September 30, 2022
Work Life

6 Lessons I've Learned From My First Design Job

Klyxx's newest designer, Nikki Roxas, shares some of her most important lessons learned from her first year on the job.

Klyxx's newest designer, Nikki Roxas, shares some of her most important lessons learned from her first year on the job.

I’ve always been a creative person - I was the kid in middle school you’d go up to and ask to design your nametag. But as I grew older, I realized that there were so many more creative people out there, most of which I believed were much better than me. Because of this, I came to the conclusion that art and design were just hobbies to me, so much so that I was determined to pursue something else in college.

Coming into college, I wanted to make a name for myself outside of design and maybe find my place in advertising. Even though I was taking mostly communication classes in college, design always found some way to stay in my life, whether it was making logos for my friends’ businesses or helping out at my school organization.

I figured I’d start taking design electives during my sophomore year as it was a nice accompaniment to my communications classes but it wasn’t until junior year that I decided to apply for the school newspaper as a graphic design staffer, which was quickly turned into me being appointed as the graphic design editor in senior year. Journalism has always been something I was interested in, and working on the school newspaper made me realize that the intersection of communications and design was a wonderful thing; it made me look at both fields in new ways.

It seemed that design opportunities like these didn’t happen by chance, and I realized that I had to make it a point to make design my career moving forward. 

Coming back to design made me remember why I loved it in the first place -- the thought of being able to create something that is not only beautiful but is able to touch audiences and impact their lives is what makes design so worthwhile to me, thus my decision to further my studies in the field.

Coming to New York

I applied for the Associate’s Degree in Communication Design at Parsons on a whim, and actually did not expect to get in. I didn’t apply to anything else and I had no backup plans, and it surprised me that it all fell into place so quickly. Everything was a blur after I got the acceptance letter in April 2019, and I quickly moved to New York City in August that same year. It was in Parsons that I was able to hone my design skills from the ground up, and I felt pretty much ready to take on my design career by the time I graduated in December 2020.

Job searching amidst a pandemic

I had been working as a design intern at a startup since the summer of 2020 and was hoping to continue working with them even after graduation, but the pandemic hit hard and things didn’t work out the way I thought they would. As the end of my program loomed near, I had a spreadsheet that was tracking about 40 different job applications I had, only a fourth of which turned into actual interviews. Being a non-US citizen, I had a lot riding on my employment status - if I didn’t have a job in 3 months, I’d have to move back home to Manila. 

A glimmer of hope came through an interview at Klyxx Creative. Even from the first interview round, I could tell that the company culture was one that was welcoming rather than stuffy and corporate. What attracted me to the company was how young and accomplished everyone was and how much they valued both personal and professional growth. With Klyxx, I wasn’t embarrassed that I started learning design so late, because they made it a point to also teach me all I needed to know about working at an agency. They valued lifelong learners such as myself, and seemed invested in my growth as a designer. These were just a few of the factors that made me say yes to the offer, and I’m glad to have learned so much from them up until this day.

Learnings from my first 3 months at Klyxx 

Coming into Klyxx, I was an entry level designer that didn’t have much experience in the agency realm. The first 3 months was a huge learning curve in a way that I learned the ins and outs of working and interacting with other people, as well as designing not just for myself but for a larger audience of clients and consumers. Victoria (then Head of Design) and Mas (former Senior Designer) were both such great teachers, and they’ve become such a vital part of the start of my career. The first 3 months were a whirlwind of learnings, and I’m highlighting some of them here:

  1. Be candid at all times. Working with clients isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but being the people pleaser like myself, I’ve always tried to sugarcoat things and just go with the flow to avoid conflict. This doesn’t help anyone in the end and if there’s something you disagree with, don’t be afraid to speak out. Because I came into Klyxx with no experience working and interacting with clients, this was one of the main takeaways from my mock client call sessions with Mas and Victoria. I learned that by saying “Yes” to anything the client throws at you, even if the feedback might be ridiculous, will only hurt both parties in the long run. Two of our eCommerce clients had been known to give trickier feedback and when it came to situations like this, it’s best to always come prepared with reasons why your design will convert sales, and always give the option of A/B testing two options against each other to see which is more effective.
  2. Over communicate! No question is a silly question. During my first week at Klyxx, I was tasked to set up a 15 minute coffee chat with everyone on the team to introduce myself and get to know the rest. One question I asked everyone was “What is one piece of advice I should keep in mind?” and a lot of them said to over communicate -- the best way to learn and grow is to ask a lot of questions, and that I shouldn’t let shyness get in the way of this.
  3. There’s always so much I can still learn. If you think you’re done learning, you’re not. There’s so much more out there to learn, and the best mindset a person can have is to always be inquisitive and to keep an open mind. Like I mentioned above, I came into Klyxx with no experience working with real-world clients. Sometimes going to design school is not enough, and the best way to learn is to really throw yourself into the fore and gain experience outside of design school. While I didn’t get to speak at client calls during my first 3 months at Klyxx, the mock calls I had really prepared me for the next 3 months at Klyxx, where I started leading calls for both old clients (like the eCommerce company) and new projects, including a recent website design for a luxury jewelry company.

Transitioning into Klyxx 2.0 

In the 6 months I’ve been working at Klyxx, I have witnessed the company pivot from being a growth agency to a design studio. With that came scaling down from 20 people to 5 amidst a pandemic and completely refocusing our client stack. Learning how to navigate the industry as a design studio instead of a growth marketing one was both scary and exciting. It was scary because I felt like I had a lot to lose as an international student in such uncharted waters, but also exciting because we were actually doing the design things we were interested in. Being able to take a step back and reevaluate what the company was really about, what we valued, and who we wanted to design for was inspiring, and I loved seeing how the team worked through the hardships. Among the many things I have learned thus far, these would be the highlights:

  1. Always be on your feet. You never know how things can change so quickly, especially at a growing company. It was surreal to witness all these changes within the company, especially since this was my first full-time job. Starting over from nearly scratch meant that there was a lot we had to do in terms of gaining exposure and landing more clients, I was handed the role of also being the social media manager and helping Klyxx get out there, and even if I had no experience in managing social, I had to learn quickly. I learned how to strategize when it came to finding new clients whether it be through job search platforms or cold emailing companies I admire, and being able to have a lead call with a prospect is a rewarding experience no matter the outcome. 
  2. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Change is scary, but the rewards you can reap from stepping out of your comfort zone is great! I’ve become an even more well-rounded designer by stepping out of my comfort zone and learning how to not only manage social media, but create content for it. While I’m a well versed user on TikTok, it was a huge learning curve to make TikToks for our Klyxx account -- it’s definitely not easy and I had a newfound appreciation for content creators on TikTok! 
  3. Always be ready to take on more responsibilities. Even though I joined Klyxx as an entry-level designer, I was taught that I always had to be ready for times when I would have to step up and take ownership of more projects. Contrary to the job description of your typical junior designer, I wasn’t always just sitting in on Zoom meetings on mute the whole time, I actually had the chance to lead some web design projects (like the previously mentioned jewelry company and digital media company). In a short amount of time, I’ve learned so much about how to audit websites, strategize on how to make them better, and speak to clients about my design decisions – all within my first 6 months at the company!

The last few months at Klyxx have been exhilarating, scary, eye-opening, and not at all what I expected from my first design job. But there’s a phrase I wrote on all my cover letters that went “I came to New York with a hunger to learn more…” and I believe I found that with Klyxx.

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