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How I Made It

Don’t get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate How I Made It

Don’t get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate
An image from Le Creative Sweatshop

The creative industries are often the hardest to break into for graduates, but we gained some knowledge from Gem Barton, author of Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate about alternative ways into the world of work. 


To specialise or diversify?

Upon leaving university many young graduates are uncertain about what to do with the unique talents and their multiplicity of skills – to specialize … calving a fruitful niche in the market, or to diversify… increasing options and reducing risk!

To specialise?

Having a specialism, being unique and putting all your eggs in a perfectly designed basket can be scary. However, as the world diversifies and our needs and wants vary it becomes increasingly important to be able to offer something different. Following your interests is always a good bet, if you like what you do, you’re likely to do it well. Le Creative Sweatshop has carved niche markets from a hectic design landscape. If you do something specific and you do it well you can quickly and easily become the go-to person for that task. Get focused. Be special.

One third of the French design collective, Stéphane Perrier, says he has always known that their work was different and that, with their perpetual thirst for learning and finding new ways of doing things, LCSS’s success is set to continue. Basing their work in the physical and dynamic world of volume, LCSS are specialists when it comes to materials and formal experimentation. 

They seek out the most unlikely materials to use in their personal projects as well as in their commissioned art direction for the likes of Nissan, Hermès, Stella McCartney and Cartier. The team are committed to originality and quality; most pieces are handmade which gives them a humble, precious and fragile quality. As a dynamic, supple and reactive agency LCSS, with the help of their network of partners, enjoys a success in making material innovations.

LCSS might not necessarily naturally identify themselves as ‘specialists’ since they work in a variety of industries in different ways, but their approach to materiality is their unique selling point, the thread that holds their portfolio of work together, the trait that makes them stand out from the crowd. The sheer originality of the work produced is impressive – along with these high standards for innovation comes a lot of pressure. 

It takes guts putting this amount of trust in a material you have never worked with before, but with hand-working these materials comes a certain amount of honesty and confidence in the product. Having friends around you and solid sources of inspiration are lifesavers in this kind of situation. Being a ‘specialist’ does not have to mean a repetitive, one-track line of work – in fact, being a ‘specialist’ can open the door of opportunity to very special places indeed.

“With no particular design degrees between us, we have managed to work in several mediums and techniques during the last five years. We are in our own school and we choose what we are trying to learn. We began in 2009 by crafting paper and after that we felt the need to change medium and develop a more diverse range of materials. In the last four years we have worked with concrete, jelly, plastic, Plexiglas and a lot more. Each time we change techniques, it’s like starting a new class!” Stephane Perrier, Le Creative Sweatshop

To diversify?

Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none is quite simply an archaic and inaccurate idiom. The rise in diversification has been paramount in the last decade, in order to stay afloat many companies and individuals have ‘covered their bases’ by providing more than one service and spreading risk. In times of economic uncertainty this is a valid business move, however there are a number of driven individuals for whom this creative balance is just their way of life.

With qualifications in geography and anthropology and a portfolio of projects covering public art, consultation, fashion design and art directing, talented duo Vin and Omi have experience of almost everything creative and have applied their skills to all of these industries successfully. 

An awareness and realistic view of the different modes of business plays a large part in their decision-making, being creative and business-minded is not mutually exclusive, as many of the case studies in this book showcase.

Vin & Omi, have independently and collectively; run large public arts organisations, designed latex garments, worked with A-list celebrities, project managed and consulted on renowned design projects and masterplans – in order to move seamlessly between the disciplines you need to be agile, flexible, organized and hungry.

“Although set up as a primary fashion label, Vin and Omi, we soon decided that the traditional way of showing fashion wasn't for us. The seasonal production of collections is fraught with difficulty and the system of producing fashion in this way produces strains on cash flow and creativity. We decided that focusing only on fashion would not work for us and decided a multi design process would work. We cross lots of design platforms, directing music videos as well as making public art. We keep ourselves flexible and fluid creatively and sail strongly against traditional fashion models.“ Kevin Wilson, Vin&Omi

Jason Bruges of Jason Bruges Studio provides some in depth advice about specialization and diversification in the book from personal experience of designing and building interactive installations that create innovative and engaging spaces which connect people with their environment – sitting neatly on the threshold as both a specialist and a diversifier. 

Some specialists might be one trick ponies however I think a lot of specialists have to be 't-shaped' broad and have depth as generalising specialists. I think specialising takes a lot of skill, as you have to learn a base and then another skill on top? You may be inventing a new profession with new rules too - very exciting and daunting at the same time. Anyone wanting to specialise shouldn't try and pre-empt it. Follow your instincts of what you think you will be interested in and specialism will happen along the way. Being multidisciplinary often comes through being a part of a team which is going to come naturally for most design related disciplines.”

Other case studies in the book include architects, illustrators, sculptors, graphic designers, fashion designers, artists and more.

This is an extract from Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate by Gem Barton, which is published by Laurence King, priced £12.95. More info is at laurenceking.com.

by Gem Barton, Author

Image courtesy of Le Creative Sweatshop: Photography by Mathieu Missiaen, set design by Julien Morin and Stéphane Perrier

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