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Stories from Design Bridge: The DB London Bursary scheme

At Design Bridge we’re big believers in nurturing, mentoring and managing people’s careers, and we’re always on the hunt for new talent to join us. One of the ways we do this is through our Bursary scheme, which is based in our London Studio.

Each year we work with a select group of universities to find the best up and coming design talent, inviting them to nominate up to 4 second year students for our consideration. From these students we invite a handful in to meet us, then we select 4 to join the studio for a month long placement over the summer. This is when we really get to know them and see what makes them tick. The students that shine the brightest are then offered a place on our bursary scheme. We’ll pay their final year tuition fees and also welcome them into a full time position once they graduate. Over the past 3 years we’ve recruited 6 shining stars through the scheme.

We caught up with 3 of our more recent recruits to tell us about their experiences coming through our bursary scheme and how they’re finding being part of the team, and we also asked them to share some handy advice for design students. But first, let’s meet them:

James Ward Bursary

James Ward (JW) is a Designer who studied Graphic Design at Norwich University of the Arts (NUA). James recently celebrated his 1 year anniversary with us.

Faye Thomas Bursary

Faye Thomas (FT) joined us full time as a Junior Designer in September this year after completing her placement in 2014. Faye studied Graphic Design at Northumbria University.

Fahud Ahmed Bursary

Fahud Ahmed (FA) works in our Realisation Team as a Junior Film & Animation Designer. After studying Motion Graphics at Ravensbourne, he became a full time DB-er in August this year after an extended placement last summer.

Let’s go back to the beginning – what was it like when you first stepped foot in the London Studio? What happened in your interviews?

FT: We actually visited the Design Bridge Studio in Amsterdam on a course trip. I remember thinking to myself that I would love to work for DB one day. Lucky for me as it became a reality!

Before my actual interview I prepared my physical portfolio with finished projects, sketches, and work I had designed in my free time. I also researched the company, which came in handy during my interview when they asked me what I knew about Design Bridge!

JW: Preparation for my interview ended up being very stressful! I remember just about everything at university broke down when I needed to print my portfolio – the printers wouldn’t print, the binding machine wouldn’t bind and, I think at one point, even the internet went down! Myself and the other bursary interviewees from NUA ended up running around Norwich trying to find something we could use to bind a portfolio and eventually stumbled upon some ring clips from a stationery shop and some nice black card lying around in another room at university… In the end, after a fair amount of stress, sweat and probably tears, it looked great (considering the circumstances)!

FA: It all happened so fast for me! Our senior tutor nominated us in the early stages of our second year and I shared my loose portfolio and a couple of my best pieces at the time. Before coming to Design Bridge for my interview, I spent a lot of time researching the work, particularly projects that had won awards. Instead of thinking about how my work would fit in at DB, I wanted to share something different and approach the interview by showcasing what I was passionate about – bold ideas, creative storytelling and design.

JW: I was asked lots of questions about my portfolio – in particular, where the concept originated from and why I had made the choices I had. The question that threw me off the most was “So, what do you do in your spare time or as a hobby?” For some reason I really wasn’t expecting it and I went blank. I eventually recovered it… I think!

FA: The best bit about my interview was that they really wanted to know more about me as a person and what inspired me. It was great to talk about who I am and show how passionate I am about design.

Well you obviously did a great job as you are all here to tell the tale! Tell us a bit about your placements…

FT: My placement gave me an insight into what working in a Studio was actually like – I hadn’t experienced that kind of environment before. I was put on the Diageo team but, because I was on a placement, I got to work on lots of other projects across the studio including Cadbury and Walkers, which was great.

FA: I was fortunate enough to work very closely with the DB Comms Team, and one of the things I worked on was creating some animations for an app. It felt like a lot of responsibility for a student, but I was made to feel like an important part of the process. The app is actually live in the app store now – I’m very proud.

