Catching up with Graphic Communication graduate, Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson, BA Graphic Communication


What year did you graduate?


Tell us about your experiences on the Graphics course? 

USW's Graphic Communication improves your abilities, skill and interests through amazing teaching, collaborative learning and self-directed study. The lecturers are always there to help, but they also see you as designers and treat you accordingly. As well as learning, you are bouncing ideas off each other, helping to grow yourself and your peers. The way content is delivered opens conversations and avenues to explore what you are good at and love. The course content inspires you to explore a wide range of disciplines that fall under the 'graphic communication' umbrella -- this was an invaluable experience for me as my job involves things that I hadn't even heard of or considered before joining university. Opportunities and employability are also another huge part of why the USW Graphics course was the right choice for me. The live briefs, portfolio reviews and mock interviews etc., helped me get noticed when I started looking for work. We were also offered the opportunity to freelance, which tested our skills and threw us into the 'real world' of design. Two freelance clients that I got directly from Ryan, I am still working for three years later. 

What have you been up to since graduating?   

Since leaving uni, I have worked as a graphic designer at Architecture and Design firm Stride Treglown. I have always loved architecture and chose to do Graphics at USW instead of taking my offer to study Architecture at USW. 

Initially, I was employed and tasked with looking at ways to improve our company image, marketing, web, social media etc. My role has also evolved to include client project work and handling all motion, 3d and video work for company projects. I have had two promotions and given more responsibility to lead projects from brief to delivery. I genuinely do not think I would have had the self-belief to do this without the encouragement of this course. I also continue to do freelance design work for business and self-employed companies etc. The biggest client I work directly with to date is PCI Pharma Services Global, creating motion and video work for them and their clients.   

Where are you working now?  

I still work for Stride Treglown now; I have been here since August 2019. The practice stands for Better Places, Empowered People and Resilient Partnerships. We are also an industry leader in environmental issues and creating award-winning buildings, brands and content.   

What is your daily workday like?  

My typical workday consists of design team meetings in the morning. Due to my leading motion and video content projects across the company, I tend to manage multiple projects at once and across different office locations (nine offices total). Projects day to day could be marketing and social media graphics, photography, video, website content etc. Also included are branding packages, design reviews, client consultations and creating work for our architectural submissions. My main types of projects typically fall under branding, 3D & Motion Graphics, UX/UI. It's incredibly challenging, but I love every minute of my job, my team, and the work we get to create together. I hope to have a long-lasting career with Stride Treglown.   

What projects or types of projects have you worked on? 

I tend to work on two types of projects, internal (self-marketing, our web and socials etc.) or client work (architecture, interiors, branding). I have worked at stages ranging from initial development, pre-bidding projects to outcome, completion and client handover. I have also been on projects purely as a designer under the guidance of project leads, directors etc., although I have also been the lead on some projects. My work contributed to three award-winning pieces of architecture and design. 

  1. Waterside Campus, University of Northampton - Winner Student Accommodation Awards 2020
  2. Hodge House Cardiff - Workplace Design of the Year - Insider Wales Property Awards 2020 (here I led the rebrand and interior graphics)
  3. Polden, University of Bath - Student Accommodation Development of the Year - Insider SW Residential Property Awards 2019. Although this project was not up for awards, it was the first campaign I had let from conception to delivery, including branding, photography, film direction, and production.
  4. Ten Years at Treglown Court. Video located here: 

How did the Graphic Communication course help you get on your career path?  

Besides my experiences previously mentioned, I believe in my unique experience moving into a specific design role within architecture; the course helped align me to be a desirable proposition for my current employer. I brought skills and ideas, ways of working etc., that they had not seen before. The support helped me excel at what I do best and helped me understand the value of what I could do, helped me get a job offer for a post in an architects' practice that wasn't hiring. They even explicitly created to hire me! I feel fortunate to have that opportunity and a large part of me getting here is down the guidance of the course tutors and mentors. 

What was your favourite module/s that you worked on?  

My favourite 'learning' module was in year 2 - motion graphics. I will never forget the moment when motion graphics clicked in my head, and I realised I loved it! That love for motion graphics has led me down my chosen career path and the unique skill set that allowed me to get offered my job—reinforced by strong branding briefs etc. I would also say the Final Major Project was a joint-favourite. The level of intensity and design thinking you employ at that stage of the course is as close as you will get to the industry during education, but it was also the last time you will ever truly design for yourself. It also allowed me to push skills and ideas to the limit, and the pressure that brought was something I thrived on and felt proud of to complete.  

Why should a young creative pick the Graphic Communication course?  

This course gives you the freedom to become the designer you want to be, even if you don't know what that is yet EVEN BETTER! The course also focuses on aspects of creativity and design that industry cares about and, more importantly, the areas of innovation that the world NEEDS. I loved this course; especially, when we solved problems creatively -- we didn't just make pretty things without purpose. So if you want to make the world a better place through your ability as a creative and want the best guidance around to help make that a reality, there is no better course than Graphic Communication at USW. It's more than just a course; when you are on the graphics course at USW, it's like being in a family of creatives, past students and lecturers. The lecturers are always there to help -- I think that makes USW's course unique.

What words of advice would you give anyone that's just about to start the Graphics communication course? 

The best advice I can give is to ask lots of questions, keep an open mind to projects, and always START WITH WHY! I would also highly encourage genuinely using your time in uni to learn as many skills as possible, both to be more attractive in getting into uni and because as a designer, it's the most unrestrained time you will ever have. Use it to make yourself the best you can be. Also, enjoy the projects and take on everything 100%. Understand what you want and what areas you don't enjoy; it's okay not to love everything or be good at everything. However, by the end of the course, you will love design!

Also, the organisation of your ideas and sketchbooks is critical; there is no chaos in my workflow as a professional. I would advise you to learn what workflow you find best and fine-tune it in uni before the industry bites you on the butt! ENJOY and Good Luck! 

Look at you now 

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