As part of our ongoing commitment to industry-focused creative education and ensuring our graduates are prepared for the Design, Media and Screen industries as soon as they graduate, London College of Communication welcomed 50 experts through the Industry Mentoring Scheme.
Part of LCC Graduate School, the Industry Mentoring Scheme aims to encourage and support postgraduate students in their transition from education to industry, matching postgraduate students with industry professionals.
With the industry experts ranging from leading designers to photographers, top journalists to branding experts, and more, we decided we’d catch up with a few of the mentors to find out a little about them. Here, we sit down with designer Rania Svoronou…
Rania is a 2014 graduate of LCC’s MA Interaction Design Communication course and currently a visual interaction designer at IBM London Design Studio. She is interested in the relationship between people and technology and has worked across multiple sectors bringing the best design experience in financial services, health, publishing, retail, consumer goods, entertainment, fashion and telecommunications.
Hi Rania! Could you tell us a bit about your background and interests?
Design for me was never just an option – it is a way of life. I’ve studied in the UK and hold a BA in Graphic Design from Northumbria University and an MA in Interaction Design from LCC. I started my career 8 years ago as a graphic designer at a local print agency in Athens, Greece and after I worked in start-ups, small design studios, Ad agencies, and global corporations. My current role is the Lead Designer for a global client at IBM Interactive Experience based in London.
I am also an active speaker, a guest lecturer, an industry mentor, and get invited as a judge/mentor at multiple hackathons and design events across Europe. I am passionate about design and one of my goals is to inspire and empower more individuals – especially women – into design ands technology, and help connect the gaps between design education and the tech industry.
What do you hope to achieve through the scheme?
I’ve always believed in strong mentorship. I had very inspiring mentors throughout my academic years and of course now in my professional career. Saying this, my aim is to help my mentees focus on their passion, and to motive them to work harder on their craft and on their soft skills.
I feel blessed that I followed that path and I want to give back and keep spreading the word that design is definitely not a ‘waste of time’, as many people unfortunately still believe. I always have in mind Hartmut Esslinger’s quote; “Design cannot change the world. Designers can change the world” and I hope I support design students more and more to realise that.
What skills, experience and wisdom are you bringing as a mentor?
I come from a highly craft design background and still believe in ‘getting your hands dirty’ to learn and grow as a designer. I believe mentorship should be subtle and offered when is asked. I want my mentees to acquire a relentless spirit and have the self-respect and confidence to live life on their terms by doing what they love. I want them to embrace change when needed, get outside of their comfort zone and chase what they want.
Why did you consider LCC for a mentor scheme?
Besides the fact that LCC is one of the best design universities in the world, I am a proud LCC alumni myself and hope that through this mentor scheme I can give back to the new design generation.
What knowledge or advice do you hope to share with your mentees?
Each of my mentees has different needs, but if there is one thing that I would hope to share is the importance of resilience and believing in what they do. My journey was not easy at all and by giving them real life examples I want to inspire them and make sure what they choose for their future is what they love and what they are good at.
Another advice I keep giving them is to be good team players and nice to people. The concept of the ‘creative arrogant lone genius’ is not effective if you want to work in good team dynamics and eventually lead teams across the globe and across cultures.
Why do you feel it is important for graduates to get industry knowledge and experience through a mentor?
One of my aims is to help connect the gaps between design education and the industry and that is why I am an ‘Industry Mentor’, why I guest lecture at universities and why I volunteer as a mentor in different hackathons across Europe.
Design education is a nice protective bubble, until you experience how the industry really works – that is why internships are so popular and important. The sooner you get a view on how things work in the industry the better, that is why industry mentorship is important to the students who are seeking it.
What might postgraduate students gain from partnering with a mentor?
I would say it is different for each individual and so far all my mentees have gained different things; good advice, networking, honest feedback, more opportunities and exposure are some of the benefits. Most of us have very busy schedules, so the fact that we want to be industry mentors means we genuinely want to invest our time and focus on our mentees.
How did you get started in the field?
I became passionate about art and design from a very young age and to follow my dream abroad, and that is why all my studies were in the UK. I’ve started my career path 8 years ago as a graphic designer at a small printing agency in Athens, Greece, while the advertising/design industry in Greece was economically suffering and male dominated. After 3 years of working in a start up, small design studios and the best Ad Agency in Greece, I moved to London.
My journey was not easy at all, I’ve had many rejections, and I’ve faced tough challenges. However, I had the right people by my side, to mentor and believe in me. I am now the Lead Designer for a major client at IBM Interactive Experience – a new division within IBM, which has been named the largest digital-agency network in the world and I’ve still got a long way to go and a lot more to learn.
If there was any advice you wished you had received when first starting out, what would it be?
There are many things I wish I knew when I started out, but I guess one of the most important ones – especially as a designer – is to be aware that soft skills are equally important to technical skills and if you don’t ask, you don’t get in this world. We are taught to work on our craft as designers, but character and personality is a key factor if you want to successfully collaborate with other designers/other disciplines and if you eventually want to be a good leader.