Dear Design Industry

Dear Design Industry


Subject: Re: Industry Role – Reflection


Dear Industry,

Having placed our designers into a several studios to gaining some practical work, here are some opening thoughts from our graduates on their experience working in the design industry and we were shocked, and disheartened to hear from three of our flock:

“The workplace we gathered experience from, lacked general care towards the welfare of their staff regarding this position. The overall expectation was high and we were expected to produce work in short and unrealistic time frames.”  — 1

“I was warned by a fellow staff member, if I complained, the director would make my name mud throughout Perth” — 2

“There were several parts to this role, which felt wasn’t what a normal working environment. I felt the contribution and commitment were substantial to the company, trying to complete tasks to the best of my knowledge and abilities. 

But on reflection of this role:

        1. No induction or training from directors
        2. Constant dissatisfaction from work produced
        3. Lack of Senior Design input/management
        4. No culture or value
        5. Pay rate just under the minimum standard (sub $24.50)”

3 (All Advanced Diploma , third year students)

We recognise that mentoring, internships and work experience for graduates within the industry is a vital part of their journey — their Odyssey! And we are hugely grateful for the work on the Internship Minimum Standards by NEVER NOT CREATIVE — Let this help guide all agencies and studios as we prepare our young talent entering the design industry:


TAFE Design Lecturers


Subject: Top 10 pain points


Dear Design Agency, 

I thank you for the short stint that you provided me as a casual designer but I must say this experience was not without its share of frustrations and disappointment. Here are a few jarring points that I found :

Two-minute induction

I received an induction that lasted shorter than cooking packaged noodles. At least I learnt where the toilet was located. 

Internship vs junior roles – Contribution

An internship involves typically a senior designer looking over and helping the intern. In this role, I was a junior designer where I wasn’t given any guidance.

Software and PowerPoint

As a designer, I expect to produce work using Adobe software as I have been trained to. With you, I was expected to produce documents using Microsoft Office software like Word and PowerPoint. This is fine in itself, but it slowed down the workflow. At one point I had to very patiently explain you couldn’t embed a particular Adobe licensed typeface in a PowerPoint slide. 


I was paid less than the job I did as a kitchen hand which was quite astounding. I quit my job as a kitchen hand to maintain my workload with the mindset that I was taking a step in the right direction for my design career.

When I enquired about overtime and gain clarification over the hours I worked in the office, I was told that “you do not get paid overtime and I’m not expected to stay after the shift ends… {you are} an adult and should be able to make responsible decisions”

However, this very much contradicted the habit of asking me to complete work such as social media posts or creating variations of a design minutes before the shift ends.

Importance of mentor / senior designer / production manager

I feel it is paramount to learn even when you are working in a junior role. With this particular experience, I had no guidance from a senior designer. So I am the studio’s primary creative, but I am not learning at all. The work is to be produced at such a breakneck speed that there is no chance to learn anything at all.

General observation of the ‘state of the industry’ and ‘expectations’ and red flags ‘ethics’

A few red flags that popped up was that they advertised the role I was filling the very next day I was offered the job. I was told nothing about this. At no point ever was there a conversation about this.

Expectations such as being paid overtime, getting guidance and learning were quickly thrown out the window. It wasn’t communicated to me that the workplace eventually ended up hiring a new full-time designer and I was told to just not come in the week after as there was no more work to be done. It would be nice to not be left high and dry.


There was never a good culture at the workplace. Not a single ‘Hi, how are you?’ was uttered the entire time. There is no exchange of words, a completely desolate office where the only communication I received was about what work I’m expected to produce.  

Trust. Long term planning. Career goal.  

This experience has made me ask myself what exactly are the industry standards. With this experience, the baseline for industry-standard expectations is quite low. I don’t have a lot to compare this experience with, but I would love to be proven otherwise.


A Disgruntled Graduate 


Subject: Top 10 Tips


Dear Graduate Students,

Here are ten points to share: 

  1. Work hard: It can be a very competitive industry as every designer is creative in their way. In order to stand out, be bold and constantly keep your creative mind working each day. Explore things that are new to you.
  2. Be confident: As a designer, we tend to think others are always better than us. Believe in every brief given to you, be it Uni assignments or freelance work, take it and stay confident that you can do a great job. 
  3. Stay creative: Research! Explore! Follow artists/designers! Keep people close through social media. 
  4. Take every opportunity available: Take whatever opportunity that comes to you that will help you in your career. Take it! Make sure it is something you are comfortable doing.
  5. Connect with people: Creative industry is a rather tight community! You need to know people within the industry. Get onto AGDA, PADC, TDK etc. to connect with people and make yourself known to them.
  6. Believe in yourself: Believe in your work! 
  7. Challenge yourself: Take the challenge to enter into competitions or take up a hard brief! Push yourself! 
  8. Find your differences: There are many designers out there, so find your difference as a graphic designer or whatever you want to be.
  9. Value your work: Even though some projects might not be successful, be grateful that you pushed yourself to do so and trust that practice makes perfect!
  10. Stay true to yourself: Sometimes, there is a certain situation where you are not taken seriously as a designer, so stay true to what you believe and carry on pushing through. 

In my second year of Uni, I started taking up freelance branding jobs in Perth and Singapore. I got an internship as a Graphic Designer in SpaceDraft for 6 months, doing icons and templates for their platform.

Now, I am doing an internship in Melbourne with Milkman Agency where I mainly assist the Senior Designer in branding, illustrations and AfterEffects. I also assist the Head of Social in creating social media content for clients and Milkman. 

At the same time, I was involved in the discussions for client campaign projects, where we brainstormed potential ideas for clients to choose from for their monthly campaigns. In the internship, I got to learn AfterEffects, creating social media content and using PowerPoint for corporate templates. So it will be great if you are good at Adobe and Microsoft Office. 

Mentors and Senior Designers have experiences that we could learn from. So it is very important to take this chance you have with the AGDA mentorship, as they can guide you on the right path. Once you get into the workforce, it is different, as you will have to deal with clients, test your skills in communicating in teams, working multiple jobs at the same time. So it is essential to manage your time well. Give a time limit when working to keep you on track and efficient with work. Every idea is a good idea, don’t be afraid to voice out your opinion.

Unfortunately, with lockdown happening in Victoria, Milkman is unable to hire me due to an insufficient budget. So I am working twice as hard by sending out resumes for a full-time job and taking up freelance work at the same time to get things flowing. Times can be hard but keep pushing on!


Amanda Teo
Recent Curtin Uni Graduate

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