Matty has recently joined us and already made an impression in the studio.
As a graduate from the region, we thought this would be a good time to quiz him on his background who are his heroes, what he’s been up to here and his top tips for new graduates. So, over to Matty…
Where did you study?
I studied a foundation degree in Graphic Design at Newcastle College. I felt I had a strong portfolio, so rather than go on to a degree I would try my luck at getting a job in design and so far this has worked out well for my career so far!
What did you do after graduating?
After graduating I did freelance work for a short amount of time and was lucky enough to be put forward for a 3-month contract as a Junior designer at one of the biggest global structural engineering firms, Ove Arup and Partners. This temporary contract then led on to a full-time job. I stayed at Arup for almost a year and decided to leave to pursue opportunities to work in a design studio. Through my Instagram, I was approached by AnyForty, an artist collaboration fashion brand to intern and help them with a bunch of new projects. Having worked for the likes of Creative Review, Alan (@alanwardle) mentored me through some pretty fun projects, such as prepping for the launch of a new brand in Berlin. However, this internship was short and sweet and within a few months, I was freelancing and working in retail.
Having another stab at a potential move down to London was still on the cards even if moving away from Newcastle was a tough thought for me. So I went to D&AD New Blood with nothing but a handful of business cards and an iPad filled with work (the year before I had self-funded to go down and get a stand with two of my classmates at college). Having arrived there and “socialising” (in a pub), I was offered a free stand with my friend. But the move down to London wasn’t to be! After a few days of being back in Newcastle, I received an email from Sarah and was offered a contract to help out the guys at Altogether, and well, here I am!
Who are your design heroes – what designers and agencies do you admire?
My design heroes change quite a lot depending on what projects I’m working on, but there are a few designers/agencies that push out work that I admire on a regular basis. The first that comes to mind is Christopher Doyle (@cd_and_co), who blends great copywriting and super simple design together in all of his projects, definitely one to check out if you haven’t already. There are also a couple of British agencies that I look up to, D8 an agency based in Glasgow for their ridiculously keen eye for detail, specifically their work for Bowmore on their Black Bowmore edition malt whiskey. Two Times Elliott (@twotimeselliott) and Socio Design (@sociodesign) for beautiful minimalist branding. I could go on forever, but have a look on my Twitter to see the work I’m liking the look of!
What are the things you wish you knew at college?
I think it goes without saying but you are learning the fundamentals in education and in reality, you’re not even touching the tip of the iceberg! The time scales on projects are much quicker in an agency, so the stress of certain college deadlines seems a million miles away. You really do have to be a sponge in a certain sense and whilst specialising in something is great you have to be multi-talented. I see myself as being very comfortable with branding and would say that is my niche, but coming into an agency you need to be able to apply a mix of skills, from illustrating to copywriting. It’s great getting to experience a range of different practices and I wish I had pursued some of these a little more in college projects. Oh and no matter how much you know about a software program, it’s guaranteed there’s a million other things to learn, so I’d scrap the pie charts and graphs on your CV!
What attracted you to work at Altogether?
Having worked with the guys before on a placement, I knew it would be a great team to work alongside and I would learn a lot. The wide variety of clients interested me as I knew no two projects would be the same and the role would challenge me and force me to step out of my comfort zone.
What have been your favourite projects so far and why?
There’s been a lot of projects I’ve really enjoyed working on, but if I had to choose a couple that stood out for me it would be The Harley Gallery’s programme guide, which was one of the first projects I worked on. This stands out to me because the client was so open and really welcomed a different direction for the design, there was a great range of event and exhibition imagery to work with too, definitely a fun one to work on. Another project that stands out is the mailer designed for photographer Dan Prince. This is a piece that needs to be seen in person as the unusual format unfolds to a lovely ‘reveal’, the high-end paper stocks we got to use as well are a testament to Dan’s brilliant images. The branding work for Bonner & White flooring was another super fun project to work on, working on everything from the logo to the shop exterior was an intensive but great project and seeing the finished product was definitely a good feeling! Oh, and how could I forget working alongside Michael on a new range of cans for Steam Machine Brewing company… beer and design, brilliant! How do you think you have changed since graduating to working in a studio? I definitely think I’ve matured a lot since graduating, obviously being in a work environment you’ve got to know when to knuckle down and work, whereas in education the social aspect is probably a big part! I’m definitely seeing myself progressing as a designer, the team at Altogether all have a different set of skills, so by working alongside them I’ve got to learn a lot in different fields, all in quite a short amount of time!
What have you learnt since joining Altogether?
I’ve learnt a lot since joining the team. Developing my illustration skills has been a big one, working with national organisations such as the National Trust and the River and Rowing Museum has meant I can really throw myself into illustrating more than I ever have before, with some lovely content to work with! My typography skills have also been fine-tuned and I realise that I’m still learning and always will be. I’m really looking forward to seeing how my design skills and style evolves through working with the team here!
What advice would you give to this year’s graduates?
There’ are two sayings or mantras, if you can call them that, that I really believe make a difference. I’m guessing everyone has seen a quote by Anthony Burrill plastered all over their Pinterest or Instagram saying “Work hard and be nice to people”, but it has a solid thought behind it. Design skills will only get you so far in a studio, you could be the greatest designer, but if your attitude stinks you’re probably not going to get far! So yeah, just be a nice person really, be sociable. Get yourself on Instagram or Twitter and follow who you admire, start a conversation with them, who knows what might come of it.
On that note there’s a local saying in Newcastle that I’ve been told since I was a kid and one that I used at New Blood 2016 where me and a friend had nothing but a poster on a stand we talked ourselves into getting. “Shy bairns get nowt”, or in plain English, shy children get nothing. This is a pretty important one if you want to get heard or get your work out there, if you keep it to yourself and don’t show anyone then what’s the point? Post about your work, shout about it, email agencies/people you admire, ask them for their opinion. If they get back to you great! If they don’t, try again another time, but at least they’ll know your name.
Asking for opinions on projects is a great way to see the inside of an studio or an agency as it’s less full on than emailing HIRE ME, if your work impresses and you put yourself forward in the right way then you’re well on your way to getting a job, maybe it’s not at the agency you showed your portfolio at, but the design world is a pretty small one so everyone knows when there are opportunities and your name could get passed on! Another point on email, make it personal. If there’s a list of other agencies above the subject box that you’ve sent it to your portfolio probably isn’t going to get looked at. Look at the agencies work, see what you like, if you’ve met them before say that! Just connect to them in some way and a simple email will be a lot more powerful than a “To whom it may concern” kind of message.
Social media is also a particular favourite of mine, and where I’ve got the majority of my opportunities from. Post your work, personal projects or just photos of your trainers (maybe that’s just me), but if your personality is put forward on social and there are examples of work on there you’re going to get somebody’s attention. It goes without saying, but if you’re only posting pouty selfies people won’t know that much about your work, so if you’ve got a project you’re proud of getting it out there! You could even mention people in it to get their opinion in the comments, but getting your work out in the open is definitely the main battle when recently graduating.
My last tip is about feedback, ask for it. The opinions of people are important for your work, in education you’ve had the freedom of making nice looking things for a brief, in a studio you’ve got a live client so they’re going to have a point of view! When in portfolio crits, ask questions, how you can improve, whether that be specific projects or your full portfolio, it should be evolving every time you have an interview! You’re going to have good and bad crits, but take everything onboard and grow from it. If there’s anything I haven’t touched on, ask me. My Instagram and Twitter are @mattyleonard_, so send me a DM, I’ll be happy to help!