Junior designers are being overlooked, so what can be done about it?

The industry reacts to news that junior designers may be being denied opportunities on the basis that senior designers require less training.

Recruitment data has revealed that design consultancies were hesitant to hire junior talent in 2022, instead opting for more experienced workers who are seen to require less guidance and training. With this in mind we asked designers how they feel about it, why else it might be happening and how design studios can benefit from having more junior designers on the team

DixonBaxi co-founder and ECD Aporva Baxi

We feel it is essential and our responsibility to support the next generation of talent.

We’ve always gone back to the belief that young talent – especially through the success of our intern academy, in which many have become leaders at DixonBaxi – brings new, positive energy and ideas to the studio.

One advantage is that we get to train them in the DixonBaxi Way – our ethos, values and principles. More than that, it’s exciting to see someone grow and flourish, which is part of the mutual reward and value.

There’s no denying it does take commitment and time as well as a coaching environment that fosters the junior creatives, but it’s well worth it as long as you maintain the right balance of talent and expertise on the team.

DesignBridge global CCO Emma Follett

Global economic and political pressures have impacted our clients significantly and squeezed timings and budgets; so, while we understand it may be ‘easier’ in the short term to rely on experienced talent, we know it can create a long-term problem for the agency. Juniors keep you on your toes, bring fresh energy and expose the best in the team around them. Increasingly, they bring perspectives that vary widely from many of our paths; especially if you recruit beyond the ‘expected’ universities.

While hybrid working has created a welcome break from the presenteeism and unsustainable hours of the traditional agency model, sustained remote working can create a barrier between people, which can make the mentoring process less intuitive. Emotions are harder to read over a screen and the natural direction and development or creative work isn’t as organic and natural; it’s not as much fun. The inspirational glue that binds a team together is harder to sustain across screens.

We’ve noticed throughout our work with D&AD Shift and mentoring on programmes such as the WPP x D&AD New Blood academy is the ability of young talent to work remotely, over multiple-time-zones and tight deadlines. This is impressive, and highlights the tenacity and ability of the future generation who’ve had to be incredibly self motivated, resourceful and adaptable during the last three years.

Design Bridge is a large agency, as such, we’ve been able to commit, long-term to our annual graduate programme ‘The Start’; we’ve been able to hire juniors throughout the pandemic and have been able to maintain and grow our future pipeline. For the health of the agency, you can’t skip a generation of talent.

POoR collective co-founder Shawn Adams

Many design firms claim that they have to invest in junior talent for up to a year before they bring ‘real’ value to their business. While this may be true, junior members of staff that are passionate and engaged have the potential to produce new forward-thinking fee-earning ideas. They could also provide well-needed insight into a younger market.

Junior members of staff are usually a blank canvas – especially those that are straight out of education. More experienced members of staff on the other hand could be harder to mould later down the line as they may have practiced in a specific way for many years. Ultimately, innovation comes from fresh thinking and one place this can be found is in young minds.

Lewis Moberly creative director Emily Fox

The seismic pandemic shift in working patterns seems unlikely change back, with the majority still working from home at least some of the time. For many this has had a profoundly positive effect on their work-life balance, however it is undoubtedly much harder to mentor interns and junior designers remotely. An easier life for some perhaps, but the creative output of a studio certainly suffers without input of fresh ideas and new perspectives. Lively dialogue from all ages and experiences is so valuable, and our visual experience of the world is evolving extremely fast. It’s vital we nurture talent just entering the design industry.

Special Projects co-founder and director of technology Adrian Westaway

It’s so important for a studio like ours to work with staff with a diverse range of experience in design. The most important thing we offer clients is a different perspective, and diversity is the key to finding that.

The more experienced team must be prepared to put in the extra work to help guide junior staff as they learn. We try to leave extra time in client projects where more junior staff can jump in but in a way that won’t risk the final outcome in case the work is too unfamiliar.

There’s never been a better time to learn on the job, there are so many wonderful training courses that junior staff can do in work time, and we often learn so much from the way they choose to work.

DesignStudio London executive creative director Elise Santangelo-Rous

Post pandemic business has been very uncertain. Recently we’ve seen big businesses reducing employee numbers. As the bottom line is affected, budgets become smaller and timelines get tighter. It can be easier to hire a senior designer that delivers, with speed and certainty.

Despite this shift, at DS we still believe it’s our responsibility to help shape the future of our industry by nurturing young talent to be the leaders of tomorrow. Junior talent is often the most exciting for us to bring into the team — it’s talent that surprises us, scares us, inspires us. New perspectives that shake up our way of thinking and give us new angles for solving problems. New perspectives are something we can all benefit from, all of the time. It ultimately makes our work better.

Our residency programme is specifically designed to help us find talent and bring it into the team at the most junior level. To balance out the rawness of skillset, we also look for high levels of coachability and a strong hunger to learn. We always try to look out for traits that suggest someone will be a quick learner. Our project team structures and processes are designed to fast track learning and growth for everyone, while making sure juniors are able to have the structure and support they need. At the end of the day, it’s much harder to teach unbridled, unconventional thinking than it is to teach processes and design craft.

Banner image credit: Jacob Lund on Shutterstock

Hide Comments (2)Show Comments (2)
  • Dan Lewis January 15, 2024 at 7:23 pm

    After 40 years of running my own small studio of 10 designers, engineers, and modelmakers in the US, I agree that fostering junior designers is important, but impractical in a small fast-moving studio. Given the amount of reeducation, work that has to be redone or corrected, and the amount of supervision required – the cost of hiring a junior is double the cost of hiring a designer with one to two years of experience.

  • Christian J May 7, 2024 at 4:10 pm

    I think back to my junior years as a creative. I spent more time driving vans than designing, as I was the lowest paid member of staff in the company.
    I also proved within my first few months that I had more talent in my little finger than the existing designer manager. Like many juniors, you come in, work as hard as you can, subsequently making enemies (or should I say, proving the immaturity of other ‘professionals’)! Needless to say it was more important to that particular manager, that I swept the yard in the pouring rain, other than working as a creative – even with an under-spec’d Pentium PC.

  • Post a comment

Latest articles

From the archives: Picture Post

As we head back into our archives, here’s a gem from March 1990. Jane Lewis looks at the creative ways design firms promoted their services through mail-outs.