Thinking about getting into a career in graphic design? Here’s what you need to know.
We sat down and chatted with Romana Buccianti, a Senior Graphic Designer currently working at Norwich City Football Club to discuss a typical day at work and where her career has taken her so far.
Did you go to uni? If yes what did you study and if no what did you do instead?
Yes, I went to Norwich University of the Arts in 2010 and studied Graphic Design. At school I was always good at both Art and Maths, which probably led me to where I am today because graphic design is essentially creative problem solving.
How did you get into doing graphic design as a job? What previous jobs did you have before your current job?
My uni tutors highly encouraged us to head to London for employment, and I had had some internships and work experience in the big city but I knew the lifestyle wasn’t for me. I had fallen in love with Norwich during my degree and knew I would stay here, despite the much smaller pool of job opportunities.
My first job was working as a designer at a small agency called Studio Spark. When I say small, there were only two of us, but it was great â€“ I learnt some valuable skills that uni hadn’t taught me and gained some useful working experience over the course of a year and a half. And my boss was a laugh to work with â€“ it is so important to have a good working relationship with your colleagues.
But in 2015, everything changed. There wasn’t enough work coming into the agency to sustain my employment, so I had to start looking for new opportunities. However at the time of my looking, there was nothing out there in my beloved city that was in my field. Agencies weren’t hiring any more designers, despite my best efforts (including an excel spreadsheet listing every creative company in the area that I had made contact with), I couldn’t find a way in. I’d even interviewed for an Account Manager role which wasn’t really something I had experience with, but I wanted to be back in a creative environment. I ended up being on job seekers allowance for a short while.
Then I stumbled into freelancing. I was a self-employed graphic designer for six months and it was awesome. I had written my university dissertation on how freelance designers found clients/jobs and the conclusion of my research had all boiled down to networking and â€œwho you knowâ€. It’s a sociable game. If you do well enough, people will recommend you. And if you’re likeable, people will approach you. I did a mix of small jobs like logos and poster designs from the comfort of my own home (this was a novelty of course in the pre-pandemic era), to days or weeks in-house at different agencies working on larger projects with a team.
And then I saw that Norwich City Football Club were hiring for a permanent positionâ€¦
So, what does a graphic designer actually do on a typical day?
We create visual communication. We design text and/or imagery in the form of digital or printed assets, to either inform, inspire or advertise to our audience.
We also spend many hours staring at a spinning beach ball on screen waiting for stuff to load, and getting angry when our wireless mouse runs out of battery. This is optimal tea-making time.
What are some of your key responsibilities at Norwich City Football Club?
I work in the marketing team, which sits within the commercial department. My role as Senior Graphic Designer mainly focuses on supporting the needs of the commercial side of the business. In addition to the revenue from matchdays, the football club needs to sustain itself and its employees through many other avenues. This includes retail (with two club stores and an online shop), catering (two on-site restaurants and many events throughout the year) and partnerships (building a large partner and sponsors portfolio).
I also manage two very talented graphic designers whose responsibilities include editorial pieces like the matchday programme, and the creative graphic communications we publish on social media.
What’s the most exciting part of your job?
I suppose due to the nature of working at a football club, the artwork we create can be seen by an audience of hundreds of thousands of people, which is great exposure. Also full-time employees get a season ticket so we get to watch the games for free! And I can’t not mention the opportunity to work with Delia Smith, she’s very involved with the catering side of the business as you’d imagine, but also comes to larger staff social events and is very approachable for a chat.
What would surprise people the most about working in graphic design?
Although it is a specialist career you don’t necessarily need a degree to become a professional graphic designer. It might help you to get into a higher entry level for a job but you can do an apprenticeship, get a diploma or even self-learn with online courses to get your foot in the door somewhere and naturally progress with experience on the job.
What’s the coolest opportunity you’ve had so far in your career?
It’d have to be working on kit design. The team’s home (and away) shirts for the 2021/22 season was actually based on a concept I mocked up the season before, beautifully crafted by our kit manufacturers JOMA.
I was also lucky enough to join a small team of my colleagues in visiting the headquarters of JOMA in Toledo, Spain a few months ago to work closely with their designers on next season’s kit.
Where do you see your career taking you in the next 5 years?/ What’s the progression like working in graphic design?
The linear progression of a graphic designer is basically:
Junior Designer (Entry Level) < Graphic Designer (Mid level) < Senior Designer < Art Director or Creative Director.
Larger companies may also refer to mid-level positions as â€œmidweight graphic designerâ€. Less generic to these are the specialist design roles such as Editorial, Artworking, Packaging, Motion, Branding, and many more within the graphic field.
I’m at Senior level at the moment and would like to eventually step back from the day-to-day design and manage projects and people. I’m less bothered about the job title.
What’s your advice for students who want to get into a career in graphic design after they graduate?
It’s becoming a very competitive occupation now, don’t let that dishearten you and don’t lose hope if you’ve not heard back from a position or face rejection, keep trying and applying.
Make good connections with people, those you meet on internships or work experience, and others on your course. Don’t see them as people you’re competing against, but people you may one day work and collaborate with. The network you form in the design world can prove to be invaluable.
Is there anything else you think we should know about pursuing a career in graphic design?
Being well-organised will help you massively in your day-to-day, particularly with file management and job priorities. Don’t be hard on yourself, you can’t always be innovative and cleverly creative on every single job you tackle, and you’ll have the odd day where you feel like you â€œcan’t designâ€. Graphic design is about getting a message across clearly and effectively, sometimes with added flair for impact. If you can’t achieve the flair with a smart idea, just aim for the clarity.