A graduate of Billy Blue College of Design at Torrens University Australia, Imogen studied a Diploma of Graphic Design after ditching law a couple of years into her degree. Choosing to pursue her true passion, she’s now an AGDA Award winner and designer at Smack Bang Designs. So, if you need lessons on how to become a successful graphic designer, Imogen is a case in point.
A guest at our recent Design Career Talks, Imogen delved deep into the realities of the industry, from getting started to standing out. Here, she reveals six ways you can boost your own design career.
1. Follow your passion“Since I was little, I was always looking at logos and other designs. Still to this day I will choose a wine bottle based off the label,” says Imogen, who believes success comes when you do what you love. “I fell into design and it was a match made in heaven. Everything seemed to flow. Going to Billy Blue really helped me enhance that love and go straight into the industry and tackle it.”
2. Research is key if you want your designs to lastImogen says there’s a lot more to designing than putting pencil to paper. “It’s so important now to be re-engaged with the latest trends and innovations and what people are doing outside of your industry,” she says. “Because that’s the stuff that really informs your design decisions and what’s going to make an amazing brand down the track.”
And that requires a fair amount of research, says Imogen. “We need to step back and do some research, do some critical thinking: what does this brand look like in five years, ten years? Who are the competitors? What are they looking to do for the future?”
3. Be prepared for constant changeHaving gone from a Billy Blue x Vogue Australia intern to junior designer at Frost* Collective to a well-respected member of Smack Bang Designs, Imogen knows adaptability is key. Her advice? Be prepared to flex your skills and learn new ones.
“One day I might be working on creating a website or another day I might be running a photoshoot, or I might be checking print proofs or packaging that I’ve just designed,” says Imogen, adding she’s constantly expanding her skill set. “Recently I taught myself to do motion, so I’m doing a lot more animation,” says Imogen, who would stay back at work after hours to learn. “Now it’s one of the best qualities that I have.”
4. Work with people you admireWhile everyone’s creative processes vary, Imogen says the best results come when you work with like-minded people. “What I’ve learnt from being in a couple of different agencies is that it’s so important to find a culture you resonate with and that you’re with people you admire, you’re passionate about working with and you’re going for a common goal,” she says. “I’ve worked in agencies and with designers before who are very secretive and work their silos… At Smack Bang it’s all about collaboration, which I found really inspiring and really helped to elevate all of our work together.”
5. Don’t underestimate the power of presentationOf all the skills she gained at Billy Blue College of Design, Imogen says being able to present her ideas has done wonders for her career. “The fact that Billy Blue made you present every assessment and every idea, and you had to really stand up in front of your peers and [talk about your work] even if you felt like you were saying something stupid – it’s so important,” says Imogen, adding class is the perfect time to practice and receive constructive criticism. “There is so much presenting in design and selling the idea and standing in front of the client and getting them to sign the dotted line on terms of a concept or an idea.”
6. Don’t take your work too seriously
According to Imogen, the key ingredient to a rewarding career is fun. “Don't take design so seriously. You’ve got to have fun. Design is meant to be fun. It’s meant to be engaging,” she says. “When I was at Billy Blue, I really enjoyed doing fun things and trying out new ideas – and you still need to do that in the outside world.”
Want more? Here's Imogen's full talk at our Design Career Talks: