Midfield Dynamo – Advice for recent graduates

Creative people have good ideas, but it takes a team of creative people to achieve great things. Neil Armstrong didn’t get to the Moon on his own, and Damien Hirst doesn’t always pickle his own cows. For some people, recognition is their reward. For others it is enough knowing they were there and getting their hands dirty. For most, I imagine, the design process is where they find enjoyment, solving problems elegantly and learning new things.

Within a creative team everyone can flourish. Together the team is greater than the sum of its parts with each person bringing different skills, and their own experience of similar solutions. Youth and experience can exist side by side. Collectively you work out what you need to do and who’s best to approach each piece of the puzzle.

People are creative in different ways – perhaps they’re more accomplished in business or human resources or retail. Clients appoint designers because they need our skills. Part of our job is getting everyone involved with the process, and bringing the non-designers into the process is important and increases momentum. Clients love it when we get out the tracing paper and can sketch what they’re describing to us; it’s empowering and makes their dream seem one step closer.

Creative projects must have a leader or anarchy reigns. Whether it’s the artist, or the architect or the entrepreneur, someone needs to set the creative agenda and act as ‘design protector’. Concepts can get eroded or watered down over the life of a project, never the other way. The concept therefore needs to be strong enough to withstand a series of tests; is it intellectually robust, is it affordable, can it be made, is it safe, is it beautiful, will it actually work?

As a graduate or young professional it is unlikely you’ll be the creative lead. You’ll be a team player, somewhere in midfield, providing support to your colleagues all around. You are uniquely positioned, having a little distance and perspective from the goal and awareness of who might be caught out of position. Being immersed in a creative team will teach you how to respond to the project’s needs and support your managers. You’ll also learn where your skills lie, which might eventually lead to a specialism or more prominent team role.

I have been at DKA long enough to have progressed from an assistant to a project leader. I have creative freedom to try to get the best result for my clients, within the usual constraints of time, budget and buildability. Good architects recognise that the building is their clients, not theirs – no matter how much personal blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights go into making it happen. This is a result of the team ethos. At DKA we make sure everyone gets to site as the building goes up and that we all see it completed. We respect anyone who gets something built of any quality as we know how hard they have all worked for it.



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