Urte Sereikaite (US) and Emma de Duve (EdD): What does Fishfinger do, and what’s your role in the company?
Petros Afshar (PA): We do illustration, graphic design, web design, animation — pretty much anything that is creative. I’m a senior graphic designer and project manager, so I do a lot of projects but also a lot of the management. I’ll book meetings, pitch new ideas, speak to clients on the phone, and relay their feedback. I’m a bit of a hybrid — usually as a graphic designer you would just be given a task from a client.
US/EdD: What’s a normal day like for you?
PA: It’s always different. The clients we get range from the company who made the Candy Crush game, to working on a comic festival. That variation always brings a different dynamic in the office.
We tend to collaborate a lot too. At a certain point on Fridays, we play some board games just to keep a bit of fun in the work environment which I think is really key, especially when we sometimes have to work late to meet a deadline. It’s a nice time to rest and refresh your creative juices.
US/EdD: Do you have to work some evenings and weekends?
PA: Obviously if there is a hard deadline set by a client you have to meet it. You’re not obliged to stay late, but a lot of us do, to make sure that things get done — otherwise we lose a client and that’s a lot of money gone to waste. It doesn’t happen as often as people would assume, though, usually clients are very fair with their deadlines.
US/EdD: Are you mostly based at a desk?
PA: Most of the time it’s at our desks because we need to use computers but we do have times where we would sketch things. And we go out and do research — taking pictures and building up mood boards in some cases.
US/EdD: What do you like or dislike about the job?
PA: I’m always learning and moving with the times because part of projects is to go out and do research and see what the current trends are. I like that I’m becoming a better designer by engaging with these projects.
Because the company was a startup at one point, we’re shaping our own ethics. We take bits and bobs of what makes a company work well while being efficient. I don’t see any dislikes — it’s a great company to work for.
US/EdD: What inspired you to get into this career?
PA: I actually started quite late. I have always been creative-minded (I always loved drawing) but never fully embraced it. After college, I took a year off to figure out what I really wanted to do and it was the best decision of my life. If I hadn’t done that I would probably still be doing something I’m not truly passionate about.
I went into design completely alien to it, while a lot of people in my class had done it for A-Level. It was a very difficult learning curve. But I was committed. I spent two summers just building my skills and since then I haven’t looked back. It’s been a great journey.
US/EdD: What qualifications or training does your role require?
PA: I did get my degree — I got a first in graphic design — but I know a lot of creative designers who don’t have qualifications or did something in a completely different field. I know someone who did anthropology and then decided to become a graphic designer.
I don’t think it’s so much about what qualifications you have on paper, but more about your portfolio. If you’re able to produce wonders, then nine times out of 10 a qualification is the last thing someone would look at. The first thing would be your portfolio.
US/EdD: So what would your advice be for someone who wanted to be a graphic designer?
PA: Build your portfolio!
And look for inspiration. Rather than being part of the trend, take something that connects to you visually, and adapt it.
Try and branch out, that’s really important. One problem designers have is they get very familiar with one style of art and they don’t like to step out of that bubble. But it’s a rapidly changing industry and your style might not be sought after in a few years. So it’s always good to be able to work in different areas. So not just graphic design, maybe also doing web design; or if you are an illustrator, try to work with some branding.
As years go on and technology changes, people are becoming hybrids — illustrators go into motion graphics, for example.
US/EdD: What skills can young people develop to increase their chances of getting a job in this sector?
PA : The design industry is broad, so it completely depends on what area you want to venture into. But generally, you should look at the kind of software the industry is currently using — a lot of companies use Adobe, for example. Focusing your skills on and getting familiar with the right software will benefit you a lot.
US/EdD: What else could someone with your experience could do?
PA: They could work for a magazine company, or for companies like Nike doing apparel design, for example. They could be a website designer for any company — every company has a website — or do animation for animation studios, illustration for a range of things like video games or print design. And then you have branding which includes creating logos and brand guidelines.
I like to apply my creativity to personal projects. Recently I decided to do something completely out of my comfort zone: to create a video game app. I pitched the idea to a few of my friends and we decided to spend every Sunday on it. It got to a point where we thought we could put this on Kickstarter just to see what happens — we ended up getting £60,000.
Then a few months after, we went to a gaming convention and met someone who wanted to fund us £250,000 to build this game, which we’re currently working on. It just goes to show that as a designer you don’t necessarily have to be tied to your 9 to 5.
If you have an idea, just go for it — it’s a good project to showcase as part of your repertoire and even if it doesn’t work out, it helps you grow.
This article was produced with support from the Young Barnet Foundation
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