For five years Allie Wood studied at Plymouth College of Art, successfully graduating in 2016 with a first class BA (Hons) in Graphic Design. Throughout her studies, Allie worked on a number of projects with The Agency, our in-house design studio that gives students the opportunity to connect with external businesses and work on paid live briefs.
After graduating, Allie then went on to work on a variety of different creative projects with Sponge UK, an e-learning company based in Plymouth, where she spent time as a junior designer. With clients ranging from the NHS to Toyota, Sponge UK work to deliver better workplace performance using advanced learning technologies.
During her time with Sponge UK, Allie relocated from Plymouth to Bristol where she has since decided to take the plunge and begin working as a full-time freelance designer. We spoke to Allie about one of her most recent ventures, working with British luxury chocolate makers, Elizabeth Shaw.
What are the main things you have taken from your time at Plymouth College of Art?
I first joined the college in 2013 to study at Pre-Degree level, and then stayed on at undergraduate level for the next three years. The five years I spent studying at Plymouth College of Art changed me a lot; I had this whole world of creativity opened up to me. I never enjoyed school because I wasn’t academic and I hated being stuck in a classroom just reading and writing.
Suddenly I was able to make, create, and explore. The college not only opened my eyes to this wonderful world of creativity, but I also found my identity in that. I finally found something I was naturally good at. Not only did I leave the college with employable and desirable skills, but a real passion and calling to be creative.
During my A-Levels, the college taught me the art of being curious. I didn’t have many good skills at this point as everything was so new. But this is when I developed my love of learning, absorbing and discovering. The graphic design degree was great at diving further into the technical skills needed to be a designer and work on becoming industry-ready.
"Everyone asks if freelancing is lonely, and I genuinely don’t think it is. My clients range from Bristol and London to all the way over in Arizona and Florida. There is no limit to where your clients can be from; the world is literally your oyster."
– BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate Allie Wood
You're currently collaborating with chocolate makers, Elizabeth Shaw; how did you secure this opportunity and what does it involve?
Never underestimate the power of online networking! The Elizabeth Shaw freelance job all stemmed from a single post on LinkedIn. I was scrolling on LinkedIn one day and I found the post a Marketing Lead from Elizabeth Shaw had posted looking for a Bristol based freelance designer.
There were already thirty comments from established freelancers offering their services, and I never had much confidence in my ability to compete against anyone for a job. Right at the last minute I decided it was worth a shot and there was no harm in putting myself out there, so added a short comment with my email and website (www.alliecreative.co).
A few days later I received an email asking for my portfolio, then the following week I was called into their office for a briefing on the freelance position. We got on really well and I was handed a large bag of chocolatey treats and told to get to work! I was so excited!
The freelance job itself is to create digital assets for social media such as post graphics and photography, cover photos, website banners etc, and also to create offline marketing material such as brochure ads, exhibition stands, flyers, and create all original photography for these items.
What are the best and hardest things about being a freelance designer?
One of the best parts about freelance for me is the working environment. I can work the hours I like, in the space that’s most creative for me. I often take walks or go out for coffee when in search of inspiration because my job allows me the flexibility. I’m a massive advocate for flexible working. When I’m right in the middle of a project, I find the best hours for me to work is really early morning. So the ability to work according to what makes me the most creative is very useful.
Another amazing thing about freelancing is the awesome people you get to meet. Everyone asks if freelancing is lonely, and I genuinely don’t think it is. My clients range from Bristol and London to all the way over in Arizona and Florida. There is no limit to where your clients can be from; the world is literally your oyster.
The hardest part about freelancing is taking on so many roles. As a freelancer you’re a designer, project manager, account manager, creative director, client co-ordinator and self-marketer. I’d also say when things get real busy, managing a multitude of deadlines can be super stressful. As I’m starting to become a little more established as a freelancer, I’m learning a lot about these things.
"Plymouth College of Art not only opened my eyes to this wonderful world of creativity, but I also found my identity in that."
– BA (Hons) Graphic Design graduate Allie Wood
What motivates you to keep going with your work?
I genuinely don’t see what I do as “work”. I try to take on projects I am genuinely interested in, passionate about, and will allow me to be fully creative, and from that it means I just really enjoy what I do. I don’t think I could take on the hours required for this job and pressure that comes from it, without joy and excitement being the main motive.
However, when I do need a bit of motivation, I love seeing how much people enjoy what I make. A lot of the projects I receive briefs for come in because people want my specific style, and I love seeing people excited by what I’m creating and wanting to work with me.
What's next for Allie Wood?
Every week looks different for me. I’m constantly working with different people, using different skills, juggling all different kinds of projects. Some people don’t like the uncertainty of freelance, I thrive off it. I like not planning my life too far in advance, as it allows me the chance to take new experiences and opportunities as they come.
But I do have a few personal goals I’m striving for this year. I want to schedule more time for creative, hands-on, personal projects, and I’d love to refine my style further. I’d love to keep reaching out to big brands and new types of projects.
In the long term, I love the idea of starting up a small design studio, but for now I’m really enjoying my freelance career and the creative opportunities it's bringing me.
Interested in taking on a career in the creative industries? Why don’t you visit our undergraduate course page to find out more about the degree programmes we offer.