Currently five years into a six-year-long global road trip in a series of colourfully customised camper vans, Frankie Ratford - founder of The Design Kids - stopped off at Plymouth College of Art to give a talk about her career, how she’s carved her own path in the design world, and what she’s learned along the way.
Drawing on Frankie’s 14 years of experience in graphic design, The Design Kids was set up to bridge the gap between graphic design students and professional designers, studios and agencies.
Opening up a directory of current jobs, internships and freelance opportunities to students and graduates, as well as tons of advice on locking down that dream job and how to network your way into the industry, Frankie says, “Aligning yourself with industry is like joining a motorway, where the other cars are other designers and companies - you have to adjust your speed, see what’s already out there and position yourself so you can survive…”
Frankie recently spent two days at the college, delivering workshops and valuable, inspiring and down to earth advice to both Pre Degree and BA (Hons) Graphic Design students. The Design Kids global road trip has seen Frankie, self-confessed design nerd and intrepid traveller, journey around Australia, America, Canada, and Europe, interviewing designers and attending design events, as well as delivering lectures and workshops on how to get a job in graphic design.
Neil Leonard, Programme Leader on BA (Hons) Graphic Design, said, “One of the most valuable pieces of advice Frankie gave during her talks was the idea of a strong network, and that this can only be achieved by getting out there.”
Using social media as a tool to connect design students and graduates with industry-leaders all over the world, Frankie encourages students to share their best work using the hashtag #TDKpeepshow to be in with the chance of a re-post from @TheDesignKids on Instagram (where their 90k following continues to grow).
"One of the other striking things about the talk was how bold Frankie was, and how she forged her own career and created a job that was right for her. I think this aspect alone inspired many of the students."
– Neil Leonard, Programme Leader on BA (Hons) Graphic Design
Originally hailing from the UK, Frankie relocated to Australia aged 18. Finding that she didn’t enjoy design jobs that kept her tied to a desk, she decided to combine her love of travel and design to create her very own job, turning down opportunities with renowned agencies and magazines to forge a path that allowed her to live her life exactly as she wanted to.
Her attitude is equal parts sunny and take-no-prisoners, and in her own words is “a full-time adventurer and a boss lady.”
Frankie’s talk recounted how it’s important not to be afraid of taking that entry-level first job, as those experiences can teach you lessons that enable you to become the best in your field - including how she learned the value of careful, methodical file-naming whilst painstakingly scanning and archiving screens at a screenprinting company.
Hammering home the importance of being passionate about design, Frankie talked about finding your sweet spot: “Between what you love, what you’re good at, what the world needs, and what you can get paid for.”
Passion and enthusiasm are just two ingredients in Frankie’s list of must-haves for success. She discussed knowing your industry - to the point where you have a list of agencies you aspire to work at, and you know everything about them.
She described meeting Vince Frost, the founder of Frost*collective, Sydney who had previously been the youngest Associate Director at Pentagram. “I saw him give a talk and I had goosebumps for an hour. He’s a rock star. I knew I wanted to work for his agency, and two weeks later I had a job there.”
She continued, “Know your sh*t so you’re ready to go. Success is 50% luck, and 50% being totally prepared.”
So what’s next for Frankie and The Design Kids? “I try not to plan too far ahead,” she told us. “Next up, I’ll be travelling to South America, and my aim with The Design Kids is to build the biggest graphic design resource in the world.” She finished her talk with two pieces of advice. “Get involved, and find one thing you can do better than anyone else. I’m the best at my job, because I created it.”
Photos By Taylor Harford, BA (Hons) Commercial Photography for Fashion, Advertising & Editorial student. See more of his work on Instagram at @TaylorHarfordPhoto.
- Head to The Designs Kids website for more information on Frankie, her community of graphic designers and her global travels
- Find out more about how to develop your career while studying, with the Careers and Enterprise team
- Interested in studying Graphic Design? Check out our BA (Hons) Graphic Design programme