Creative Lives — Designer Vicky Hardman on discovering Liverpool’s creative scene and a job she loves
After graduating with a BA in graphic design from Norwich University of the Arts in 2012, most of Vicky Hardman’s friends moved to London. But she always knew she’d return to Liverpool: “I discovered a creative scene that I didn’t know was here: events where studios would share their advice and places to meet other people looking to get a foot in the door.” It turned out to be a fruitful choice for the Wirral-based designer, who having left her previous job to join a local creative training programme, swiftly met SB founder Benji. Within a week she had nabbed an internship, and is now a full-time designer at the studio. Vicky fills us in on her time at SB so far; talks networking; and tells us why asking for feedback can benefit both people and projects.
Designer, SB Studio (March 2017–present)
In-house designer, World Merit (2015–2017)
BA Graphic Design, Norwich University of the Arts, (2009–2012)
Vicky Hardman at work
How would you describe your job?
It’s a design role, but that doesn’t mean we are always designing websites or brand identities. Using creative thinking is probably a better way to put it, as it’s used in everything from research and workshops to applying a signed-off identity to different formats.
What does a typical working day look like?
I arrive at the studio about 8.40am. I live on the Wirral so it’s only about 30 minutes’ drive away depending on traffic. First thing is to get the coffee brewing, turn the computer on and see what’s on the schedule. There isn’t a ‘typical’ working day in terms of the role, as one day can be spent researching or creating a workshop, and the next might be artworking something that has just been signed off by a client.
What do you like about working in Liverpool?
Liverpool is great. After university, everyone moved to London while I went travelling, but I was always going to come back here. I discovered a creative scene that I didn’t know was here: events where studios would share their stories and advice, places to meet other people looking to get a foot in the door, and those willing to help along the way. Which is how I met Robyn Dooley and joined [creative industry platform] OH.
How did you land your current job?
Benji gave a talk on the OH programme, which I had left my previous job to attend. I had seen him talk before in Liverpool so I introduced myself again and simply asked if SB were taking on any interns. A week later I was in the studio for an interview and started my internship shortly afterwards.
How collaborative is your role?
We each work on every project at some point, from idea generation at concept stage to working with the developers when digital is involved.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
It’s great when we get to sit around a table together and throw ideas around, which happens both in client workshops and as a team at the start of a big project. The workshops are a great way to understand the brand purpose and what the client really needs. Of course some days are working solo on more routine aspects of each project, but it’s part of getting the brand to work across every touch point.
“Workshops are a great way to understand the brand purpose and what a client really needs.”
The team at work
Inside SB Studio
What skills are essential to your job?
Being so new to the studio environment, I am still figuring this out myself. Communication is key to everything running smoothly, and it’s something I want to work on. The most useful skill I have found is the ability to ask for feedback; it's essential to improve and produce the best work we can.
What tools do you use most for your work?
We work on iMacs, but I always carry my notebook around. It’s mainly full of tips and tricks for software and design skills, things to keep an eye out for, or reminders on daily tasks.
“After University I had no connections – especially in Liverpool – and I didn’t really know where to start.”
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up? And, if you went onto university, did this have any impact on what you studied?
As a child, a geography trip inspired me to be an archaeologist for a while, but from about the age of 10 it changed into a more creative direction, and pretty quickly towards design. This had an effect on which subjects I enjoyed more at school, my A-level decisions and then my degree in graphic design.
What were your first jobs?
My first design role was in-house at a Liverpool based charity World Merit, where I interned before going full-time. It was really useful in providing an insight as to how the studio works, and the role is earned from the work done in that time.
Was there anything in particular that helped your development at the start of your career?
I literally wouldn’t be at SB without the support of OH. The Catalyst programme in January 2017 showed me that we have the power to enjoy our job every single day, and it gave me the confidence to approach Benji face-to-face.
Work for Formby High School
Work for Formby High School
Work for Formby High School
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Personally, I feel pretty lucky. After university I had no connections – especially in Liverpool – and I didn’t really know where to start. Although I struggled at first to get that initial role in-house, I wouldn’t change this for the world as I met some great people. I found that there is support everywhere, you just have to find it.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
The role is more varied than I ever thought, but 100% in a positive way. It’s offered new challenges with every project and the chance to develop skills in areas I never thought I would be involved in.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do the same kind of work?
Explore where you are, find events so you can meet the people who work in the studios that you want to work in. Websites like OH can help with this. Find a support network: other people looking to do the same kind of work and those willing to help you out, even a mentor if possible.