Rebecca Matthews

Year of graduation: 2014

Current employer: Freelance

Current job title: Freelance Graphic Designer

Current location: London

“My main advice would be to try and do live projects whilst at university…It is this sort of first-hand experience working with clients, deadlines, budgets, etc., that can really help you get your first job.”

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

After university I worked at Spencer duBois, an award-winning branding agency working within the third sector, for two years (following a three-week placement straight after I graduated). I worked there as a Junior Designer, working on a variety of projects. I also worked on my own freelance projects alongside this (including some I began whilst at university): these included the branding and website development of Swiss Netball (the national netball association of Switzerland) and Turkana Education Fund (a Geneva-based charity). I have recently gone freelance full-time to explore different areas of the graphic design sector and work with different clients.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

My career path has changed in that I didn’t really appreciate how large and varied the graphic design industry is. While at university I was very keen to work within the third sector (leading me to work at Spencer duBois) and while I really enjoyed working in that sector and hope to continue working on such projects, I am also keen to explore other areas within this industry, such as campaign work and possibly more interactive and installation based design projects.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Something that is important for me is never working for clients where I feel it goes against my personal ethics or morals, which can sometimes be very difficult as it’s not always clear cut. It can be difficult in this industry to always stick to your gut and choose not to work on something you don’t feel comfortable with. So far, I have been lucky in that I have been able to back out of such projects.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I think the most exciting moments of my career have been when projects have launched in public spaces. One example was an NUS campaign poster I created which was printed on the side of a truck that drove around various university campuses. It was very exciting being able to follow it on social media and see the impact it was having.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get into the same line of work?

My main advice would be to try and do live projects whilst at university. Internships are always seen as crucial getting into the world of work, but depending on where you live this is not always feasible. However, no matter where you live I am sure you can find a local charity or business that is looking for some sort of graphic design work. It is this sort of first-hand experience working with clients, deadlines, budgets, etc., that can really help you get your first job as live work in a portfolio always stands out.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Plymouth was really helpful because of the focus on typography and idea generation. One of the key reasons I got my last job was because of the variety of ideas and use of language and typography that I demonstrated during my internship.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My favourite memories are largely of being in the studio and the funny conversations or moments that would happen when we were all up there working and socialising. It was a great community spirit, especially in my third year when, to avoid the stress of deadlines, my friends and I would sit near the second years because they would always joke around and relieve the pressure a bit!

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

I am still in contact with people in my own year and I also have kept in contact with my lecturers by attending D&AD every year. I even offered to do mock interviews with four of the GCOM students at D&AD this year and managed to get one of them a placement at Spencer duBois.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?

I would recommend my course at Plymouth because of the way it really prepares you for industry. I also think the focus on ideas and on typography is invaluable and something that is not always a focus on other graphic design courses.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

The graphic design industry is huge, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure what area you want to work in or what type or size agency works best for you. Often, it will just be a case of trying out a few different agencies and learning which aspects you like and which you don’t.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying graphic design with typography, please visit our BA (Hons) Graphic Design with Typography course page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Art, Design and Architecture, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business are currently doing, please visit the art, design, media and performance interest area.

Graphic Communication student work