Louise Darnley - Graphic Designer
Name, Age and Hometown?
Louise Darnley. 34. Nairn
Job title (list all job titles for the duration of employment).
Ever since graduating from university in 2010 I have been a graphic designer. I began specialising in branding plus website development and build. Now, I continue to specialise in branding, as well as designing for social media.
What did you want to do when you left school?
When I was about nine I was told I could draw well. As I made my way through primary school then into secondary school, it became apparent that my artistic ability had the potential to provide me with a viable career path. Architecture runs in my family and that was an avenue I wanted to pursue. When I was fourteen, I spent a week of work experience at an architecture firm, but I decided it was too creatively restrictive for me. I knew I still wanted to work in design though. Over the next couple of years, my interests in art and music began to merge: when I became more interested in the album cover art than the music, I began to learn more about graphic design. My passion grew from there.
Where did you study and why?
To follow a path in art and design there was really only one place to go in my mind: art school. We are lucky that in Scotland we have four of the best universities for art and design in the UK. Glasgow School of Art always held a level of prestige in my eyes but when I attended the open day the design courses didn’t feel like the right fit. When I walked into the Graphic Design department at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee, I knew I HAD to be part of it.
It’s easy to see why it is ranked the best in Scotland. The course covered exactly what I wanted to study. Advertising, typography, editorial art, book covers, album covers: everything I wanted to create. I worked hard and I was accepted.
What attracted you to the industry you are in?
Being a designer is a mix of being creative and designing with purpose. We are problem solvers. I have learned that problem solving doesn’t just happen in maths equations: you can solve a problem creatively in this industry. Whether that be selling a product by designing eye-catching packaging, building an effective brand for a company to help it become better known, or reaching millions of people through an online campaign to tell a story.
Describe your day-to-day role?
No day is the same as a designer. One day I could be working on a social media campaign for a global company, the next I can be helping a local charity find ways to attract volunteers. The clients and projects we work on at Dynam range in needs and size so every day is different and that’s what makes this industry exciting.
What kind of training have you done?
My degree gave me the grounding for how I still work now. After university I trained on the job in HTML and CSS coding to develop websites. Since then, I have learned the basics in newer programs such as Adobe After Effects and Adobe XD. Lockdown actually helped a lot with allowing time for this and sites like Skill Share had great offers during this time.
What skills have you learned?
I have learned so much from my peers about print production, details that were never explained to us at university. On the digital side, Facebook started showing adverts at the beginning of 2012. Since then, we have seen the notion of using social media to sell products and promote businesses explode and change continuously. This was a huge learning process and very much is something I still learn about every day.
Have you completed any professional qualifications? If yes, provide details.
I have a Bdes Honours Degree in Graphic Design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design at the University of Dundee
Do you like living and working in the highlands? Explain why/ why not.
When I graduated I was criticised for moving back home to Nairn. Everyone I knew was going to London as that’s where the jobs were. But I knew from the type of graduate placements that were on offer here that businesses in this area were seeing the benefits of investing in good design. It wasn’t until I began working here that I saw the outstanding achievements of Highland businesses. Seafood suppliers to Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. Whiskies that are in global demand. Textile firms that have become internationally known and thousands of small companies pumping money back into their local economy every day. It is a great feeling to support a business community focused on people who live next door to you. The knowledge and skill gained from working with these companies can translate into innovative and unique thinking for global companies.
What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?
Time management. Deadlines are deadlines, and your money and your reputation can be lost if you don’t meet them. Communication, making sure that as a team we can relay the needs of the client effectively to one another. Thinking out of the box. Anyone can learn how to use Photoshop or memorise lists and lists of fonts, but it’s knowing how to use them in a unique and interesting way that is key.
Was there anything about the job that surprised you?
How the landscape of what design is and how we design is constantly changing, sometimes daily.
Is there anything unusual about your role?
Because we need to understand our clients and their companies in real depth, I have often found I have become knowledgeable in things I thought I would never know about. How fish are farmed, how beer is brewed, how carpets are fitted - even how you manage multiple planes coming into an airport! Watch out for me in a pub quiz!!
Do you get a lot of support from your company?
No idea is a bad idea. We have the freedom to develop new concepts and ways of finding solutions to client needs.
What is your favourite part of the job?
Seeing a project through from beginning to end. When we start from a logo and work all the way though to a marketing campaign that receives good engagement, it means I’ve done my job well. It’s hugely rewarding to create visuals for a company, product or service that are effective and lucrative for the client.
Does your job allow you to work remotely?
Yes, we all work using programs that can be accessed from our computer anywhere we are. The past year has shown that working remotely is achievable, and we have used online applications to help us come together to brainstorm and share our ideas so our creativity can still thrive.
If so, how have you found remote working? Advantages & Disadvantages
The commute to work can be an advantage and a disadvantage! Advantage in the sense it can get me ready for work mode and on the way home I can get back into mum mode, but it is nice to have more time in the mornings and not be stuck in traffic.
I need to make sure the space around me is not cluttered, which can often mean a lot more cleaning at home! I do like the quiet of it if I’m really focusing on a project, although nothing beats turning to the whole team in our studio and bouncing ideas off each other in the moment!
Would you like to continue working remotely?
I think a mixed blend of home and office will work for most people moving forward.
What is your advice for young school leavers?
Read, watch, scroll, listen to and click on everything you can find relating to your chosen field of work. Keeping current and understanding trends is key to building your skills and knowing what you can expect from the industry you want to be in. Expect to start at the bottom of most roles. This doesn’t mean you won’t move up quickly, but you are not entitled to anything - you need to work for it. Be open to what is next, listen to your peers and keep going until you reach your goal.