Tuesday, 6:30am
21 April 2009

Think positive, add passion

mike radcliffe
Graphic design

Despatches from the frontline of designer recruitment

We’re picking up, it’s getting busier, exclaims Mike Radcliffe. April is bright, filled with hope and, dare I say, green shoots are appearing. In February, as I wrote in my last blog, freelance design was still being commissioned but agencies were asking talent to reduce their fees.

March has seen less of this, just more commissions. Around Christmas 2008 we started to see real signs of recession when our freelance list was decimated. This trend continued through January but February became brighter and March saw our list of talent out working through Represent back to what it was in October – full steam ahead! That said, the full time work market is sluggish.

Our clients seem to be finding their natural home in the recession, changing their new business strategy and getting busy. This importantly means winning new work. Instead of hastily employing people as permanent members of staff to manage the increased workload, the trend seems to be toward a longer-term freelance contract. Thus, if the workload decreases they can finish the freelance booking without fear of the dreaded redundancy word. It’s a smarter, more agile and a more savvy way of doing business in these less than fecund times.

The exciting thing about a recession is that everyone has to up their game and start thinking about how they become more marketable. This gets my juices going. The irony of a communications designer who can’t communicate is never more apparent, but there isn’t the luxury of huge demand, so things have to change. I wrote in the last blog that the winning designers in this market are the ones with the right attitude – this is true but there is as well a requirement for portfolios that communicate strong stories and not just pretty pictures. We need to see strong evidence that designers understand that they are solving business problems. Ability to clearly show solutions they have created and the benefits received, whether it be a sell-out show because of an amazing poster campaign, or increased student applications because of brilliant prospectus and marketing material.

Once the portfolio is up to scratch, the storytelling honed and the positive attitude dial turned to max, the next things to add to the armoury are curiosity and passion. These are difficult to create if not already apparent but the more curiosity and passion the more likely to succeed in 2009.

Mike Radcliffe has run the London recruitment agency Represent for the past five and a half years.

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