How this Junior Designer turned her internship into a job
How winning a New Blood Pencil helped jump-start this designer’s career at Pearlfisher
Hannah Francis answered a New Blood creative brief for Grey Poupon, and the mustard brand liked her New Blood Pencil-winning idea so much they enlisted her to turn it into a commercial concept. She later went on to become a Junior Designer at Pearlfisher. Here, Francis tells us what she learned from the experience, why stalking people on LinkedIn isn’t a bad thing, and why creatives should always speak up, even when in junior roles.
What’s it like being a Junior Designer at Pearlfisher?
It's great being able to join such a big agency that does such exciting work for different clients. What I do on a daily basis depends on the project. It’s better when I’m on a longer-term project because it's consistent, and I can get my head around what I'm doing. If I'm on a branding project, for example, I’ll be ideating and collaborating with the wider team on a daily basis. Other times, I’ll be making smaller changes to work that’s already been made, but obviously, everyone has to do that at times. I’ve also recently been doing some in-house illustration work, so that's been fun.
What was your route into the creative industry?
I got this job because I had done a graphic design internship at Elmwood Brand Consultancy, and I was able to create some really great bonds with the people there and connect with who I was working with. They ended up recommending me to various people, until finally an opening came up at Pearlfisher. I was recommended to work at Pearlfisher, which is really nice. It kind of shocked me. I think when you're interning, if nothing is quite working out and things aren’t falling into place, it's really easy to assume that it's never going to work out and that you’ll be interning forever. It just goes to show, the more bonds you create with people, the more they'll look out for you and help you on the journey that you want to be on.
How did you get your first internship?
I spent a lot of time making changes to my portfolio after I left uni because I was constantly not happy with it, so I was actually a little bit behind compared to my peers. I was emailing around trying to find any internship slots that were available, and a lot of them had been taken up. I eventually got a few interviews lined up and ended up at Elmwood. It was literally just through emailing.
At uni, the more work you do, the more you start looking at references and agencies that you like, and studios that are producing work that you resonate with. I was starting to build a big long-list of places I wanted to intern at, but obviously you end up being stuck for contact details for some of it. I was working my way through my list and a lot of the time, you can’t find an email address because an agency's website will just have ‘Hello@whatever’, and it's so hard to penetrate through that. I was going on LinkedIn and trying to connect with everyone I could, probably like such a stalker. I was adding people and getting their email address in that way.
What made you apply to the New Blood Awards?
While at uni my friends and I were wondering if we should do studio competitions or the D&AD New Blood briefs and weighing up which would benefit us more. The New Blood briefs are so competitive, you feel like you’ll have less of a chance of winning. They’re also tricky and multi-layered, so you have to almost break a few rules in order to get to an interesting concept. We ended up getting a Pencil though, so it benefited us a lot.
Can you tell us a bit about your Pencil-winning idea?
Our entry for Grey Poupon was called The Mustard Revolution, and we got a Wood Pencil for it. After we won, Grey Poupon reached out to our group and asked if we wanted to take the idea further to commercial work. In the end, I was the only one to take on the work, because the other two people in my group had internships at the time. I developed the work that they wanted with a slightly tweaked concept. It was basically just me doing the work that the client asked for, hoping I was going the right way about it, because I hadn’t done any professional work yet. It was great to understand how clients think and what they actually want, but it was a bit of a gamble because I was taking up my own time and it was months of work. I think it did pay off though, because it made a really interesting talking point for when I was being interviewed for things and I would always bring it up.
Has anyone helped you in your career so far? If so, who?
Yes, when I was interning at Elmwood so many people had my best interests at heart. I think there are some agencies that almost specialise in teaching. I definitely feel like I had that experience at Elmwood. There were so many different hacks in Illustrator that I learned that I didn't know as a student. They really also tried to champion the juniors and got everyone involved in good jobs and acknowledged that even though we were less experienced, everybody has great ideas.
What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the creative industry?
Don’t be too hung up on perfecting your portfolio before showing it to people, because when you have interviews, you end up speaking about your work to creatives and they give you so much feedback that you’re going to be able to make those changes later. Also, when you're actually interning don't be afraid to speak. Make yourself jump into conversations, especially if you only have a two-week internship for example, definitely make your presence known. I don’t mean in an arrogant way, but just make sure you’re someone people want to speak to.
Get in touch with Hannah Francis on LinkedIn.
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