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Community Matters: In Conversation with Yas Banks, Graphic Designer and Podcaster

Image by Sophia Carey 

A University of Salford Graduate in Graphic Design, Yas Banks is a 21-year-old freelance designer from Wigan. Since graduating in 2019, she has been flexing her creative muscle as a freelancer and hosting the podcast Proper Talk , alongside friend and fellow Salford Univeristy graduate Jaheed Hussain.

Taking every opportunity that she can to learn more about her craft, Yas is also making sure to pass on the knowledge she has acquired since graduation and is helping those fresh out of university, who are just beginning to scope out roles in the creative world.

Having recently gone solo with the podcast, we wanted to speak with Yas about her first year as a freelancer, the realties of the working world and her advice for anyone needing a bit of encouragement when it comes to finding their place amongst other designers and creatives.

Affable and always brimming with ideas, this is a must-read for anyone interested in a career in graphic design and for those feeling a little lost in professionally and personally of late.

First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you do?

I’m Yas. I’m 21. From Wigan. I’m a graphic designer and podcaster.

Image by Holly White

When did you first know you wanted to be a graphic designer?

Growing up, I had my heart set on becoming a fashion designer. I had an A5 sketchpad filled with drawings of my own clothes, drawing outfits together. That was my goal. In primary school, we had the opportunity to design and make our own slippers in an art lesson one week as a Christmas activity. I still to this day have this slipper – yes it isn’t wearable at all but it’s still a fond memory I have. 

That was until I got to high school and discovered something called graphic products, fell in love with the process and the opportunity it gave. I remember as part of my exam for GCSE, I learnt about the likes of Margaret Calvert & Jock Kinneir who are most famous for designing road signs and became completely in awe that the likes of design carried out such an important role in people’s day to day lives. This is when I found out this was my ‘calling’ in life – ha. 

How did you find the first six months after graduation?

Tough. I’ll be honest. Between graduating in July and starting back up in October, I’m not ashamed to say I had a solid two months off away from absolutely everything – having lived my life in education from the age of 4… I needed some time to think. That shift of every single day in education to suddenly in the ‘real world’, searching for a job… being an adult… having that responsibility held around you is weird. The security of education was gone! 

That’s what I feared, the lack of being secure… getting up to go sit somewhere with that comfort bubble over you of knowing what you’re doing in a certain place. I knew I was getting the train to see recognisable faces; knowing exactly due to a timetable I was doing. There was no fear of the unknown. No anxiety inducing situations. And leaving that environment was a weird adjustment.

However, I took every opportunity whilst still being a student to attend as many events as possible, connect with people, build a network. Which I am so glad I did as I now wasn’t this odd, new graduate trying to get my foot in the door not knowing anyone.

I got bored though, of having too much me time… deciding after picking up the odd freelance jobs during September that I wanted to explore what it would be like to be freelance. Straight from graduation, I’m aware I seem deluded but I wanted to take the risk. I wanted to see what it was like to be my own boss, not be scared of pushing myself out of my comfort zone and meet amazing people along the way.

What opportunities did you take up in those first few months?

Keeping a close network with the university I went to (University of Salford) I jumped in as a mentor on their amazing mentor scheme to help out the current final year students (big shoutout to Lily Duignan for being ace, I’ve now made a friend for life out of this). 

Furthering this relationship with the university, I took part in the Design Manchester x Extinction Rebellion takeover day. From designing assets for the screens around the university to leading my own badge-making workshop. All students from eight different universities came together in union through the power of design to listen, learn and take action for matters about Climate Change. It was an ace day to be involved with, seeing everyone grow in passion through the day and getting mega hands on with everything that was highlighted. 

From this day, I have just about wrapped on a mad publication of summary from the day highlighting everything amazing that occurred into one place for everyone involved to refer back to and see the magic of collaboration! It’s jam-packed full of amazing imagery, artwork and words. Keep an eye out for that release as it’s very nearly ready to go. I love working on editorial design, like this, with loads of content as it allows me to be as creatively free as I’d like for people to enjoy.

At the same time as being involved with Design Manchester events; I had the privilege of working alongside Ear to the Ground as my first major freelance job, working in-house on campaigns for the likes of I Saw it First, Arsenal, Beats and internal marketing work. Working in-house amongst a fab team of people gave me a sense of what it was like day-to-day to come into a studio environment, even as my own boss, and quickly adapting to their way of working, was such a great opportunity for my first freelance role. 

I’ve joined the amazing PechaKucha team too. Being involved helping out where I can; designing the PoochaKucha event programme, helping out with workshops and working with the amazing team. 

What have you learned about working as a graphic designer since graduation?

Ironically, I’ve learnt that learning doesn’t stop. And I know everyone says this but it’s true. Every day is a learning curve, you will make mistakes but that’s okay, you won’t know how to do things, you will frantically Google how to do things. Skillshare has become my best mate at the moment especially diving into the world of After Effects a bit more.

What support did you receive after university?

