Tom Foley is a graphic designer, typographer and type designer currently living and working in London. He gained his BA in Visual Communications from LSAD in 2007 and MA from Central Saint Martins in 2009.
Since graduating Tom has worked with Dalton Maag, Polimekanos, Micha Wiedmann Studio, Atelier Dreibholz and Atelier David Smith. Tom also occasionally teaches design and has carried out lectures and workshops at Universities including Central Saint Martins, UWE, Limerick School of Art & Design, Dun Laoghaire Institute, University of Santa Clara, Arts University Bournemouth and Ravensbourne. He is currently working as a Creative Type Director at Monotype.
advice for students:
What advice would you give to students who are beginning their studies?
Try to remember that you are here to learn and develop. You will make mistakes, and its vital that you do so. Don’t ever be afraid to fail, its a key part of the creative process. Be self reflective but not self critical (or self inflammatory). Try to look at your work as objectively as you can, without being too negative or overly confident. This is easier said than done, but It helps to get as much input from others as possible.
Use the facilities and workshops that are available to you as much as possible. Make the most of your tutors and technicians. They are there to teach and develop you. Spend as much time as you can in the Library. Get to know the Librarians. Read past dissertations. Rummage through the neglected and forgotten books. Consume and engage with anything that interests you. Follow your nose. The research skills you will develop through this process are priceless and will last a life time. Don’t rely on the internet for primary research. Maybe someday it will be in depth and reliable enough, but at the moment its not.
Make the most of your peers (not just for socializing, although this is important too). Collaborate with them, ask them for input on your work, give them input on their work, help them, and ask for their help when you need it. Get into the habit of keeping sketchbooks, and carry one with you as often as you can.
Work placements are the best way to make connections outside of the college network while studying. If possible, spend your summer breaks interning at design studios you admire or aspire to work for.
Keep up your personal interests. Whether its music, film, sport, hip hop dancing, skateboarding, tidley winks, stamp collecting… whatever. Design can be all encompassing at times and its important to have something you are passionate about that allows you to step away.
And for students about to graduate?
The design industry, in all of its varied forms, is competitive, but so are all industries. Do not let this intimidate or dishearten you. A lucky few may graduate into their dream job, but most people won’t. Be prepared. Your portfolio is vital. Put the effort into documenting and recording your projects to a high standard. Show the work you are most proud of and present it with honesty and sincerity.
It’s a shame that many design studios exploit graduates as unpaid interns, but its often the best way to gain experience and get your foot in the door. Be strategic when looking for internships. Do not apply to every studio in the hope that one will accept you. Approach studios that you want to work for. If they are not looking for interns then ask for a portfolio review and advice on moving forward.
Stay curious and be determined.
What are you up to now?
I am currently working as a Creative Type Director at Monotype in London. I also occasionally teach typography and type design, give workshops and undertake small graphic design projects.
How did you get there?
It took time, slowly building experience through collaboration and working with more experienced designers. I consciously tried as many different things as possible, working in studios of different kinds and size in order to orientate myself in the industry.
After I graduated from LSAD I moved to London to undertake an MA in Communication design at Central Saint Martins. I graduated from the MA in 2009, the year after the global recession hit. Graduate design jobs suddenly became like gold dust and I struggled for the first year to even find internships. During this time I held down a day job as a sales assistant and spent my evenings working on freelance design jobs, most of which were unpaid.
After about a year I managed to find a full time position at an agency specialising in iPad app design. I worked there for about 8 months and then moved onto complete an internship at Polimekanos, a graphic design studio based in Smithfield. From there I joined Micha Weidmann studio where I worked as a freelance graphic designer for about 6 months.
Throughout my time working and studying in London I’ve been involved in various typeface design projects. This was purely out of personal interest. I liked the idea of using typefaces which I had designed in my graphic design work. It was this sideline interest that led to my role at Dalton Maag, and my current role with Monotype where I now work as a Creative Type Director.