Panning For Gold

Keep panning those stones. You never know when a precious yellow metal might emerge. A perfect description of my gold rush-esque search for a graphic designer.

Andrew McDonald

9/16/20222 min read

As part of upskilling, I studied an online course in copywriting. One thing the tutors really pushed was finding a graphic designer to collaborate with on spec pieces. Briefly, spec pieces are “fake ads” which you use to build your portfolio and show what you can do. Most copywriters and graphic designers, including highly experienced and successful ones, use them to exhibit their skills.

The advice given was to find a graphic designer who also needed spec pieces and do a “skills trade”. They get professional copywriting for their designs, and you benefit from quality graphical work for your written ads. Together, it helps make a stronger impression. The point here is this is not “free” work and should not be all take and no give. It is unpaid, on both sides, but remuneration is in the form of helping the other with something they don’t naturally do. It also provides a great opportunity to develop a good working relationship with another creative.

Advertising for a graphic designer to collaborate with was a bit of a struggle. I have to admit that. LinkedIn isn’t as easy as it could be when it comes to posting jobs. Also, people have a tendency not to read vacancy adverts. The number of people who ghosted me when I responded to their application to confirm they knew it was unpaid was quite remarkable. So too was the frequency of abusive replies. A little odd, given the very first line in my ad stated “this is an unpaid skills trade”. To be honest, I laughed at the more profane ones. At least they were interesting! Plus, you have to pan a lot of stones to find those rare golden nuggets. The person I finally discovered was worth the pain.

Dubravka Drenski is so talented and skilled, I’m loath to describe her as a 'graphic designer'. 'Graphic artist' sounds more accurate. She’s creative, possesses tons of flair and is incredibly imaginative. Just look at her designs in my portfolio, and you’ll see that. However, she’s also reliable, honest and values mutual respect. All qualities which are very important to me. Her unlimited generosity is especially noteworthy.

The first piece I asked her to do was the CoverGirl lipstick spec ad in the print section of my portfolio. It’s also in Dubravka’s. Rightfully so. This was a joint effort. The words mine, the design hers. When I initially thought I wasn’t going to be able to find a graphic designer to collaborate with, I mocked up my own version in Canva. I was actually quite pleased with my effort. That was until I saw the one Dubravka designed. The difference in quality could only be compared to that between night and day.

Since then, we’ve worked on more print, banner and video spec ads. Dubravka has also helped me immensely with my website. Before her, it was OK. It was functional. However, through her hard work and sheer creativity, it feels a lot more like “my site”. She even designed the logo I now use, and the photos of me on the various pages, all of which I love. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the transformation and can’t recommend Dubravka highly enough.

If you want to work with a graphic designer, Dubravka can be found here. I have no hesitation in providing a cast-iron guarantee you’ll be delighted with the results and experience of collaborating with her. I certainly consider myself incredibly lucky.