How do you get experience when you’re not an experienced designer?

I don’t know but it has helped when I show my cabinet of curiosities (Wunderkammer).
Being a young designer I have to rely on my taste more as I can’t show my years of experience and work I’ve made but I can show my years of collecting and being curious.

I noticed for too long I tried to keep my personal interests separate from my work.
I thought the two worlds didn’t mix well, or people wouldn’t care.
But we all carry around the weird and wonderful things we’ve come across while doing our work and living our lives.
These mental scrapbooks form our tastes, and our tastes influence our work.
There’s not as big of a difference between collecting and creating as you might think.

Let me take you back 6 months.
I had just started a new term at uni, and we were being set a new brief.
We were asked to become magpies over winter and start collecting everything we came across that was interesting.
So I began. But it was hard.

The observation muscle hadn’t been flexed in a while, whilst I consumed a lot I realized I never really took it in for what it was.
So I started simple.

On my rides on the 65 bus back and forth from London, I started to notice small scratches of lettering on the glass that illuminated when the sun shined through it.
Then I noticed the painted typography on the inside of the bus walls.
Each time I’d step off the bus I’d notice more and more graffiti.
So I began photographing and collecting.

Then I was noticing all the weird and wonderful things around me.
Posters I liked the look of in movies.
Screenshotting quotes from Instagram.
Highlighting conversations from podcasts.
Photographing awkward silhouettes of architecture.
Cutting out film photos from books.

Then came the second part of the brief, captioning and indexing.
This is where I could see it all coming together.
As I was organizing my interests into simple categories for later consumption, it began to tell a story.
The story of what a younger designer was consuming over a few months and what grabbed his attention above all else.

Most helpful of all, it started to build a picture of who I actually was and what I was interested in that I couldn’t simply describe in words.
I didn’t really know who I was (and still don’t) but the blurry image was getting clearer.

Something I noticed took me by surprise.
I am studying graphic design, but only a tenth of the book is filled with design.
The rest?
Filled with work that holds a powerful message or a compelling story often nowhere near the medium of ‘graphic design’.
What did this mean?

Whilst I’m proud of the outcome I produced, what I learned the most from this project was what I need to lean into more and what intrinsically drives me.

Your influences are all worth sharing because they clue people in to who you are and what you do — sometimes more than your own work.

The project behind the story. JH’s collection of ‘Stolen Property’.



Sqaurespace Web Designer / Storyteller

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