I worked with the Design Manchester team through the end of my third year at university starting with an amazing project alongside Peel L&P, in which a handful of us designed murals to go up near Harbour City, with the focus on wellbeing and mindfulness. This project helped connect me with the team, with John Owens at the forefront of the project. The support given through the project pushed onto post-university, acting as a huge mentor figure giving me crucial advice on things like my CV to Portfolio, as he receives countless amounts a day. He’s given me guidance on so much when I was lacking motivation in struggling to find a job.

That’s something that isn’t spoken about, the frustration of working your arse off through education, high school to get to college, college to get to university, university to graduate and get a job. But then that job isn’t always there straight away and the fight still continues, of course it does, it isn’t handed to you on a plate ‘because you got a degree’ but the frustration of rejection is a real thing.

John helped me channel this and not let it get me down and lose my motivation, I’ve had down moments about it, anxiety was raised because I felt there was an expectation to get a job or else it wouldn’t have been worth it. But just know, that isn’t the case. Everyone knows how hard it is, especially during the current pandemic, but as long as you keep going, don’t let this define you, it isn’t failure — it’s a learning curve!

What would your advice be for those just starting out in the industry?

Don’t compare yourself to others. This is easier said than done, as you’ll be seeing your peers getting jobs or internships and thinking ‘wait, am I doing enough?’ and ‘why aren’t I being offered those opportunities?’ It’s an awful feeling, I get it. But that’s normal. Everyone will be thinking it, but don’t get tied up in these thoughts. You’ve got to take things at your own pace.

In these situations, you’ve gotta keep your head down and focus on you. And this goes for those you don’t know but are inspired by – it’s more than likely they’ve been doing what you’re just starting for a long time. You’ll get there – you’ve got to put the work in.  Imposter syndrome is real – I get it, everyone does. But it’s about channeling those feelings and working as hard you possibly can to get where you want to be and be your own biggest inspiration! 

What have been some of the highlights of the past year?

I think I’ve named quite a few already, haha! Some other things I’ve done which are mind-blowing for me… designing our Degree Show branding, graduating, having the best summer… turning 21 at a festival with ace humans, attending some inspiring events, connecting with the best people, being on the Creative Boom podcast (WOW!), being able to actually take a step away from education and realising that (okay apart from the current situation) the real world is actually quite exciting, yes utterly bloody terrifying too, but equally as exciting. 

Oh and of course, starting my own podcast! 

And any challenges?

Rejection from jobs. Anxiety about money. This has been a bane of my life. Especially being hit in a sudden pandemic, work drying out. Luckily I don’t have rent or a mortgage to pay, but I still have bills to pay and it’s a constant worry. 

Feeling like I’m back at square one. Learning doesn’t stop just because education stops – this hasn’t been a challenge as such but the feeling of being the newbie, a fresh graduate, there’s a connotation about it… new, fresh. Ok in some instances, it looks good as we have new ideas and have to start somewhere but from a personal thought it does feel that we could get looked down on as we don’t have experience so what the hell are we talking about. It’s a challenge I’ve faced and began to overcome after speaking to others in the industry, and I know there will be loads of graduates feeling the same too.

Can you tell us a bit about your Podcast and the inspiration behind it?

Proper Talk spiralled after featuring on Creative Boom – seeing the positive outlook from other creatives in the industry when briefly discussing topics that we face as graduates in the industry inspired an idea. I noticed that, yes there are amazing articles out there.

Proper Talk is from the perspective of a graduate navigating the working world as a new designer. It’s support for emerging designers. A platform to share tips and advice that I’ve learnt and continue to learn along the way, with conversations with guests in the industry too! Giving graduates a voice. 

Bits of advice I’ve welcomed and engaged with from people who have also been in my shoes at some point but there’s nothing from recent graduates to spare that advice of ‘in the now’ issues that people are concerned about. I know I won’t be a ‘graduate’ forever but for now I am a recent graduate. 

For others thinking about launching their own podcast or side hustle, what do you think are the foundations for starting your own venture?

Research. You’ll have a starting point as the reason you want to start a podcast or form a ‘side hustle’, but it’s important to delve further into it. Find your niche and that slot in the market, so you’re not repeating content that’s already out there.

Using your voice successfully. Figure out what you’d like people to get out of it, if that’s just entertainment, a sense of escapism, information, that’ll help to give you a distinct direction on forming the narrative behind the project. Know what you’re doing! It’s a lot of work to build up a platform, especially using a slightly different avenue in the form of your own actual voice.

What has been the best advice you have received over the past few years?

This is difficult to choose but there was a time nearing the end of college where my mental health took a major spiral. It was hard. I despised college. Loved my friends, hated the work! I went mute, lost faith in myself. It wasn’t good. But my family noticed this, helped me out and during that time I was gifted a wooden plaque that’s still on my wall today, in god awful typesetting I may add but it’s the message and meaning behind it that matters. It reads:

“You are braver than you think, stronger than you look, more talented than you know and twice as brilliant as the brightest star!”


How to find out more about Yas and her work:

Instagram: @yas.banks

Podcast: Proper Talk


Interview: Jenna Campbell

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