A crowdsourced top ten of hints & tips for approaching design agencies, aimed at helping design students and recent graduates make the best first impression.
Don't just say you're passionate about what you do; prove it. Make sure you have a website, blog, Twitter account or something online (and public) where you talk about all the design stuff you've seen and who or what influences you – as well as showing your own work. This helps demonstrate your love of design.
You may've had an incredibly exciting life so far, full of weird and wonderful experiences that have shaped the person you are today. Your Curriculum Vitae probably isn't the place for interesting anecdotes, however, so keep it concise and, above all, relevant.
You're a designer so it's absolutely, totally, utterly, can't-stress-it-enough-crucial that you take the time to design whatever you send out to agencies. An A4 Word document isn't good enough.
Pick and choose. Don't simply contact any and every agency you've heard of or have found through Google; be selective about which companies you approach and consider carefully whether you and your style of work would be a good fit for them.
Really do your homework. Take the time to research every company you get in touch with and tailor your approach specifically to each one. If you like a particular project they've done, tell them what you like about it – designers are fond of flattery and it shows that you care about the same things they do.
For goodness sake, get the company's name right. You may well be sending fairly similar correspondence (though not exactly the same – see previous point) to several different agencies but be extremely careful to never, ever approach one using another design company's name. Doh! It's not only likely to annoy the company but it won't cast your proof-reading skills in the best of lights either.
On a similar note to the point above … always run a spell check before sending anything. Always.
Be positive about your work and only show the best pieces. Don't feel you have to bulk-out your portfolio with mediocre projects; a few great pieces'll make a much better impression than a dozen 'so-so' ones.
Demonstrate a level of commercial understanding. As designers are frequently under tight deadlines, don't solely show projects that took you weeks and weeks to complete, no matter how beautiful and/or award-winning they may be. No quick-turnaround projects in your portfolio? Set yourself a one-day brief.
Be honest! If you exaggerate your knowledge, experience or even your passion for design, you will be found out. And this won't make a very good impression at all. No, siree. It may sound ridiculously corny but the easiest and most successful approach is to simply be yourself.
Finally ... Good Luck
A big thank you to the following graphic designers for contributing their pearls of professional wisdom:
James Coleman (designer/director at Supercool); Keith Dodds (D8 Design Consultants); Clare Godson (Head of Design at Clarke Associates); Kristian Kaupang (freelance designer/art director); John Newbold (Creative Director at 383 Project); Katie Parry (designer/director at Supercool).
An extra-special thanks to Tina Løkke Leth (designer and former Supercool intern) for all her hard work on the Yoo-Hoo identity.