JW: I got to work on a variety of projects too, ranging from Lock Stock & Barrel to Smirnoff (the brand I now work on). Design Bridge had recently designed some packaging for a premium popcorn brand and, without seeing the results, I was briefed on the same project to see how I would approach it. I think on most placements you usually just spend half a day on a project that has been on-going for weeks/months before you even join, making it difficult to make your mark on it. It was a great opportunity to show what I could do.

FT: Working on different projects meant that I got to know lots of people around the Studio. I kept in touch throughout my 3rd year and visited when I came down to London. This meant that I was lucky enough to come back and start my full-time position and not feel like the “new” person. I just slotted back into Studio life with everyone.

Bursary Christmas

Faye & Fahud helping to bring the London Studio Christmas bar to life

FA: Same here. I left my placement with a strong support unit and I was able to ask for advice, help and opinions on my work during my final year, which was invaluable. It’s been great to now come back and see the familiar faces from my placement. I’m really happy and grateful for how much trust and responsibility my Seniors have given me. I don’t feel like a Junior who has no voice – my ideas and opinions are always considered, and sharing with the team always leaves me inspired. I left my placement feeling more mature and confident, and it has taught me to be brave with my ideas and challenge the ordinary. I tried to implement that in everything I did in my final year and continue to do so in my work now.

Very inspiring words. So, now that you are all in full time roles, how are you all finding your work life in the London Studio?

FT: Working at DB has been a great experience so far! People are always encouraging – it’s like a family.

FA: There’s no such thing as “colleagues” here, it’s one big family and I’ve made a lot of great friends. An agency with two dogs strolling around… what more do you want!? I love it!


JW: Everyone at Design Bridge is extremely talented, friendly and endlessly helpful. The moment you step through the doors as a Junior you embark upon a very steep learning curve. Leaving University is scary. But what is even scarier is that without a placement you have absolutely no idea what you are stepping into once you graduate. As a student you have a preconceived idea of what Graphic Design is and what the industry is like. Chances are, you are a million miles away from the truth. The placement itself is an invaluable life experience that teaches you so much about the field you are going into and prepares you a year early for the world you are entering.

FT: Winning the bursary gave me more confidence going into my 3rd year at university. It was a great feeling to know that a company like Design Bridge had invested in me as a person. Going into my final year with a job already secured definitely allowed me more time to focus on my projects – I didn’t have to worry about organising internships or putting a portfolio together.

JW: It was the same for me. I also felt like I had the opportunity to take more risks, be more adventurous, and branch out into new areas that I would have been too scared to explore before.

FA: I’ve always taken great pride in my work and being awarded a bursary from DB gave me a greater sense of it. A lot of people would say, “Oh there’s less pressure on you now because you have a job”, but not for me. I felt an increased sense of pressure because I had a standard to uphold. It increased the sense of pride I had in my work and in my abilities, and I wanted to show everyone why I was given the bursary.

And finally, what advice would you give to design students?

FT: The world is a small place and you never know who you’re going to meet. I met (Chief Creative Officer) Graham’s son in a hostel in Prague just before I started my job. The DB family definitely stretches across the world!

JW: To every design student: Get. A. Placement. They will give you so much invaluable experience and will infinitely help you when you step out into the real world. At university you feel like you spend 3 years learning everything there is to know about Graphic Design. Turns out you learn maybe 5%. My placement at DB opened me up to a whole, new, massive world.

FT: Start getting your portfolio ready as soon as you can and put in projects that you are proud of and enjoyed working on. That way it’s easier to talk through them in interviews.

FA: Yes, take pride in your work. When it comes to interviews, that passion you have behind your work will drive the conversation and interest amongst potential employers. People feed off your personality and passion, and the work is a reflection of who you are.

FT: Get your work out there. Create a website, a Behance profile, write blogs. New Blood is also a great opportunity for landing yourself a job at the end of your 3rd year so don’t miss that. Just take a chance! When I sent off my portfolio to DB I didn’t expect anything, and now I am lucky enough to be working here.

Thanks guys! 

If you’re interested in a Career at Design Bridge, check out our latest opportunities here.

by Anna Stanford

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Creating brands for the Modern Man


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