New Designers: Dream job

26 June 2013

All students are told about the cold, hard reality of finding employment in the real world, yet some still make it into their dream job. Stephen Holmes reports

Two years ago at New Designers Thomas Kasher and Roy Norton exhibited their final year project among hundreds of other 2011 graduates.

Tom Kasher (left) and Roy Norton (right) alongside their finished final year project, a concept Triumph Speed-Twin

A retro motorcycle stripped down and transformed into a desirable product for the youth market, it was an eye-catching piece of work from the graduates of Northumbria University’s transportation design course.

Since then they have been styling motorcycles for one of the world’s top design studios, Xenophya based in Northumberland, UK. Their final year project, as well as their talent, skills and determination, was key to achieving their goal, but none of it came without effort.

“To do your final year project it’s a lot of work and there’s going to be a lot of late hours and you want to spend those late hours doing something that you enjoy,” says Norton.

“Which for us – we were building our own custom bike, what could be better than that?! “That was the drive for it, and there were a lot of late nights where we’d rather be in bed, but then I’d rather be doing that than a project that I didn’t have a lot of interest in.”

“Our final project was probably the most important thing that we could have done throughout our time at university,” adds Kasher. “The coverage we got from it, we could never have
expected that much!”

The pair had spent their placement year working at Xenophya, located nearby to their campus in Newcastle, using the time to help plan their final year project.

“It was the placement here where it all started,” says Kasher. “That and the encouragement from [Xenophya’s directors] Mark and Ian to do something like that, and obviously their support in the final year to let us come and work here 24 hours a day.”

“The university did bend over backwards to help accommodate us,” adds Norton. “At first it was a bit of a struggle to explain what we were trying to do, and for them it was more a case of us being a two-man team on a final year and marking who had done what.”

After attracting interest from other design companies, Xenophya took the plunge on employing the pair despite the then limited amount of work.

“We knew they wanted to take us on, and it was a bit of a no-brainer really,” says Norton. “We were in Newcastle at the time, we loved coming here, it was great work and to get a job coming straight out of university – not many people get that opportunity now.”

Beginning with freelance work, and about a month later the pair were taken on full time, although it wasn’t all clear-cut. “To take on not just one, but both Tom and I, for them it was one of those sink or swim moments.”

Since then Xenophya has been rising strongly, with work for Triumph and Royal Enfield being put into production, although the pair haven’t been able to rest on their laurels.

“For me, it wasn’t until we came here that I realized how much you need to up your game,” continues Kasher. “I think when you’re at university it’s a bit easy to be naïve about the whole outside world.

“Coming here and seeing that there are portfolios sent here everyday from people that want jobs and seeing the standard that people send, and having Mark and Ian teaching us, it gave us a big kick up the arse to really push ourselves.”         

How can you improve your chances of getting your dream job

Be passionate
Prove that you have an unflappable interest in whatever it is you want to design, be it bikes or bar stools.

Be professional
To get a job amongst professionals you need to act that way. A well-presented portfolio and CV is an essential starting point.

Placement persistence
Your first placement might not be what you wanted, or enough to show your dedication. Work hard to get more: real world experience can set you apart.

Fight for it
There isn’t an advertised position? Offer to freelance when they need it, be politely persistent and build relationships with people there to make them remember you.

Final year project to remember
Putting in the hours to create the best product you can will not only improve your grade, but attract the right sort of attention.

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