Sharing The Wisdom – featuring Ben Steers

The purpose of article series ‘Sharing The Wisdom’ is to feature, showcase and share knowledge, expert views and wisdom. Local. Authentic. Insightful.

We had the opportunity to chat with Ben Steers to gather some wisdom he has picked up during his career, Ben is Co-founder and Creative Director of Fiasco Design. The Bristol studio works seamlessly across brand and digital, helping organisations do extraordinary things in unexpected ways.

Could you please introduce yourself, your role as well as your background?

Ben: I’m Ben Steers, Co-founder and Creative Director of Fiasco Design, a brand and digital studio. From our Bristol HQ we partner with organisations of all sizes all around the world.

Alongside my business partner Jason Smith, we set up Fiasco in 2010. As two recent graduates with a lack of agency experience and a business plan on the back of a fag pack, we had the freedom to create a studio in our own image. Based on a set of values that are still true today, we grew organically, hiring people that shared those values.

Almost 13 years later, we’re now a team of 15 creative thinkers and doers. We’re a diverse bunch from a range of different backgrounds and expertise, but we all share an inherent love for creativity and belief in the good it can do. Further to that, we’re currently in the process of working towards B Corp certification, which we hope to achieve in the coming year.

To gather some of the wisdom as a Co-founder and Creative Director at Fiasco: What tips could you give juniors putting together a portfolio, to make a portfolio really stand out?

Ben: There are a few steps before I even get to opening a portfolio. The introductory email and covering letter (tone, content, design) are often wildly overlooked. If there isn’t attention to detail and time spent on something as simple as an initial email, then I’m unlikely to go any further. It might sound a little harsh but those initial moments are precious, so make sure you utilise them to the fullest. 

When it gets down to the portfolio, I’m really looking for a few key things:

  • Quality over quantity. Be considerate and think about who you’re presenting your work to. Try to show 5 or 6 projects max, and only show the work you’re most proud of. You’re only as strong as your weakest work. 
  • Go big or go home. Edit ruthlessly. Choose only the best visuals (ideally brought to life in mockups) and show them large on the page (don’t overfill the page with small and various images that are hard to make out).
  • Help the reader to read. How you present your work in a portfolio is just as important as the work itself. So break the project description down into sections to help tell the story (e.g. client, brief, idea, execution). Where applicable, show images in an order which takes us from concept to execution. Include links to motion or web work if needed.
  • The journey matters, too. Talk about your process and ways of working. I want to know how you think and why you made the decisions you did. And don’t be afraid to talk about what didn’t work along the way, as long as you can explain what you learnt from it.
  • Take care. Check for spelling and grammatical errors (in the work and in supporting text), label files properly, and spell people’s names correctly. Get someone else to check it, too. The details matter.

Do you have any other tips for junior candidates looking for a role?

Ben: I value people who have done their homework. They know a) what we do but b) a bit about us and our culture. It shows me two things: desire, and how much someone really cares. These are important attributes for anyone that joins Fiasco.

I look for attention to detail. Think about the design of all of your communications: from email, to cover letter, to CV, to portfolio…it should all be well thought out. When you apply for a skills based job, you’re being judged on those skills at every touch point. So if you’re a designer, design the email. If you’re a writer, get your copy on point. Sweat the small stuff.

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