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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

Upskilling for the Design Department

The design department is responsible for the aesthetic, layout and legibility of an end product. To find out more about design careers, have a look at the Publishers Association, where they introduce different roles within each department. Often editorial and marketing are the most popular, but design shouldn’t be overlooked so we have provided some resources and advice to help you upskill.

Online Courses

A good place to start is with these courses. LinkedIn Learning has a great selection, but we have also included courses from some other platforms. Why not give one a shot and add to your design toolkit?

Sometimes independent businesses offer workshops and events to help develop skills so make sure you explore all available options before making the right choice for you!

Design Softwares

  • Canva: an online resource with a variety of free templates.

  • Adobe InDesign: requires a paid membership. Knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite is invaluable for designers.

  • Adobe Photoshop: this is also paid but is great for graphic designing and digital painting. Don't forget, students and teachers get a 65% discount with Adobe Creative Cloud!


  • Student Design Award 2021: a Penguin Random House competition for entrants aged 18 or over, closing 1 July. The three cover categories this year are Adult Fiction, Adult Non-Fiction and Children. This is your chance to show off your creative talent and win a work placement in the Penguin Random House Design Studios. Opens on 2 December good luck!

  • The Macmillan Prize 2021: another brilliant opportunity to highlight your illustrative talent, this competition was cancelled, but is expected to be running again for its 35th year in 2021. It will be open for submissions in April to UK higher education students. Keep an eye out for further details this December.

Entering competitions like these is a great opportunity to build your portfolio and can open so many doors in the industry. Shortlisted illustrators can even receive publishing deals!

Freelance Advice

1. What would your top tips be for someone hoping to start out in design?

“Negative feedback and criticism will most likely happen, as people have different tastes, and it can be really hard to take on when starting out. My best advice would be to stay open-minded and keep a distance with your work. Someone’s opinion doesn’t define your worth and skills, it is just a matter of preference.”

2. Is there a general practice to follow for finding clients?

“Word-of-mouth is the usual route to find clients. If you have done great work for someone in the past, ask them to put a good word out for you to their network. Additionally, if you are visible, people are more likely to find you when looking for a designer you have to create and build your brand.” 3. Any challenges you faced/to look out for in the freelance life?

“You have to be aware of your area of expertise, so it is important to only go for briefs that you feel comfortable with in the first place. Starting a project that you don’t like will be very obvious you want to enjoy yourself!”

- Caroline Guillet, Bloomsbury Editorial Assistant Intern (quoted).

More Tips & Tricks

  1. Keep learning about what interests you: familiarise yourself with the latest tools and softwares, keeping up to date with industry trends.

  2. Make and add to a portfolio: why not have an online resource that you can link in applications? This is a great way to present your work to potential employers.

  3. Market yourself the right way: make sure all your social media is consistent and effectively represents who you are. For some, that may mean having a blog where you can visually play around with graphics.

  4. Network to maximise opportunities: Twitter and LinkedIn are great platforms for this and during the annual Work in Publishing week, industry experts keep their inboxes open for questions. Check out the #workinpublishing hashtag on Twitter to catch up!

  5. Sign up to newsletters: is a great resource for aspiring creatives and The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) also has their own newsletter. Be curious and you never know what insights you might receive one day right in your inbox!

That rounds up this issue on upskilling for design. Be sure to check out Issue 13 for our Christmas feature covering all things audio!


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