Luke Tonge
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
Getting employed! I graduated from one of the top courses in the country (Falmouth) with a 1st class degree, I had a ton of enthusiasm, passion and half-decent work, and in my naivety I presumed getting a job would be the simple next step. Turns out I wasn’t the only one going for those few graduate positions! We were often told the terrifying stat that on average we’d have to send out 100 applications before landing our first job, fortunately I landed mine on number 11 or 12. Those first few weeks (months) post-Uni are daunting and humbling, and our education system doesn’t always do the best job of preparing students for that no-mans-land.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Be a jerk. It’s that simple! I have interviewed a lot of graduates and I’m always more interested in their character than their abilities. Talent is obviously essential, and technical ability is a bonus, but if you’re a jerk no-one will want to work with you. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, but it’s definitely not a line you want to cross in an interview. I remember one kid didn’t even bring any work to discuss! It’s such an interconnected community that making a good impression is crucial, plus as I mentioned before there’s SO many talented people out there, all after work. If faced with blatant jerkiness it’s a dead cert you’ll be quickly shown the door.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Nah, that would be cheating :-) Looking back it’s been an enjoyable process learning on the job and gaining experience by doing. “Paying your dues” is character-forming and ultimately rewarding, so I’m happy to have had to take the long-way-round a few times. Like Buck65 said, “fast ain’t always better than slow ya know?” — plus I was very fortunate that my first C/D recognised where I would be most useful and quickly created a role for me. Perhaps the only advice I might’ve given myself would be to start saving money as soon as I started earning, and to buy just a few less of those weighty design books that now make moving house a daunting prospect!
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Working in a busy studio is usually great, but when I need to crack on I find wearing headphones or simply finding an empty room to work from can greatly enhance my focus. If I’m doing freelance or self-initiated projects at home I’ve found clear filing, regular saving and backing up to be the biggest efficiency boost! It certainly reduces the chance of squeaky-bum moments when things inevitably go south... Lastly, taking a break and going for a wander is one of the most important parts of my routine — it’s hard to protect such time — especially when deadlines are looming, but its super helpful to let ideas mull.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
How long have you got? (see question 3) There’s far too many amazing titles to list so rather than singling any out I’d just advise designers to read more in general — magazines, journals, blogs, books etc. Knowing the history of your trade AND the current state of things is so important. Being well read and articulate is a huge asset in the creative industries and will make you more likely to be invited to pitch, meet clients etc. There’s loads of great book publishers out there — Unit Editions, Lars Muller, Victionary, Laurence King, etc. not to mention an eBay full of amazing old titles and an internet full of amazing magazines (, — so there’s no excuse to not invest now and again in some lovely print (or convince your employer to!).
Luke answered the questions on July 16, 2014.
The answers were published on July 22, 2014.