Michael Lester

When and where did you go to high school & what were your GCSE Results?
North Walsham High School (1 A*, 7 As, 1B)

What were your A-Level results at Paston?
BTEC Art & Design (Double Distinction), A Level Business Studies (A)

Where did you go to University and what mark did you leave with?
University of Westminster (First Class BA (Hons) Illustration & Visual Communication)

Who do you work for, and what projects have you been involved in?
I am self employed so I work for many different clients internationally. I make regular work for IBM, have been published in magazines including BikesEtc (sold in WHSmith) and have won 3 D&AD New Blood awards for various projects I’ve made.

What is a ‘typical day at work like? 
Each day is always different which is what I love about being a freelancer, but generally speaking I check emails, write the day’s workload and then get to work. Being a freelancer sounds fun but it involves a lot of preparation skills to get the balance right. Work usually falls into two categories - thinking or doing. ‘Thinking’ work could be coming up with an idea for a client, drawing out roughs for a new illustration, or writing plans for future projects. These can be done away from home so I try to get out to a café to get these jobs done, when you work from home it’s good to change your surroundings once in a while. ‘Doing’ work is usually creating design work on my laptop, emailing clients and keeping my online presence up to date which will all be taken care of in my tiny studio in my flat. Visiting galleries, attending talks and networking at events are all essential parts of the workload too and it’s important to schedule time in for these.

What did you study at Paston? How did that course help you progress upon your career path? BTEC Art & Design and A Level Business Studies. These two were the perfect match as they gave me the creativity skills needed to get noticed as a young designer and the business skills that have helped me so far with running my own mini freelance business.

What are the important skills you have had to develop and hone to be successful in your job? There’s two sides to design work, the idea and the craft. Both require equal amounts of attention, and work best with the other. You need to know what you want to say and then be able to say it. Not being afraid of failing is another essential skill that will go far if you want to be a designer.

Did you ever envisage doing this while you were at Paston? I think with the creative industries it’s impossible to guess where you’ll end up and that’s the best thing about it. As an industry it’s changing all the time so it’s more important than ever to be versatile, and that means not closing any doors before you get to them.

What did you do in the year immediately after graduating? I was lucky enough to be offered a six month internship with advertising agency Ogilvy in their Paris office. It was an incredible experience, I got to work on projects for Nestle, Coke, IBM (which is what led to the freelance work) and Google to name a few. They offered me a job after so I ended up spending a year in Paris learning from some amazingly talented people from all over the world.


"There’s two sides to design work, the idea and the craft"