It’s been a whirlwind year for BA (Hons) Fashion Communication graduate Natalie Smicerova as she talks us through her role as a Junior Designer at Creative Strategy Agency, HLabs.
A global upbringing, Natalie was born in Liverpool, UK before moving to Bordeaux, France, and then spent the majority of her life in Prague, Czech Republic. Originally, Natalie considered studying Psychology, but upon meeting a former Vogue Russia employee as her assistant art teacher, she learned about the Condé Nast College which opened her eyes to studying and embarking on a career in art or fashion. Natalie studied a foundation course at the Instituto Marangoni, in London before moving on to the intensive two-year BA program at Condé Nast College.
Here, Natalie talks about her time at the College, what she learned and how she got her career in the creative industry started, as well as shedding light on new technologies such as Readymag and Ceros and what they mean for the magazine industry.
How did you bag a job so soon after graduating from Condé Nast College?
During [my time at] CNC when we had to undergo a four-week internship, I applied for a storytelling position at Condé Nast in 2020. The interactive storytelling team was pretty small but a woman named Hannah Springett was the lead in the team. During that internship, I started working using a software called “Ceros” – which we now use in the company primarily – and created a research presentation, which ended up being a pitch for Allure. When my internship ended, I went back to CNC to continue my course. Around August 2021 Hannah reached out to me mentioning that she has started her own creative agency to see if I wanted to join, but because this was during a time when college [work] was pretty heavy with my dissertation and final project I mentioned that I wasn’t able to join but if she was looking for someone in September when I finished my course, I would be interested in joining. Then in September Hannah reached out again, and the day I did my CNC last presentation for my final project was the day Hannah confirmed a position. So I think I had about 4-5 days between finishing college and starting the job I am currently in.
Tell us more about H-Labs?
H-Labs, also known as Hannah Springett Ltd., is a creative strategy agency that offers a full-service package from creative direction, digital strategy, design, and production. The company started during Covid, so it is a pretty small business only and only three years old, with a team of 25-30 people consisting of project managers, designers, UI and UX designers, illustrators, producers, and many more.
There is massive demand hence why we are constantly taking on new people or giving interns an opportunity to see how we run. The company has multiple clients that we work with such as, Condé Nast, Redbull, Timeout, Hearst, Atlas Obscura, Emperor, and many more. I’m currently doing a mix of production and design, where I mainly work on Condé projects but I’ve previously co-worked on projects for Hearst, and Red Bull but since we are a very versatile team we often hop on projects whenever there is a need or time.
What skills did you gain at CNC that helped you find employment straight away?
Although I am essentially a designer, the knowledge of branding and marketing underpins design in a sense the courses at CNC helped me understand clients a little bit more. It’s easier to understand why they want to do the things they want because it helps them with their marketing. However, what I’ve had to learn on the job is the design element and understanding that sometimes what the client wants isn’t compatible with the design.
Other things that helped me coming from CNC were planning and breaking down a project. We always did background research on a project and took steps to come to our final design, but what we did in eight weeks needs to happen in three days at HLabs but then again it depends on the project. I also used Readymag to create an interactive portfolio which I showed at my interview with Hannah Springett.
How did the ReadyMag software help you to land a job?
I think when ReadyMag was introduced to us [at college] it was a pretty new feature. I always stuck to inDesign because I was scared to use a new tool that I haven’t used before to be honest but for some CNC projects that I used Readymag was this one:
“In general, looking back I think the introduction of Readymag is really important, digital design is thriving, and seeing static articles or images doesn’t excite the eye.”
I would encourage people to use Readymag as much as possible. It just elevates your work, adds a bit more excitement to your piece and I bet it will engage your viewer a lot more. I feel like it’s a way of “what are you gonna do differently and be remembered” and the use of Readymag helps your work to stand out and be remembered.
I think Readymag works well with anything if it’s a strategy document or a fashion lookbook, but I would advise to always include instructions “hover to explore” “click to see more” and so on, you need to think about the user experience and guide them to the information.
The main thing that helped me was working hard during my mandatory four-week internship with Hannah. I know that some people during those four weeks realized that maybe this is not what they want to do but I really enjoyed it so I think if you enjoy it work hard and keep in contact. But to be fair I think I was extremely lucky that Hannah reached out to me and I took the job just for some security after college because I know how hard it is to look for jobs. And this idea of mine “I’ll stay with Hannah until I think something else” turned to me being there for over a year and fully enjoying it.
“Platforms such as Ceros or Readymag allow the magazine industry to translate a story and immerse the viewer through digital space.”
What are your thoughts on Ceros and Readymag that you think will affect the magazine industry and what possibilities do these tools give editorial creators?
Magazines could be doing a lot more on their digital space to create a luxurious feel to their brand as they do when you purchase a print copy. There is essentially more you can offer on a digital space. Video, sounds, filters, interactions all of this you can utilize on a digital space. I know that this is not possible for every article, but maybe for a larger editorial piece something like this is Vogue piece is so powerful, this was designed by Hannah a long time ago. These platforms such as Ceros or Readymag allow the magazine industry to translate a story and immerse the viewer through digital space.