Creative Lives — Matt Keers, designer at Manchester studio Music, on his first full-time position
Fresh out of university, graphic designer Matt Keers took the initiative to hit up one of his favourite studios – Manchester’s Music – after admiring its work in design magazines. An internship later and he’s now a full-time designer at the award-winning practice, working on branding projects for clients like Manchester City Football Club, cult shoe brand Dr Martens and leading cancer centre The Christie. Multitasking and time management are the most essential skills he’s acquired since joining in 2012 (although there’s the odd pizza-fuelled late night when working to a big deadline), and his work for Universal Music has even led him to work on film projects – something he never envisioned while studying.
Designer at Music (January 2012–present)
Manchester City FC, Universal Music, Dr Martens, British Fashion Council
Freelance designer (2008-2012)
BA Design, Liverpool John Moores University (2005–2008)
How would you describe what you do?
As a designer, I work with a diverse range of clients such as Manchester City FC, Universal Music, Dr Martens, The Christie and British Fashion Council. The type of work I do varies day-to-day, from branding and editorial work to interior and experiential projects.
What does a typical working day look like?
Normally I will work across the majority of Music’s clients and so in a typical day I could work on a ticketing campaign for Manchester City in the morning and then storyboard a film for Universal in the afternoon. The variety of work keeps it exciting. I live in Manchester city centre and walk into work. Work starts at 9am and I normally get in and make a tea first while we have the morning meeting for the day ahead. This generally finishes at 9.30am and by then everyone knows what they will be working on for the day. Working hours are 9am–5.30pm but depending on what project you are working on a few late nights and Domino’s pizza might be required to get the job done.
Where does the majority of your work take place?
I work everyday in the Music office on Lever Street Manchester. Generally spending around eight hours in front of the computer.
How did you land your current job?
I remember seeing Music’s work in Creative Review while at uni, especially its early campaigns for Manchester City and Chester Zoo. I emailed [former Music senior creative] Craig Oldham to see if there were any internship opportunities when I graduated, and was lucky enough to be invited for an interview from which I got an internship and then a full-time position.
“The ability to manage different projects is a skill that has quite a steep learning curve – you only get better with time and experience.”
How collaborative is your role?
My role is almost always collaborative, working within a small team for different clients. We often collaborate with freelance photographers, animators and 3D designers.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable aspect of my job is being able to work with a diverse list of clients across multiple disciplines. I’ve been working on a lot of film-based work for Universal Music which is really enjoyable and a type of work I didn’t imagine myself doing while studying. Some of the less enjoyable aspects of the job are admin and time sheets.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I recently worked on a newspaper for Dr Martens that turned out to be a really creative and rewarding project. Each spread within the paper had its own individual idea and the highlight was getting the opportunity to present a financial report in a comic strip format. I worked with designer Lottie Brzozowski, creative director Adam Rix and our copywriter Paolo Carniel.
“Music’s diverse list of clients keeps it exciting.”
What skills are essential to your job?
Over the years I’ve become better at time management and multitasking. Having good communication skills is vital to being a productive member of a team.
What tools do you use most for your work?
I predominately use the Adobe Creative Suite: InDesign; Photoshop and Illustrator. I frequently use InDesign and often illustrate in InDesign too. Alongside software I use a pad for note taking and rough ideas and sketches.
Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance?
Sometimes a project does work it’s way into your personal time and its hard to switch off but I think that’s just part of working in the creative industries.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I always wanted to do something creative growing up and I got into graphic design through skateboarding graphics and music. All of my hobbies fed into each other and I instinctively knew I would end up doing something creative as a career.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
I think studying design at college and university was really beneficial as it exposes you to working with and collaborating with people, which is fundamental to working within a design studio.
What were your first jobs?
I interned in a few studios in Manchester and London prior to working at Music and without that experience I don't think I would have had the opportunity to work here. Doing a few internships really helps you figure out what kind of work you are interested in, it builds your confidence and communication skills that help you land that first junior designer position.
“Sometimes a project does work it’s way into your personal time and its hard to switch off.”
Was there anything in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
A big help for me was getting featured on the blog FormFiftyFive just after I graduated. It really helped get my portfolio noticed and I got some internships of the back of that feature.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
The ability to manage different projects at any given time is a skill that has quite a steep learning curve and you only get better with time and experience.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Developing my pitching and presentation abilities. These skills again come from practice and the more you do it the better you become at it.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
I think my job is what I thought it would be and more. It’s great to be challenged and learn skills. As Music is a multi-disciplinary agency, the variation of projects keeps the job exciting.
What would you like to do next?
I would like to stay within the creative industries and gain more experience as a designer. After that I would like to move into an art direction position and help manage and develop younger designers.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a graphic designer?
Try to gain as much experience and intern at a few studios while at university. It will give you a great insight into the industry at a young age and help you make decisions on the kind of work you want to do later on.
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Music.