Moving Brands designer, Michelle Wu, returns to California ArtCenter to share career tips for budding creatives

The MB team is always looking for ways to inspire the next generation of world-class designers. Designer Michelle Wu recently spoke to students at the ArtCenter in Pasadena, California, where she trained, sharing insights on her creative journey and tips for finding your dream job in design.

AICAD — Image from https://www.aicad.org/schools/art-center-college-of-design/

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Shanghai, Michelle graduated from ArtCenter in 2020 with a BFA in graphic design before joining Moving Brands around a year ago. Now living in LA, Michelle works remotely for the company as a junior designer under our ‘One Studio’ approach, which sees colleagues around the world acting as one team wherever they may be based.

So, how did she get to MB? Although no junior designer job was advertised, Michelle followed her mantra of “just doing it”. She applied for a designer role and after a couple of interviews, she was offered the junior position.

Her message for ArtCenter students was: “Never don’t apply for a job because you don’t think you’re qualified. A lot of the studios don’t advertise junior positions, so just apply for jobs that you’re interested in and see where it takes you.”

Michelle also had wise words to share on other important aspects, such as portfolios, internships and when — and when not — to work for free.

Let your portfolio speak for you

During her time at ArtCenter, Michelle had four key areas of focus: transmedia, branding, motion and art direction. However, when it came to producing her portfolio, she made sure to emphasise the areas she enjoyed most and which were most relevant to the industry and job description, while still demonstrating her range of capabilities.

Michelle’s portfolio showcases her wide range of capabilities

Most importantly, she noted, you should consider the point of view of the recruiter or art director when putting it together. “You’re not there to defend or explain your work so it has to be clear and concise on first read,” she said. However, when you do get the chance to explain your work later, you should be prepared to talk through your design process — your reasoning and how you got to the final result.

She also encourages people to expand their skill sets and “step outside their comfort zones” by taking a Transdisciplinary Studio (TDS) class. “It’s good to work with different majors, so don’t restrict yourself,” said Michelle.

The value of internships

In summary, “any internship is better than none” says Michelle, who completed two during her ArtCenter course.

One of these was at the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai which involved working mainly with prints and spatials for exhibitions. But the key takeaway for Michelle was getting to work with people involved in lots of different areas, from social media to curators.

“There was a lot of ideating and planning and communication experience, which was hugely valuable because teamwork and collaboration are key in our industry, whether with clients or the internal team.”

Her second placement was two months with a creative studio for high fashion brands. As part of a small team of around five, Michelle was mainly involved in pitching and researching as well as producing assets for final pieces.

“Just being in the studio and overhearing and listening to conversations gave me a better understanding of the industry and the job,” she recalled. “Internships give you a chance to test, plan and see what it’s like.”

Michelle also highlighted a volunteer position she took up as a graphic designer with Anime for Humanity, a charity that uses anime to help with mental health and was looking to rebrand. But she stressed that she did this as a hobby due to her passion for anime, adding, “Never, ever do free work for exposure or experience. It’s important to know your worth.”

Life at Moving Brands

Before MB came along, Michelle spent a few months researching and looking for the right opportunity and she encouraged students to start that process as early as possible, using LinkedIn, CPD and ArtCenter Connect as well as events and organisations such as AIGI to keep on top of what’s out there and what’s going on in the industry,

She then outlined life at MB, its guiding principles and its wide-ranging work within the field design and emphasis on innovation and pushing the boundaries.

“At Moving Brands, we have this element of play. We like to experiment, test things out and approach things in new ways,” she said. “We’re very hands-on. We like to iterate, ideate and collaborate.”

Michelle also played a showreel highlighting the work of Moving Labs, our experimental design and rapid innovation team, who build immersive experiences focused on sustainability, accessibility, education and future thinking.

Partners, not clients

She ended the talk by outlining her work on an exciting project to rebrand cybersecurity platform Lacework, explaining how the three roles of designers, strategists and project managers interlinked at MB to make a formidable creative team.

“We see clients as partners and our strategists work with them to identify the best brand position,” she said. “As designers, our job is to take them through this journey and show them how it will add value to their business by translating that brand position into a look and feel.”.

After explaining why Lacework had embraced the ‘light’ concept proposed by the MB team, Michelle highlighted one element of the process that differed to her experience at ArtCenter.

“It took a bit of time to nail the logo, we had to do a lot of iterations and sketches,” she said. “So sometimes you have to work a bit backwards — because you know what the design system looks like, but you don’t know what the logo is.

“That was different from my experience at ArtCenter, where the first two to three weeks we did logo sketches, then picked one and built the system out of it.”

Michelle ended by offering ArtCenter students her five top tips for success:

  • Set realistic goals (and make sure you’re taking steps towards them, however small)
  • Ask questions — never be afraid to speak up
  • Be curious and open to learning
  • Keep on moving (if something happens, move on)
  • Just do it!

You can follow more of Michelle’s portfolio on her website.

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