KLC’s Kevin McEwen (Course Leader) and Sam Miller (Senior Tutor) sat down to chat with renowned designers, and friends of KLC, Sam Goddard & Oliver Davies (Martin Kemp Design) and Tim Mutton (CEO of Black Sheep). They talked through practical advice for those looking to join the industry, tips for how to stand out, as well as their own experience in the ever-changing industry.
Kevin McEwen (Diploma HE Course Leader) had the following questions:
We are really keen on social engagement here at KLC, design that matters and that can make a contribution to people’s lives. As leading industry practitioners, do you see this as a growing remit for designers, to consider how design can make a difference?
Tim Mutton (Blacksheep): Absolutely, design can be viewed as an aesthetic quality which is detrimental to a designer’s ability to improve and change people’s lives […] Designers, through the right form of creative insight and intelligence, have the ability to make the world a better place particularly through social engagement and taking social responsibility.
Ollie and Sam (Martin Kemp Design): For us, this has always been a fundamental tenet of design, and it is our reasons for existing as designers. I am not sure this is a growing remit as such – more of a constant - although maybe we are more self-critical these days. But it is almost tangible how interiors affect a person. We, as designers, might be more tuned in to it, but it affects everyone.
From an employability point of view, what do you look for in a junior designer?
Tim Mutton (Blacksheep): It’s always a fine balance but the overriding attributes have everything to do with attitude and personality. We are fundamentally looking for junior designers that are curious and ambitious; who can grow, learn and improve themselves in our studio.
Ollie and Sam (Martin Kemp Design): We are very much a ‘people’ company, so first and foremost, it is about personality. Do you want to sit next to that person day in day out? Passion and creativity are extremely important, but we are also looking for […] patience, calmness and a degree of humility alongside the passion […] One has to understand when joining a company as a junior designer that you still have a lot to learn […] there are also practical rights and wrongs that can only really be learnt with experience so listening and learning will be the first part of the job. It doesn’t sound glamorous but it is important.
What words of advice would you give our graduates as they enter the industry?
Tim Mutton (Blacksheep): Definitely, have fun! You have to enjoy what you do. Prepare to make mistakes and learn from someone that will inspire you.
Ollie and Sam (Martin Kemp Design): You want to be inspired by your company and its designers, otherwise you will never want to learn from them. When you have found that company, be persistent and apply directly, not through agencies […] Nothing works better than showing a company that you only want to work for them – play to their egos!
Sam Miller (Diploma HE Senior Tutor) prepared the following questions for our industry project leaders:
What did you learn from your experience being a Project Leader at KLC?
Tim Mutton (Blacksheep): I thoroughly enjoyed offering advice and help to all the students while participating in their critique sessions and presentations. It was a joy and really refreshing to be back in an environment of learning, while having the opportunity to list to all the students’ enthusiasm and unrestrained creative ideas.
Ollie and Sam (Martin Kemp Design): Very easy – we learnt again how important the concept is in a project. It is easy to forget this when you are working in the industry and time becomes a rare commodity. We loved seeing these concepts evolve from the interim meetings we had with the students to the final presentations. There was so much creative thought and everyone came from a different angle. We were so excited about each one and we were inspired by them. So thank you!
What do you wish you had been taught during your design studies?
Tim Mutton (Blacksheep): I always wish my design studies included some form of business training and how to market and ready yourself for professional practice or how to become a freelancer if required. We need more creative business leaders.
Ollie and Sam (Martin Kemp Design): As strong as a computer visual is, a hand sketch can be double powerful. It shows to the client that you personally toiled over the detail and aesthetic. A computer render is impersonal. But more importantly, we end up designing to our computer’s abilities – hence if you use SketchUp as your only design tool, most of your furniture will either be blocky or downloaded from a warehouse. This stifles design.
How do you solve design problems?
Tim Mutton (Blacksheep): I take lots of walks i.e take yourself away from the problem to identify how best to tackle it.
Ollie and Sam (Martin Kemp Design): Sketching first, then Sketchup. Both are enormously helpful for thinking through a problem. But also try speaking to others. Most problems we encounter have been surmounted by people before us, so we don’t need to keep reinventing the wheel. Use the people around you – colleagues, contractors and suppliers
Thank you very much to our wonderful Industry Project Leaders for their helpful input and expertise.