Design work experience student workbook

A 20 page workbook to help students complete work experience in a design studio.


How work experience works
How to organise your studio contacts
Suggested interview questions
Help write a design brief
Achievements checklist to record outcomes

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The book will be supplied as a PDF.
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How a design studio works

We can look at how a design studio works by looking at the roles that different people play in a studio.

Job titles can vary between studios but there are some broad descriptions that most people follow. The design industry is always changing and evolving, especially with the advances of technology like the web and apps, and this means job descriptions have had to be revised often.

Basically there are four main job descriptions: graphic designers, digital designers, mac operators and design managers.

Graphic designers obviously do the design in areas such as print, packaging and online. They are 'rated' by the length of time they have been working in studios: junior designers, middleweight designers, senior designers, art directors, creative directors and web designers.

Junior designers are usually rated ‘junior’ for the first two to three years solid industry experience. In most studios a junior designer will lay out pages under supervision, make corrections to InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator files, and generally back up the middleweight and senior designers.

Middleweight designers would have more than 2 years experience and be able to demonstrate they can work without supervision and produce professional level designs. They usually start working on small projects and progress to more sophisticated work as they move to senior designer level. They can take design briefs from a client or an account manager and implement them from start to finish.

Senior designers usually have more than five years of experience in design studios. They would have probably worked at a few studios by the time they reach this level. A senior designer has a high level of skill in dealing with clients, is very experienced in taking, writing and implementing a brief. A senior designer would normally have oversight of a number of projects and be able to juggle their time and head space to cope with all of them.

Art directors are more commonly found in ad agencies where they direct the work of designers and mac operators. They would normally be responsible for implementing the creative strategies that are developed by a creative director. They usually work in the art room with the designers and mac operators.

Creative directors work directly with the clients in generating ideas rather than executing them on a computer. The title is often used for a studio owner because they take ultimate responsibility for the creative direction of the business. In an ad agency the creative director oversees all aspects of creative work including copywriting and design.

Web designers have extensive HTML and CSS skills working with Dreamweaver or open source programs such as Wordpress. Web designers work with web developers who do the high end programming with languages such as Java. Web designers must have a thorough understanding of usability, online branding, e-marketing and search engine optimisation.

App designers is a relatively new role for designers. These are usually people who have progressed from web design into designing and producing apps for tablets and smart phones. They must have a thorough understanding of tablet/smart phone usability, digital branding, e-marketing and development systems.

Mac operators are also sometimes called finished artists or graphic artists. Mac operators in a design studio are usually concerned with the technical end of the process with tasks like pre-press file preparation, taking in text corrections, formatting documents and the layout of print documents after they have been designed. Mac operators have an eye for detail with type and colour and usually have high end skills in InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Design managers can be responsible for all of the non design/artwork parts of a studio. This will include budgeting, scheduling and account service. Design managers often have a marketing background that allows them to work with clients.

Accounts service people in a design studio usually work under a studio owner or design manager. Their role is to keep close contact with clients and make sure that projects are kept on time and on budget.

Studio managers are similar to a design managers in some ways. Their main job is to manage the day to day work of a design studio. They tend to have less client contact than design managers. They often manage production with printers etc. Their role covers management of resources and staff.