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Jennie Bradley – BA Graphic Communication

From university to running her own business

Jennie Bradley graduated with a BA in Graphic Communication and is now running her own business “Howdy Doodle” where she is designing, developing and illustrating products for children.

Howdy Doodle is​ a company I created and I am solely responsible for the running of the whole business. These responsibilities include designing, developing and illustrating the products, sourcing suppliers, cost negotiating, marketing and processing orders.

Creating my own business

As a designer and illustrator the thing I love the most about my job is the doodling! I found the initial setting up of the business was both the best and the worst part though. I found myself spending endless hours doing what I love: Designing the products that I now sell on my website, developing all the stock and all the exciting aspects like seeing the final products arrive back from the printers!…but I also spent endless hours doing the bits I found the most challenging; like setting up as a sole trader, arranging business accounts etc. And because I am not shy of a challenge I started the business just months after having my first born, Rocky, so it is fair to say through all the ups and downs, having a good night’s sleep hasn’t featured very heavily!!

With regard to getting started in this career path, I think, although some artists out there are self-taught, there is no substitute to training professionally if you want to enter the creative industry. The market is very competitive and going through a degree course, or the equivalent, allows you to gain a lot of experience in the field.

Success from Graduate Show

I was fortunate enough to secure a job straight from university due to the interest generated from my end of year show. The job I decided to take was for an international greetings company and I worked there as a graphic designer where I specialised in illustration for 4 years until I left to have my little boy.

Whilst I worked there I continued to grow my passion for digital illustration, character design and illustrating for the children’s market.

In terms of career progression, now I have successfully started my business and my on-line shop is live. I see the short term progression being marketing the business and generally increasing the company’s public profile. I also do freelance and commissioned illustration work in addition to running the business and I would like to continue this as I love the challenge of tackling a customer led brief.

Long term I would like to continue to grow the company, continue to add new products keeping the stock fresh and fun, and branch out; get my products stocked in other shops too. And who knows, maybe one day I might have enough stock to open my own retail shop.

Skills from my course

Although I studied Graphic Communications at the University of Northampton, not pure illustration, it still helped me become the illustrator I am today. In year two of my studies I was able to choose which specialism to focus on from typography, photography and illustration. Believe it or not I actually decided to specialise in photography as it was (and still is) a big passion of mine. Back then I had not explored illustration in a digital form so it didn’t really cross my mind. It was not long after though, that the world of digital illustration opened up to me and it has been my main passion ever since.

I think the variety of projects that were set throughout the course couldn’t fail to inspire and build any creative. For me it opened my eyes to a world of different creative avenues I hadn’t explored before and that exposure allowed me to develop who I am now.

Advice to Graphic Communication students

I think if I had to offer any advice to an undergraduate it would be really focus on building a strong and varied portfolio as this really has the ability to sell you. As soon as you enter the creative industry you won’t need or rely upon anything more than a portfolio that shouts ‘wow’. If you are passionate about your work this will shine through.​

​Overall I would say the course at the University of Northampton did exactly what I needed it to. It inspired me, it taught me how to push myself creatively and think differently, and through the end of year show (where all course members display their finest work for family, friends, the public and potential employers to see) I managed to secure a number of interviews for post-graduate graphic design jobs, therefore making the transition from study to employment relatively easy and enjoyable.

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