Lucy Batley's career journey into graphic design
Lucy Batley, Co-Founder and Creative Director of design and digital agency JUMP expands on her career as a Graphic Designer.
I am fortunate to have found a career pathway whilst still at school that I am extremely passionate about – design, and more specifically graphic design.
From a very young age I always loved art and whilst I was bored going to museums with my parents I really enjoyed going to art galleries and exhibitions; in retrospect I never felt daunted or intimidated by the art, however ‘whacky’ or leftfield it was.
But I really came in to my own in secondary school thanks to my fantastic art teachers who recognised that I was destined to be a Graphic Designer. Instead of drawing a shaded fine art apple I would quite literally draw the stylised apple immortalised by Apple computers. I would spend hours of my spare time researching Graphic Design, sketching, painting with Designers’ Gouache, and I had my first mini art exhibition in the school when I was twelve years old. It was the support and encouragement of my teachers that became the foundation for my career.
In the late 1980s, I was amongst the first to take pure Graphic Design at GCSE when the awarding bodies relaxed the criteria changing ‘Fine Art’ GCSE to ‘Art and Design’ allowing you to do only Fine Art, or a mix of Fine Art and Graphic Design, or only Graphic Design. I opted to deliver all my projects using the disciplines of Graphic Design and opted for the same at A Level. For my other A Levels I chose English Literature and Psychology, both of which have served me well in my career as a Graphic Designer; you need excellent copywriting skills as well as being able to understand the mindset of your target audiences.
I completed my A Levels in the early 1990s and at the time you had to have an Art Foundation qualification before you could take a degree in an arts subject. I therefore chose to stay in my home town (Newcastle upon Tyne) and attended Newcastle College for a year. I have to say that this was a ‘foundation’ course in the truest sense in terms of teaching you a wide set of skills and techniques across a whole variety of art and design practices. For the first two terms we were rotated in groups delivering week long projects in the following departments: textiles, fashion, fine art, sculpture, photography, 3D design and graphic design. The graphic design department reassured me that I was on the right career path. At the end of each week we had to present our work to the tutor and the rest of the group. This was great practice in terms of presentation skills but it was also fun and allowed us to bond with our peers. We were divided alphabetically and I made my life-long friends at College nicknaming ourselves the ‘H-Posse’ (my maiden name was Hill).
Following the Foundation course, I was awarded a place at the prestigious Glasgow School of Art (one of only four English students). However, I opted for a BA Honours Graphic Design degree at Northumbria University at Newcastle partly because I wanted to stay in my home town but mainly because of the reputation Northumbria University had for design, in particular fashion, product and graphic design. In addition, they were very geared up to getting students industry placements in the second year and at the time I felt the course was more vocational than Glasgow. Placements are crucial – in my second year I was going to specialise in packaging but changed my mind following a three-month placement at a well-established and highly respected brand positioning firm in London. The firm specialises in food packaging and despite a negative experience which pushed me towards branding rather than packaging I did establish a lot of contacts in London and it was fantastic for my confidence – the CEO of Heinz chose my student design over the firm’s!
I graduated with a 2:1 BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree with a commendation (and a First grade) for my thesis about the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. I then headed to London for four years followed by five years in Milan working for global brands such as Audi, Fila Sport, Montecristo, Vespa and Max Mara. Returning to the North East, I set up my own company merging with my business partner Robert Brown’s firm to create JUMP, our design and digital agency based at Milburn House in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne’s city centre.
Alongside my day job managing a team of over 20 designers and developers at our head office in Milburn House, Newcastle, I am also the Ambassador for Creative and Digital for the Institute of Directors’ regional committee and a board member of EcoNorth.
My career advice to anyone setting out on the journey is to choose a subject that you are passionate about; we spend a third of our working days living and breathing what we do so if you don’t enjoy it you are going to get pretty fed up very quickly. I remember having a Saturday job folding towels when I was doing my A Levels. It made me realise that I couldn’t do that eight hours a day for the rest of my life. It was the push I needed to concentrate on my studies and reach the best of my potential.
My other advice, and the best advice that I was given when I set up my own business, is to talk to as many people as possible – family, friends, teachers, careers advisors, business people – they will help you make the right choices and guide you on your journey.