Want to work in creative? We’ve got you covered. Isin’s Creative Designer, Robin Aarons, shares his top advice for future talent covering what it’s like to work at an agency VS in house at a brand, how to overcome blocks and building a portfolio that will get you in the door.

What has your career journey looked like so far?

I got into design because I like making things. I started a career in carpentry before going on to study product design at university where I got really into the engineering software and technical side of things. During this time I also worked with an events company helping them with space planning and customer journey design. Enjoying the freedom of research that university can offer, I decided to do a  Masters in Design focused on the future of technology in design and craft and the culmination of this led to making CNC Robotics projects. This was a really cool experience that immersed me into the world of design and manufacturing. From here I worked in-house at a fashion brand in a technical role that involved designing the fixings and metal work for retail before moving to isin as a Creative designer.

Agency versus in-house – what’s the difference?

Both roles are great, they’re just different. For me, the choice to move to agency side was driven by the desire to get more variation and exposure. Working at an agency gives you the opportunity to be far more creative as you get the opportunity to work across different sectors and on different types of projects. You also have more freedom to push your ideas, as the creative concept and consumer experience is your main focus. At isin, for example, we have specialist teams that we collaborate with on the project management, manufacture and installation aspects of a project.

Agency versus in-house (cont.)

In-house, there wasn’t necessarily this expertise so often I’d be figuring out the design, manufacture and project management side of things too. Another point worth mentioning is that the bigger budgets and more creative briefs typically got given to external agencies while the in-house team focused more on the day-to-day running of things.

In summary; In-house is a great opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a brand and get hands-on experience across many different areas. Working at an agency definitely deepens your creative skillset. I’ve met a lot of interesting people and had some amazing opportunities that have enabled me to take my creative craft to the next level.

What’s your design process like?

In one word – chaotic. There’s no set formula as it depends on the brand and project. Above all the key is to familiarise yourself with the project in a holistic way and understand how this piece of work feeds into the overall brand vision.

The best work comes out of spending time getting absorbed in the client’s world. The two most important things to think about at that point are; what the client wants and what you think they should have. Any agency can provide what the client wants. It takes a special agency to show the client what they can be.

Any advice for people trying to break into the industry?

The best advice I ever heard was to keep your world small. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big goal. Just take it day by day and think about it in steps. If you have a big deadline looming, think about what can be done today and focus on nailing that. Over time it will all come together.

How do you get over a creative block?

You don’t. You side step it. Every idea has a direction you think it should take but sometimes it doesn’t go that way. Breaking through the creative block is realising that there’s a better direction to go in.

Any tips on building a portfolio?

If you aren’t proud of it, don’t include it. The most important thing is quality over quantity. Including bad work just to bulk it out can often lead to that being the thing that sticks in a person’s mind. Worse than that, at interview stage you might find yourself wasting time having to defend that project.

A tip is to enter as many design competitions as you can. They are effectively live briefs and will make great examples for your portfolio. Even if they don’t win, you’ll have work that you’re proud of.

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