Five minutes with Claire Blyth
Claire Blyth, founder and managing partner at Red Setter, a PR specialist focusing on design agencies, speaks to Transform magazine about the Design Community Hub (DCH), a new initiative she co-founded to support students by bridging the gap between education and the design industry.
What is the DCH? What will it entail?
The DCH is an inclusive and exciting community, providing advice, connections, and opportunities to young designers. It bridges the gap between design education and the design industry to make entering the field of design less of a challenge.
It was born out of the pandemic where design agencies weren’t hiring juniors, but as we’ve built it and realised its full purpose, we found that there was no other central point for grads to access the real-life design skills and knowledge, to help them get their first job. So, it’s actually a very welcome and overdue resource that benefits everyone.
What do you wish to see within the first year of the DCH being launched?
I’d love for the DCH to be the automatic resource for design students wanting to enter the design industry; likewise for agencies to be DCH partners and have access to the best design graduates.
In recent weeks we’ve had a number of brilliant events, portfolio reviews, and internships shared on the DCH Guild platform by some of the best brand design agencies, like Superunion, Pearlfisher, and Jack Morton. We want more agencies to join this list and see the benefits of the partnership.
It’s also essential for us that design course leaders understand what opportunities that the DCH will offer its students. We’re working hard to share the DCH message, so at every level of the design education to design career journey, people can benefit from being involved.
How has Covid-19 impacted the presence of young people and new grads in brand design agencies?
The pandemic made it harder for young designers to enter the industry, and once in, they were far more likely to be furloughed. And if the work wasn’t there, it was the junior staff who were let go first.
From speaking to its members, the Design Business Association found that when the sector picked up and agencies got busy quickly, they tended to recruit experienced staff who could hit the ground running, and it’s hard to train interns and juniors when you’re not in a studio space together. Covid produced a whole lot of extra admin and business difficulties so senior management have struggled to put time aside for the development of young talent.
Many agencies reported their best financial year ever in 2020-2022. It’s often been a temporary boost, mainly helped by reduced overheads (no travel or even studio space) and lack of investment in juniors. It looks good on short term figures but is going to be a big problem for agencies when there’s no junior level to promote.
What benefits can fresh talent and DEI bring to agencies?
The design industry thrives on the strongest and most interesting creative ideas. That’s exactly why we need fresh talent from a wide range of backgrounds.
People instinctively design for people like themselves. With better DEI built into how agencies are growing, creativity is hugely increased. That’s aside from the wider issue that it’s a much fairer way to work. The DCH is one way to level the playing field and open up more opportunities for all design graduates.