Graphic designer Anna Magombe discusses facing down her fears and pursuing a freelance career in design. Anna, who studied on the FdA Design for Graphic Communication course at London College of Communication (LCC) and later completed a top-up year to gain a BA qualification, said she had a steep learning curve, both at the start of her course and in her first graduate role.
I strongly believe in facing the things you fear in order to overcome them and I always think of this when I’m faced with a challenging task such as attempting to get a degree. I cried the first time I had to use Illustrator for a design project because I didn’t have a clue what to do and it was extremely frustrating. Now I’m still learning the shortcuts but I use Illustrator almost every day (with very few emotional breakdowns!). Perseverance and self-belief - whether it was justified or not - helped me to overcome any anxious moments.
While she was studying for the FdA, Anna worked closely with a groups of friends and formed a small collective called I Know a Guy, based on the premise that for any project, they always 'knew a guy' who would be able to help. Through this, they built on their interest in collaboration by participating in self-initiated group projects, sharing skills and ideas, and encouraging others to do the same.
University provides a space that facilitates building networks naturally. Anna says, "During my time at uni I was networking without realising it. After I finished my course, I managed to get freelance work within a few months because I heard about a vacancy through a friend who had also studied at LCC. I still feel getting to know other people, whether it’s in your chosen field or not, is an important part of the creative career experience, and I’m really grateful for all the opportunities that I have been given by people I’ve met, studied with or worked with as a result."
There were many opportunities at LCC to attend workshops, networking events and lectures and Anna attended quite a few University of the Arts London events including Artsmart, where she could get career advice from professionals and help with starting out, something she found useful when she started freelancing.
Focus on freelance
When she left LCC in 2011, Anna decided to work as a freelance designer and worked for a tea company developing packaging, advertorials and promotional material, and later at a coffee company having been recommended by a former colleague. Anna said her reasons for developing a freelance career included it giving her the freedom to pursue her own personal projects alongside her commercial work.
My university education taught me to be self-sufficient and brave in making choices that lead to personal growth. I don’t want to forget why I studied design – because I love the liberating feeling of being creative and artistically expressive, and for the satisfaction of solving problems through design.
It’s also important for me to be brave enough to abandon all expectations of what I’ve been led to believe is the 'correct' path to being a 'successful' graphic designer and put a lot more of my energies into creative solutions that are beneficial for others.