve already been offered a job here at the end of university, so I’m clearly doing something right! It’s something which you shouldn’t ignore, don’t avoid doing a placement because your friends aren’t, do it for you and your future! I have met so many new people, gained new contacts and experienced something which will help me out later on in life and I couldn’t be more grateful for it! As for searching for your placement, Creative Careers help so much, take advantage of the help that they offer, it helped me and so many others and I thank everyone so much for this amazing opportunity!

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(Image above: More of Lucy’s work which she can proudly display in her portfolio of designs)

Are you a student interested in a career in Graphic Design? Like the sound of Lucy’s placement with Waterline Media? 

Applications are now open for the Graphic Design Assistant Placement at Waterline Media in Port Hamble. Click here to view the vacancy and kick-start your design career with a valuable year in the industry!

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