Claire Warner — Browns

Describe the Ideal Candidate in three words

What’s the best way to get noticed at application stage?
Tailor your folio and make sure it's relevant. Every company looks for different qualities in a designer, so do your research. At Browns the first thing we look for is great ideas, beautiful design and typography, knowledge of craft, production values and moving image, plus an understanding of modernist rigour with the ability to break the rules and have some fun. But this is not enough, there are lots of good designers out there who can do this.

To stand out from the crowd you also need to show that you can apply that to a mixture of culture and commerce. A folio full of conceptual posters or books with self-initiated briefs, may look beautiful, but doesn-t show your ability to solve problems and answer a client brief. Likewise, a folio full of very commercial work may not show enough of -you-.

For us, the perfect folio is one that shows you are flexible and can apply yourself to any project, large or small, print or digital. Today more than ever there is a need for designers to be multi-talented across all media, so an edit of work including identity/branding, editorial, books, posters, digital/moving image goes a long way.

What’s the most common mistake people make when they apply for jobs?
Its important to find out who to send your folio to. A generic application without a name comes across as lazy and often ends up in the bin. A quick phone call to get the right name and email address can avoid this. Spelling mistakes are another common blunder. When applying for a job working predominantly with type, a spelling mistake is suicide. I’ve seen ‘design’ spelt wrong on someone’s CV — which doesn’t say much for attention to detail.

Keep your covering email concise. Too long and you risk losing interest. Too short and it looks like you haven’t tried. Be clear about what you are applying for, internship, freelance or permanent and show an interest and understanding of the company’s work, its not all about you. This sounds simple, but make sure your PDF is no bigger than 8-10MB and the images are not pixellated. You’d be surprised at how many PDFs we receive where you can hardly see the work due to compression. In my opinion, 6-12 projects is about right for a PDF folio. 3-4 is not enough to get a good picture of your skills, unless you back it up with more work on a website.

Does it matter what you wear to an interview if your portfolio is stunning?
Not really, but clothes can be a window to who you are as a person. A hoody and scruffy trainers sends a very different message from a Shoreditch trendy with a tweed jacket and bow tie. It’s important to be yourself — we employ the person, not just the folio and it’s important that people fit into the dynamic of the studio.

What’s the one thing a potential employee can do that will impress you?
Being able to talk confidently, without arrogance, about your influences and inspiration. Show your knowledge and passion by having an opinion about the design industry, past and present. Do your research and understand where Browns work fits into that and what you think you can bring to the table.

Is it possible to do too many internships?
Yes. There isn’t a magic number, but between 1-5 internships at respectable companies looks great on a CV. Many more than that and I would start to wonder why no-one else snapped you up sooner. The problem is, its tough out there at the moment, there aren’t many permanent jobs available, and I’m a firm believer that its much more pro-active to do internships and meet people than to sit at home doing nothing. The more people you meet and stay in touch with, the more likely you are to be recommended when a permanent job does become available. Saying that, there comes a point when you should be aiming for junior freelance positions rather than internships.

Browns is an independent design studio based in London Bridge, founded in 1998. The studio is run creatively by founder Jonathan Ellery together with myself. We currently have 8 permanent members of staff plus we always have an intern from around the world. We work with a wide variety of clients, large and small. The studio also has its own publishing house, Browns Editions, which, since its founding in 2005, has designed and published a wide variety of art and photography books.