Today I bring you advice from a second Funko Product Designer, Sophie Brown. Sophie shares her thoughts on developing a broad skillset, and the importance of networking. Check out Sophie's clear and well-presented portfolio at the end :)
My role at Funko is Product Development Assistant
I studied Product Design at university, I'd always loved product design since school, so it was a pretty easy decision for me once it came to deciding what to do after I'd finished my A-Levels!
The course itself was quite different to what I expected it to be but turned out to be for the best. It was quite an engineering focused version of product design which I think may have benefited me when looking for jobs as it broadened my skill-set in a larger range of areas. For example, along with units based on design briefs, following through to prototyping & testing, we also had units based on materials and manufacturing processes where I learnt about materials and their properties, and along with this different manufacturing processes for these materials. This helps a lot when designing products as this can often influence the design itself as it needs to actually be possible to make the product, at a reasonable cost. Along with this I also had units based around mechanics and physics which proved to be very useful when completing my final year project at university.
My final year project encouraged me to learn new skills in areas very much out of my comfort zone. For example I was designing a product which included electronics and I was determined to create a working prototype of the finished design so therefore I had to learn some basic coding in order to make this happen - it took a lot of trial and error but once I had it working it made me realise you should never limit yourself to what you're good at or comfortable with, it's always great to have new skills.
Another unit I completed was student enterprise, which was built up from a mixture of courses where in small teams we created our own small businesses. This was a great way to experience working with people that were studying a range of different subjects, just like how in any job you need to be able to work efficiently with people in different job roles.
There were units that I didn't think would be much use to my future prospects but now I'm working it's easy to see how it is very beneficial to have that broader knowledge.
Having only graduated last year the experience I have gained so far has been from my current role here at Funko and my placement year at university. My course was one which offered a sandwich year placement, however it wasn't the easiest to find a relatable, paid placement. It took a fair few rejections and sifting through many jobs that were 'kind of' similar to what I thought I wanted to go into but not quite right, however I still applied for them all! It was difficult at that time as well as I hadn't had any experience working as a designer by that point, so it was hard to know what area I wanted to go into as well and what I thought I was best suited to. The placement I actually ended up in came about from when I attended the London Toy Fair, and one of the speakers (my future boss) mentioned about internships within their company at HTI Group (toy company), I sent him an email with my CV and portfolio as soon as I got home and ended up with a placement year as a product designer for a toy company - my dream job before I even knew it! I think for me this was the best thing that could've happened as I was then building my design experience in what I think is one of the most fun industries to be able to design for.
At HTI Group my manager was based in Hong Kong so I would have frequent skype meetings with him and he would often come to the UK to visit the team here. I was, at the time, the only London based designer as the majority of the design team were in Hong Kong, with one other designer being in the Lancashire base. This meant I had to be flexible with the tasks I was doing which was a great insight into all the tasks a design team within a company has to cover which turned out to be not just designing products. During this placement year I learnt a lot of skills using the Adobe Creative Suite, having only used 3D CAD software at university this was beyond beneficial for me as I now have another range of software under my belt which I actually use every day still now!
This placement year definitely helped direct me to a company like Funko, I have been here for 8 months now and never thought I would enjoy working as much as I do! Seeing one of your ideas move from you creating the initial concept design then following it through the stages to being created into an actual product is so rewarding, and very very cool!
It's never the easiest looking for jobs, especially straight after university as it can be very confusing knowing what route to take which adds to the stress of finding a job. I was applying for jobs for about a month and a half until I found Funko. I had about 4 interviews, all of which went very smoothly I thought but I kept receiving what seemed like rejection after rejection after rejection, all with the same reasoning - you came across very well in your interview but you just don't have enough experience (most wanting me to have 2-3 years experience). It seemed harsh as to be able to get the experience I needed someone to give me a chance in the first place for that to happen, along with this it's easy to let it knock your confidence with thinking you might not even get into your desired role after all the hard work. I then saw Funko's job advertised, and with my placement year being within similar sort of industry this seemed like the perfect role. I think this is where my placement year benefited me as all of the experience I had gained here was very relatable to the role I was applying for here at Funko. So if there is a specific area you know you want to go into, it might be worth even finding a short term internship just to build up your experience in that specific area.
As a product development assistant a lot of the work I do revolves around getting the initial concept through to an actual product. Working with licensors to get approval on our concepts, working with factories to ensure the samples are created as close to the original design as possible and working with the PD team here at Funko UK to come up with and create great new designs.
I originally wasn't doing that much design at the beginning however after a short while into my role I was able to have a go at creating initial design concepts etc and from here I have been able to take on more and more design related tasks which has been fantastic! This shows how your role might not end up being what you think, and it can change according to what skills you have to offer.
HERE'S a link to my design portfolio, I would often design something extra/ suited to the company I was applying for so this one has an example of that on the last page.