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alice fraser

she/her | Instagram | Site | LinkedIn

Hey Alice, how’s things?

Not bad thank you, I have had a pretty turbulent time in the last 6 months personally, but things are looking up and I’m hopeful that now winter is over (finally!) things will be a lot brighter. Sometimes I feel that people don’t really say an honest answer to this question, or even ask it in the first place, so thank you for asking.

For those that don’t know tell us about yourself

I’m Alice Fraser, a creative practitioner, designer and educator from Stockport, and based in Manchester. I studied graphic design at Sheffield Hallam and graduated in 2020, upon graduating I was a designer at Manchester based studio Office Of Craig until most recently. My work is multi-disciplinary, so I don’t like to just do one thing (I think I would find that rather boring). Whilst working at Office Of Craig I led on a variety of projects in both physical and digital spaces, across varying areas such as exhibition design, branding, social media and marketing, publication design and community and spatial design.

Always wanted to be a designer?

I haven’t always wanted to be a designer, but I did know I wanted to do something creative. To be perfectly honest I didn’t know what a graphic designer was until I was about 16, it just wasn’t something I entertained as a possibility. I have wanted to be many things; a midwife, a teacher, a chef, the list goes on. All of my previous career interests have something in common, however different they may be, they are all creative and provide an audience with something joyful. As cringeworthy as that sounds, I do just enjoy doing work that makes people happy, and makes a positive difference.

You studied at Sheffield Hallam, what drew you to this choice?

I really liked the approach to collaborative and cross disciplinary study that Sheffield Hallam offered. As a student who didn’t know anything about the design industry, and wasn’t sure if the Graphic Design course was even for me at the time, it was brilliant to be able to learn and explore other creative avenues and work collaboratively across courses throughout my time at university. It really opened up my practice to a world of people, processes and avenues I would never have expected.

I was also really drawn to the placement year that was offered on the course. A year between second and third year to gain experience on placements and internships, all whilst being fully supported by the university and course tutors. This was invaluable to me, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.

Credit: Beth Davies

Were you also employed by the university at the same time?

I was actually employed by the rival university, the University of Sheffield [insert traitor chants here]. Whilst studying in my second year, a job opportunity opened up at the University of Sheffield for an Assistant Graphic Designer within the Student Communications Team. After some generous encouragement from my course leader, I applied for the job with my first year portfolio and got the job! I do remember saying “you’re fucking joking” to my new boss down the phone when she told me, swiftly followed by a bashful apology.

As part of the Student Communications Team, I worked on student facing briefs and campaigns, to inform and empower the student body, and to help support the student experience at the university. Projects ranged from Freshers Week supporting material, anti-littering campaigns, noise awareness campaigns, marketing the annual NSS survey and creating communications for the annual UoS vs. Hallam Varsity competition. It was a really interesting and varied role, not only did I learn a raft of design and communication skills, but I also got to experience what an internal design role looks like and make some lifelong friends.

In 2019 you were an intern three times, what did you learn from these experiences?

I was lucky enough to be able to intern at three different and varied studios around the UK in my placement year at university. At the time, I wasn’t sure how diverse the design industry was in terms of types of work, so I wanted to get a really varied experience in order to try and find what I liked.

My first placement was at Sheffield based Human Studio, who specialise in animation, virtual reality and immersive experiences. I had tried my hand at animation at university, so naively thought it would be a piece of cake. How wrong I was, what the team at Human do is truly extraordinary, and I was in awe just watching over their shoulders when I did a brew run. It was a really fascinating experience, in which I learnt a lot, but I think I’ll leave the animation to the professionals. Next I interned at Music, a brand and communications agency in Manchester. My experience at Music was a real eye opener, as I got to see inside a large design agency that I had always known from afar. It was really interesting to see how a large agency works, at the time I had no idea that Client Managers, Project Managers, Strategy Directors, Copywriters or Operations Managers even existed. All I knew was that graphic designers worked within design agencies. I got to work on some really great projects, and just soak up as much information as I could about agency life.

My final internship was at creative agency Interabang in London, which I debated not doing at the time. Not because I didn’t like the work or didn’t want to do it, but because I had no idea how to logistically handle going to London. At the time I had no friends or relatives who lived in London, and finding somewhere to live for a month was proving difficult and expensive. Luckily I was offered somewhere to stay by a work friend of my partners dad who worked in student accommodation contracting, tenuous I know. It was a really great experience working at Interabang and I thoroughly enjoyed it, the team was a lot smaller than that of Music, but larger than at Human so it was interesting to see how the dynamic of the studio worked compared to the others.

Credit: Beth Davies

What is your stance on un-paid internships?

Categorically wrong.

Offering unpaid internships is completely unacceptable. Even offering to cover lunches and a minimal bus fare is unacceptable.

If we just think about this logically, people looking for an internship are usually 18 or over. This means that they may have familial or financial responsibilities they are foregoing in order to do said internship. They could work part time to subsidise their student maintenance loan, they could have rent or a mortgage to pay, they could have children and need to pay for childcare whilst doing their internship, or maybe they are travelling from far away to come and do their internship, but have no family or friends to stay with and need to pay for a hotel. By not paying someone for their service, you are not only completely devaluing their skills, work, time and effort, but you are also putting them in a financially difficult situation and as an employer, are exploiting a person's work for profit. Unpaid internships are therefore feeding into and supporting the lack of diversity in our industry.

