An interview with Illustrator and Junior Designer, Lauren Hay

An interview with Illustrator and Junior Designer, Lauren Hay

Originally from Scotland, Lauren Hay is an illustrator now based in London, where she is working as a Junior designer for the creative content agency, SevenC3.

I first met Lauren online through the Creative Bloggers community on Twitter and Facebook, which she started in September 2014. This was a great community for me to be part of because it allowed me to talk to other creatives about projects I was working on, sharing works in progress and receiving advice when it was needed. I especially loved the weekly #CBloggers chat on Twitter, a fab place to “hang out” with so many creative folk (with the added bonus of being present right from the comfort of my sofa!). These days Lauren isn’t as active on social media as she once was, purely because she’s been focusing on her new role and life in London, but it’s nice to see she’s still actively creating new work by taking part in projects such as #the100dayproject.

Today’s interview is a great one for those who are finishing university and are heading into the real world of work. Lauren has provided plenty of insight into how her life transitioned from being a student in Scotland, to being employed at her first full-time role with a London based creative content agency, and the opportunities she made use of in between. Along with the interview Lauren has shared a great mix of illustrations and works in progress, providing a behind the scenes look into her work process.

Enjoy the interview!

Hi Lauren! What did you study at university? Did you get an internship to gain real world experience whilst studying?

I studied Visual communications and media design at Abertay University. The course was really open ended and gave a lot of room for exploration. During my two years there, I worked on variety of projects including traditional branding, varying illustration briefs and even producing assets for a mobile game. It gave me a lot of opportunity to try different things and an idea of where I wanted to apply my skills after uni.

While I was at uni I spent my weekends working in retail, as well as during the holidays so didn’t do any internships during it. I managed to get 4 different ones after uni though! My first was through the Scottish Design Festival (GDFS) held in Glasgow, where I competed in a ‘live brief’ and got an internship with Freytag Anderson. My second was found through a studio asking for applications via Twitter and was with Venn Creative all the way down in Cornwall! My last two I got through word of mouth and friends. It’s so important to utilise the network you have around you!

Lets discuss how your graphic design career started. How did you manage to get your foot in the door as a Junior designer?

Building up my expierence and knowledge was definitely the biggest thing to get me a junior position. But I think taking risks also helps massively! Travelling to London from northern Scotland I was worried that the journey wouldn’t be worth it and I’d have forked out money for nothing. Yet going down and seeing Scott, my design director, in person really helped. The main thing I’ve realised through the interview process for junior positions is that the company really just wants to know that you are open to learning. You don’t have to be a polished designer, in fact they probably don’t want you to be one.

Talk us through a day in the life of working as a Junior designer at SevenC3. What does your day-to-day role involve?

Oh jeez… I definitely don’t have a ‘standard’ day-to-day. Being in an agency, things move quickly all the time. Sometimes I will be spending the day working on motion graphic listicles for Vitality. Other days I spend it drawing of scamps and illustrations for printables. And then other days are spent working on varying parts of the magazine design process, whether that’s layout and editorial design or sorting files for repro. It’s been a great first full time job for me as I’ve been able to work on a huge amount of clients and different types of work. I’ve definitely learned a humongous amount within my year and a half there. 

Coming out of the safety net of education and stepping into the world of work, did you feel you were well prepared?

In ways yes and in ways no. Before I was at University I did two years at College, where they were pretty good at helping us think about after graduation. We did modules on putting together a portfolio, ‘selling’ yourself as a creative and the more admin bits like CV’s and prepping for interviews. If I didn’t have that I would have been so unprepared as my uni didn’t do anything to this extent.

But other than the routes into employed work, I felt like we weren’t shown enough about the opportunities of freelance or commission work. I’ve done a handful of both over the years but it would be great to have had more confidence when doing it!

Is there anything about working for a creative agency that you can give us some insight on? Was there anything you wished you knew before starting your Junior designer role, or even something that came as a pleasant surprise?

Definitely expect the unexpected! Working in an agency, let along a creative content agency, things are moving and changing all the time! It can feel hard to keep up with and you’re bound to make mistakes or not understand something so just speak to your line manager or team about it to work through. You don’t need to deal with it on your own.

How has your creative knowledge and style developed since working at SevenC3?

I would say I’ve mainly learned and developed the most with my motion graphics and illustration. They were both things I had dabbled with in college and university, but it wasn’t till being at SevenC3 that I really got going with them both.

After Effects is what we use for motion graphic and animated projects and although I had a stint of using it in uni, I was no where near as proficient in it as I had been of Illustrator or Photoshop. But I’ve got to a point with it now that I feel confident in using it, can bash something out pretty quickly and even teach my co-workers a few things!

And for illustration, I’ve been able to develop my illustration style of people completely from the work I’ve done there. I’ve always loved the illustrations you get in magazines and having been surrounded by that I wanted to give my hand at doing the same thing too! Luckily I’ve been supported in this and actively get more and more chances to apply it at work. 

What’s the next step for your career? Where do you see yourself in five years?

I’m not completely sure! I’ve loved getting to see the social media and digital content side of things and I’ve been working on the Google Analytics and Digital Garage courses, so there may be something down the route of that. But I also want to try pick up more illustration gigs outside of work on a freelance basis. Something down the middle would be a lovely sweet spot! 

You’ve been in London for a while now. How have you found the creative scene compares to that of Scotland?

I think London itself is just completely different to Scotland, let alone the creative scene. There are always events or workshops going on, which is fantastic and gives a lot of opportunity in being able to meet other people. But it can be overwhelming at times too! It’s hard to know where to focus your attention. I do long for the calmer days of Scottish life but for the time being I’m going to soak up as much as I can. 

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Let’s talk a little about #CBloggers! How long have you been running the community, and are you still as involved as you were previously?

Community has been a massively important thing in my journey. From having the #cbloggers group at the start, to Charli and Femke’s Design Life community and the people I’ve met through Instagram and Twitter, they have been so crucial to where I’ve got to. I think as creatives, having people around us who get what we do and support it are so important. They’re great to be there to have ideas to bounce off of and to share knowledge between. I’ve learned so much from things like Ladies, Wine and Design and SheSays events that it’s really propelled my career.

Do you get time to work on personal projects?

I’d like to think I’m an absolute personal project addict! I’ve had so many of the years with a blog, Youtube, #cbloggers and varying illustration and lettering ones! I think we creative folk are never truly satisfied so are always looking for something to pour ourselves into and learn from. I always tend to have a couple going at a time, I’m currently doing #the100dayproject for another year. I always like to do things like these as it makes me rethink what I’m doing and where I am and what I need to learn in order to push myself or advance my skills. Even if you’re flat out with other things life throws at you, I think it’s important to even privately have small projects on the go that can be just for you. 

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I hope you enjoyed getting to know more about Lauren’s career, and how she got started at a busy design agency in London. You can keep up with Lauren on her website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.