How to make the jump from a junior to a middleweight designer

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Designers at some of the world’s best creative agencies tell us how they went from a junior position to a midweight role.

So your studies are a thing of the distant past and you've been in you current design role for a few years or so. You like the opportunities given to you so far, but are ready for more - and why not? Moving up the food chain is a natural impulse for all of us, even creatives. A promotion to a more senior role usually means more power, more responsibility, more interesting work and – let’s not forget – more money.

But how do you do that as a junior designer? What does it take to be considered for a midweight role, where you'll be leading juniors whilst supporting a senior designer or art director? We asked designers who have made the jump working for some of the world’s best creative agencies for their advice.

Elle Eveleigh

"You’ll get quicker and more skilful as your experience develops and that will boost your confidence – so embrace it. Be proactive about taking on more responsibility. Think about the big picture of the projects you’re working on too. Get under the skin of the design strategy and understand clients’ business objectives.

"As you progress you will start to run with an idea from the beginning and see it through. Take ownership of your design and show how your idea can translate across different touch points and come to life as a brand in its own right.

"Finally, learn from those with more experience - and learn from supporting others. And remember that all ideas count, regardless of experience."
- Elle Eveleigh, Middleweight Designer, B&B studio

Erin Delaney

"I was looking for a new job as a junior designer but the feedback I was getting was that I was too experienced. So, I started applying for midweight positions instead and made the move that way. Working as a midweight didn’t feel like a big leap as I had been gradually progressing towards this role.

"My advice is to work on your confidence and stand up for your design decisions. You need to prove you can do the job of a midweight designer by taking control over the work that you’re already doing, showing initiative and being enthusiastic to learn more. The best way to prove yourself worthy of being promoted to midweight designer is by taking on work at that level."
Erin Delaney, Designer, ODA

Matthew Holbrow

"When you’re a junior you’re less sure of yourself, so you present all your ideas. When you reach midweight, you’ve got the confidence to focus on the ideas that are the right ones. Being a midweight is about having more confidence in yourself and your ideas, but you need to remain humble and open to learning. These are things that come gradually with time. They shouldn’t be forced.

"You get to a point when you think: ‘OK I’ve got this, I’m ready for this challenge. I know how to conquer this.’ You also begin to feel and think: ‘I’m a midweight now’.

"As a creative, it’s easy to put yourself down a lot but have faith in yourself as you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve."
Matthew Holbrow, Designer, ODA

Andrew Kitchener

"Present work whenever you can. It can sometimes feel like the hardest thing to do but if an opportunity comes up, take it. You only get better through practice.

"Attitude is key. Always show you’re up for it. Sometimes projects don’t always go your way, but it’s how you deal with that and prepare to tackle the next challenge that counts.

"Take the initiative. Whether that’s taking part in an extra project or learning a new set of skills. Getting ahead of the game and showing determination to be the best you can is always a good thing.

"Ask. Sometimes it’s best just to ask what you need to do to get to the next level."
Andrew Kitchener, Midweight Designer, Ragged Edge

Mike Foster

"We push all our designers continuously, giving them new experiences and responsibilities so they can reach their full potential. But we don’t rank people as junior, middleweight or senior.

"We’re all about ideas, not hierarchy. For our designers to progress, they simply have to get involved and take responsibility. We’re a small studio so there’s lots of scope for the whole team to liaise with clients, take on projects and run with them.

"A project could go to anyone. Our newest recruit is just as likely to be briefed on a global redesign as an amend on a poster. We’re able to do this because we nurture, we collaborate – and we make it safe for people to get things wrong."
Mike Foster, Founder and Creative Director of Straight Forward Design

Pat King

"It’s an experience game. For me it was all about building on knowledge from previous projects so I could bring more to the table on future projects. This process built my confidence to make larger, more thoughtful decisions on projects and was essential to taking the next career step. 

"Say yes to absolutely everything. Treat everyone as though they’re your dream client. Whether it’s a friend who needs a poster or a big client at the studio — everything is a stepping stone to the next project.

"Amidst all this, take the time to step back and recognise what kind of projects you're really passionate about so that in the future you can work towards more projects like that."
Pat King, Designer and Animator, Trollbäck+Company

Beth Wheatley

"Out of university, I sought a small agency that had a broad range of capabilities and would test everything I learned and continue to stretch my abilities. I started at Vault49 as an intern, but was promoted to junior designer, then designer (middle weight). It was a natural transition and I picked up more responsibility as I progressed. The team nurtured me and I continue to build up my skills.

"It can be easy to stay with projects that align with your strengths. I think it really helped that I was challenged to go beyond my comfort zone.

"Being in an agency world can be intimidating; I’m surrounded by incredible talent. It’s important though to not be afraid to ask questions, and also continue to seek the insights from other people. Vault49 is particularly ego-less and I find everyone really helpful and willing to share their experiences. 

"Don’t let your ego get in the way of asking questions. Learn and absorb all that you can from those around you as they have the experience and have been in your position.

"Keep practicing your skillset, especially weaker areas.  The more you develop your techniques, the more confidence you gain.

"Be confident and speak up – they hired you for a reason. Raise ideas you have – whether they be conceptual or design forward – as this can help drive an idea or spark a concept for someone else."
Beth Wheatley, Designer, Vault49

Read next: Graphic designer (and Yorkshireman) Craig Oldham’s 7 Tips for Working in the Industry™

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