Do you think the opinion on this has changed?

Yes, I think over time this opinion has changed for the better. But unpaid internships still happen, and if you asked anyone to raise their hand if they’ve offered one you wouldn't get anyone owning up to it.

It’s illegal in the UK for employers to not pay workers at least the national minimum wage, but the key word there is ‘workers’. Not all employers classify their interns as workers, they could classify an internship as a ‘voluntary work placement’ which would mean you don’t have to be paid as a ‘volunteer’. Overt calls for unpaid internships have all but disappeared, but a lot of the time these deals can be made verbally with an agency or company you’re in contact with. It’s important to know your rights, stand up for yourself, and call out agencies who say they support a diversified, modern design industry but offer unpaid work behind closed doors.

You’ve been featured by Creative Review, and recognised with a Chartered Society Award what does being recognised mean to you?

For me, being featured in articles such as Creative Review or receiving an award is, whilst incredibly flattering on a personal level, a platform to be used for good. It’s an opportunity to talk about projects and initiatives I have been a part of that are doing brilliant work for communities, supporting the arts and culture sector which is so chronically underfunded, and talking about issues within the creative industries that need to change and be brought into the modern world, such as unpaid internships, lack of diversity, white male privilege, a London-centric rhetoric and revered yet questionable figures such as artist and typographer Eric Gill.

Credit: Micheal Pollard

In 2020 you started at the Office of Craig, what drew you to this agency?

I met Craig Oldham (founder and creative director of Office Of Craig) whilst I was at University, where I worked with him closely on my final year projects and professional development. After I finished university in the middle of the first COVID-19 lockdown, I worked with Craig on a project as a freelancer, and things went from there really.

I had always admired the honesty with which Craig speaks about work the studio produces, topics he’s passionate about or the design industry as a whole, so it was a great place for me to be able to learn more about the industry and myself as a creative practitioner. I worked at the studio for almost three years, and during that time I was lucky enough to be given full exposure to the industry, the creative process right from the beginning to the very end, and to see how relationships between client and studio can flourish.

Talk to us about your approach to design-work. Are you more conceptual driven? I would say that my approach to design work comes from my idea of what ‘good design’ really is. For me, good design is something that communicates to the desired audience in an effective and succinct way, helping to either educate, inform or communicate a message clearly. Design is the tool which, when used successfully, provides depth and clarity to a user. It isn’t just about making something that looks pretty on Instagram and Behance, and appeals only to other designers (unless that is the desired audience). Research is such an important part of the design process, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly or glossed over. As designers, we aren’t experts in everything, but it is our job to be perceptive and learn everything there is to know about our client, their needs, their audience and the topic at hand.

Talk to us about the Outside Directory.

The Outside Directory is something that had been bubbling away in the back of my mind for quite a long time. I have always felt that there was a bias towards the creative industries in London, whether that be for advertised creative opportunities, numbers of features in media or celebrations of young creatives who have ‘made it’ in London. I felt like the odd one out, as I had no real drive to go to London and find my fortune, I was quite happy finding it up North. Craig and I chatted about this London centric conversation, and after understanding we weren’t alone in feeling this pressure, we decided to do something about it, and Outside Directory was born.

The Outside Directory aims to create a one-stop, collated resource for people looking to champion the creativity happening all over the UK, not just within London, and to share, celebrate, and encourage the talent in the regions. A directory is the simplest, most concise, and inclusive way to accommodate the diverse array of talented businesses the regions have to offer and for people to engage with. The initial database for the Outside Directory was crowd-sourced by over 100 voluntary creative practitioners living and working in and around the UK regions. These practitioners responded to open calls and open invitations for a contribution with each individual, organisation, or network, being afforded complete autonomy to add any entries from their knowledge, experience, and expertise.

Credit: Beth Davies

We’re on the list! Whats the requirements?

The Outside Directory operates as an accessible and autonomous platform, meaning any and all are welcome. By entering a few simple details here you can add your business or another business to the Directory directly. The Outside Directory wants to recognise and celebrate all creative practices and practitioners working in the creative industries outside London. In this we also recognise the multitudes of models and make-ups of businesses, from global network agencies to one-person start-ups and everything in between. At present, however, we are only able to facilitate businesses in the Directory as we feel Freelance is a much more nuanced offer. For clarity, we are working on the loose classification that a freelancer is a sole individual whom works inside other businesses, as support or in consultation, creating work we would loosely describe as ‘white labelling’, whereas a business would qualify as any number of people, one or more, but whom work on their own body of work, usually, but not exclusively, direct to client.

Who are your standout creatives?

Azizah Raghib. I had the pleasure of working with Azizah whilst she was on placement at Office Of Craig. A tenacious and passionate designer from Malaysia and now settled in Sheffield, Azizah is a real creative force to be reckoned with.

You can find her @azizimakes on Instagram

For my final question, whats next?

I’m not sure what’s next, but I’m sure it’ll be exciting.

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