Ed note: None of these people actually exist. These are fictional characters in no way aligned to the agencies mentioned, simply (and lovingly) created to give a broad sense of three designer archetypes likely to be spotted in London.
The Designer Who Just Graduated
Jack has just graduated from the graphic design course at Central Saint Martin’s. In his first year he stayed living at home with his parents in Upminster, on the East London side of Essex. This meant he could commute into college on the District Line of the Underground and save some money. In his second and third years, he lived with friends he’d met in his course in a large shared house in Seven Sisters, a ramshackle yet increasingly hip area in north London packed with large warehouses (and the accompanying warehouse parties) and artists. It’s also very easily commutable on the Victoria Line to King’s Cross, where the CSM campus is based.
On graduating he returned to living with his parents to allow him to take on a series of low-paid or expenses-only internships at some of his dream agencies: in six months he found placements at Barnbrook and Graphic Thought Facility. He usually spends his lunch expenses at Itsu or Pret, and still stays in touch with friends from uni, managing to live a broadly similar life as when he was studying, just with less going out in the week.
He’s a very talented, passionate, and hardworking young designer and thanks to the fact that he doesn’t have to pay rent at the moment, can afford to move around until he finds the perfect junior role.
The Designer Two Years Out of College
Rachael graduated from Kingston University’s Graphic Design course in 2015 and is living in a house share in Peckham east London, with a friend from her course and three other people. Originally from a small village near Oxford, she likes Peckham and New Cross for the number of like minded art and design types and what she sees as a hip and unpretentious (yet increasingly gentrified) array of cafes, bars, and night spots. After graduating she took on internships for six months with financial support from her parents, and then set up a small design studio with two friends, initially working mostly on favors such as gig posters and branding for events and startups run by friends of friends. She also worked part-time in a cafe. Six months ago she landed a paid internship that turned into a full time role at east London agency Hato. She now earns £23,000 a year.
She brings a packed lunch to work everyday and cycles in during the summer, but curses herself for spending so much on flat whites from the independent cafe near Hato’s studio in Hackney.
The Seasoned Designer
Phil is 43 and a creative director at a medium-sized London agency based on the borders of Clerkenwell and Shoreditch, which recently opened an outpost in San Francisco. He’s been at the same agency for 14 years and has seen it grow massively since he joined, having worked part time while studying and joining at entry-level, rather than going via an internship route (less prevalent when he started, and of course, unaffordable for most.) He made his way up the ranks from a midweight designer, and now earns £85,000 a year. He lives with his wife and two children (Flora, eight; and Sam, five) in a house they bought in Walthamstow seven years ago.
He cycles to work every day, rain or shine, and enjoys donning Lycra at the weekend to go on long rides with his other dad mates, culminating in a few pints of craft beer at the end. His wife works as a marketing manager at Virgin, and they met at a pitch meeting for a Virgin Atlantic rebrand. They worry about the increasing costs of living and raising children in London, but are quietly smug that they bought a decent property with a garden before sky-high prices hit the Waltham Forest borough. He pretends to lament the gentrification of the area and its dubbing “awesomestow” by people who moved there from Bethnal Green, but is secretly happy that his predictions were right and that he can get a decent if rather pricey juice (and pastry, if he’s feeling naughty) on his way to work.