Melissa Preston: 2012 graduate in graphic design

2012 graphic design graduate Melissa Preston recaps her time at Edinburgh Napier and shares more on her career so far.

Let’s start at your time at University. Was Graphic Design always something that you wanted to study?

Actually to be honest it wasn't. I had always loved being creative whether that was painting, signing or trying to act, but I wasn't really sure what path to go down. It wasn't till my last years of high school that I was introduced to graphic design and I was hooked!

Why did you pick Edinburgh Napier?

The course really appealed to me because it was so new and sounded really different to all the other more traditional art courses I'd visited which were really intimidating. My interview for the course was really exciting and I left with a really good feeling and hoping I'd be offered a place!

And did it turn out to be a good choice?

It turned out to be a great choice! I know I wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for the commitment and patience of my lecturers and the fun, diverse and unique briefs that they set us. I think that is something that sets Edinburgh Napier’s graphic design graduates apart from other courses.

There is no cookie cutter approach and it means that each student has a diverse portfolio that your less likely to have seen before.

The University prides itself on its links with industry and its emphasis on design with a conscience. Were these of benefit to you when you were learning your trade before entering the profession fully?

Absolutely. I think it made me consider my work more deeply and the potential impact I could have. Story telling is so important to our industry and I believe being asked to question topics with more thought and passion creates better, original work with a unique story at its heart.

What was your final year project?

My project was called "Something of Value". At the heart of the idea was the insight that in a very fast-paced world, we are potentially forgetting what actually matters, friends, family, community. "Something of Value" took its form as a shop in the community where people could trade trades, hobbies, knowledge - anything really from knitting to plumping to cooking. The shop also sold produce all designed with messaging that hinted towards values.

Were there any work placement/mentoring opportunities throughout your time at Edinburgh Napier?

Yes I did two placements whilst at Edinburgh Napier. One at studio LR and one with Tayburn. They were both really inspirational and fuelled my passion for working in the industry.

Could you give us a potted history of your working career so far?

I came to London in 2012 for the D&AD awards and whilst  in london went to several interviews. Design Bridge offered me a three month placement and after that a job. I have now been working there for almost five years and have worked my way to senior designer.

When you started, did you feel your time studying had prepared you for the working world?

Yes and no. I don't think you are every really prepared till you start working in an agency as they can vary so much. I would say though that my placement had given me a real insight into real clients and real briefs. This along with the creative thinking we'd been taught at Edinburgh Napier I feel gave me the best start I could have asked for.

What does your current day-to-day role include?

Day to day can vary quite a lot but the majority of my time is spent designing, attending briefings, reviewing work and presenting work to clients along with mentoring more junior members in my team and of course making the odd pot of tea!

What does Design Bridge look for in design graduates?

A good attitude lots of enthusiasm and drive and most of all good ideas!

What’s the best thing about working at Design Bridge?

The brands, the work and best of all the people.

How important was your D&AD award win in helping you achieve a position with Design Bridge?

Well if I hadn't entered and come down to London I don't think I would have met anyone from Design Bridge so I would say it was the very reason that I am where I am today.

Would you recommend competitions like D&AD for those currently studying graphic design?

Yes absolutely it's the best way to get yourself noticed. Even if you don't win attending things like new blood are crucial to meeting the right people and getting the right job.

And a birthday message for our own graphic design course?

Happy Birthday! Keep doing what your doing and go from strength to strength. I can't thank you enough for the opportunities and guidance that you gave me that ultimately led me to my dream career. 

Learn more about graphic design at Edinburgh Napier