Expert Advice for a Career in Graphic Design

Meet Jake and Katie, our two central graphic designers. They are behind a lot of the designs and graphics you see around campus, on social media, our branding, and out in the world!

They’re incredibly talented with decades of experience between them. We sat down with them to find out more about them, their work and to get some advice for those wanting to start a career in graphic design.


A white line break


Tell us a bit about your background and why you got into graphic design

Jake: I’ve been working as a graphic designer for 16 years around Manchester since studying Design and Art Direction at Manchester Metropolitan University. Alongside working with ACC I am a freelance graphic and motion designer under the name hellojakeb.com. 

Growing up I drew all the time and wanted to illustrate books but at secondary school my interests turned to music and I put all my energy into being in a band. After college we collectively decided to move to Manchester and after a year out we all went to university. The band slowly split up but I rediscovered my passion for layout and visual communication.


Work by Katie Dawe


Katie: Without sounding like a bit of a cliché, I’ve always wanted to do something creative. However, I don’t think I really started to understand what graphic design was until I did a Graphic Communication A-Level, where I began to learn all of the basics. 

It soon became all encompassing and I would spend all my time doing my graphics and art coursework. I think it was around then that I really started to learn all the different areas within graphic design. After that I studied an art foundation course which opened my eyes even further to the world of graphic design and all the fun that could be had with it. 

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after that so I applied to uni and ended up at Manchester School of Art studying graphic design. I was able to really hone my skills and figure out what it was that I enjoyed doing within graphic design. After uni I got my first job as a Junior Graphic Designer, at Access. In this role I’ve learnt so much from Jake and all the other creatives within the business.


A white line break


What’s been your biggest achievement in your careers so far?


Work by Jakeb


J: I’ve been lucky enough to work with major brands and to have had work displayed around the world, such as in retail environments for the sports brand ASICS during my time at design agency WDC. But I find smaller, personal wins more satisfying like running my small business Press Print Shop through which I’ve successfully run a Kickstarter campaign, which was a huge personal achievement for me.

K: I would say my biggest achievement so far has been graduating uni with a First Class Degree and with a portfolio I was so proud of. I worked so hard in uni. There was a lot of hard work and many long nights and early mornings but I got there in the end and I was so proud of that. I was also so proud when I got my first graphic design job. It can be difficult when you finish college/university as the competition is so high, and I think it can be very easy to get disheartened about it. 

The year after I graduated I kept working on my portfolio, creating new projects, getting lots of feedback from people in the industry which I think is so important when looking for that first job. So when I did get the job I was really proud that I kept trying and didn’t give up, and clearly the wait and work was worth it!


A white line break


What’s been your favourite project to work on?

J: I worked for a landmark Art and Crafts shop in Manchester for a few years, during which time I specialised in a type of printing called Riso. To promote the shop’s studio I created a mini model version of the Riso printer that you could build out of card. Through a lot of trial and error using the shop’s laser cutter, I made a flatpack model you could buy and it was received really well in the vibrant Riso printing community. I even got a phone call from the CEO’s office in Japan saying they loved the model and have it on display there.

K: One of my favourite projects I’ve done was a branding project that I did after uni. I created a brand for a fictional museum which celebrates and brings together the history and nature of Yorkshire. I really loved the outcome of this project. At ACC, one of my favourite design projects to work on is Access Magazine. I’ve always really loved layout design so it’s really fun to work on something like access and have lots of creative freedom.


A white line break


What’s your biggest challenge in graphic design and how do you overcome it?


Work by Jakeb



J: Fully understanding the client’s needs is so important. Whether it’s a 10 page brief or a vague chat, that first hurdle of understanding the message and how you say it is the biggest challenge. You overcome it by being open and focussing on one or two of your strongest ideas from an initial idea generation.

K: I think my biggest challenge is that I sometimes get stuck in a bit of a creative rut. When I find myself in these situations, I think the best thing to do is sit back and have some time away from it. It’s hard to always be creative and be on top form, creativity doesn’t always come when you need it to. I find flicking through books really helps, sometimes you can see something that might trigger a thought.


A white line break


What advice would you give to future graphic designers?

J: Having the ability to see creative work on social media is incredible and you should use this resource to pool together styles of work that you love that you can reference in the future. Having said that, it’s easy to get into the mindset that everyone out there is amazing and it can feel daunting to try, let alone put your work out there. I would encourage aspiring designers not to judge themselves against others and to nurture their own style as this will attract the type of clients you will want to work with.

K: Don’t give up! Like I said before, it took me some time after finishing uni to get my first design job and I remember thinking sometimes ‘maybe this isn’t for me’, but if it’s something you’re passionate about and want to do then don’t give up, it will happen! I also agree with Jake, it’s so important to find your own style within design. It can be easy to follow the trends and make work you think people want to see, but it’s so much more important to find your own style and keep working on it and developing it.


A white line break


What do you think the future of graphic design is?

J: Designers will be expected to create more dynamic content. The lines of design, animation, 3D and illustration are becoming more blurred as software is making it easier for designers to develop their static concepts into moving images. It’s really exciting to be a designer at the moment, as the tools and potential applications for digital design are becoming more accessible and the possibilities are getting greater. 

K: Like Jake said, it really is so exciting to be a designer right now with all the new software and tools. The opportunities to create unique and interesting designs are endless. I think what’s really great as well is people are becoming more and more aware of graphic design and everything surrounding it. I remember even when I went to uni to study graphic design people would ask ‘so what is that exactly’ and now I hear that less and less. It’s great that it’s becoming more recognised and gives me much hope for the opportunities and future of design.


A white line break


If you’re interested in pursuing a career in graphic design, take a look at our Media Courses. We have a range of design courses for ages 16-24. 

Last updated on: 15th November 2023