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An insight into life as a Graphic Designer at Penguin

We caught up with Vicky Mills, the 2013 winner of Penguin's Random House Design Awards and Junior Designer at Penguin about life after university. 


Did you have a career plan before starting university?

I always knew that I wanted to work within design but I knew that University would allow me to experiment and choose the path I was most interested in.

Did you gain any work experience outside of university?

Yes, I did several placements during my second year of university. I worked at Attitude Design in Nottingham and I even went to China and worked for a social media company creating info graphics and web content. I also spent a month working in agency at Ogilvy which was an incredible experience – it was an amazing opportunity to work on big brands in such a fast paced environment!

Can you tell us a bit about the Penguin Random House Design Awards competition you won in 2013? Why did you decide to enter?

We were encouraged at university, to enter lots of competitions as they enabled us to work on some really fun and high-profile projects. Being short-listed for or winning competitions opens up so many doors and enables you to meet many amazing people within the industry as well as opening up career opportunities.

What inspired your design for the cover of The Wind in The Willows?

My book design aims to appeal to both the child and adult audience by mixing playful nostalgia with iconic character imagery. I feel that my illustrated mugshot of Toad sums up his troublesome and mischievous behaviour, which is key to most of the events in the book. I wanted to keep the general feel quirky and humorous to appeal to children, but also with the nod to the iconic Penguin jackets with the orange stripes.

You won a design placement with Penguin — what was that like?

It was a great experience working within the industry and it’s created so many more opportunities for me. I worked on a whole variety of projects, from updating the well-loved Cathy Cassidy series My Best Friend which involved commissioning new illustrations for the cover and creating new branding. I also helped create some materials for pitches which was great fun, as well as making props for parties to celebrate 50 years of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Puffin offered me an amazing insight into the world of publishing, and it was fascinating to see all the behind the scenes work that is involved in creating a book! I was offered a job the following September and have now been working for the last 18 months as a Junior Designer at Ladybird (a division of Penguin Random House UK Children’s).

What does a typical working day look like for you?

It changes from day to day and I’m involved in the process from start to finish — from discussing new ideas with editorial teams right through to choosing the book spec and materials with production teams. We work really closely with editors, making sure that the illustrations and text complement each other and are balanced. Some of my favourite meetings are where we brainstorm ideas on how we can develop a brand or book format – it’s always really interesting to push the boundaries of what we can do and be really creative! At the moment, I’m involved in various projects: lots of novelty baby books and toddler sound books, as well as a range of educational books which help children to learn to read by themselves.

Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?

It will be interesting to see how the design world progresses and changes over the next few years especially with new digital technology and the shift to e-books. It’s an interesting time for publishing right now.

What advice would you give to a graduate looking to enter a career in publishing or design?

Having a really varied portfolio is important to showcase your work. Entering competitions is a great way to get yourself noticed.

Vicky Mills, 2013 winner and Junior Designer at Penguin Random House Children’s. For more info about the Design Award 2016 and to check out this year’s shortlist visit their website