Jack of all trades

As I neared the end of my three years studying at Sheffield Hallam University (and the end of our glorious free Domino’s pizza vouchers), I noticed that most of my friends on my Graphic Design course had chosen a specialism to work towards (i.e. there were animators animating, illustrators illustrating, and typographers typing). I quickly came to realise that I didn’t really have a specialism, and that I was just a “general” graphic designer – which sounds rather dull, and comes with the implication that you are a “jack of all trades and a master of none”.

Being considered a “jack of all trades” has always come with a negative connotation. It implies that you dabble in bits of everything, but never really achieve the level of expertise that is needed to be considered a specialist. In my view however, I see this label to be a symbol of flexibility, commitment, and an eagerness to learn. In order to become a “jack of all trades” you have to have the ability to adapt, and learn new skills so that you can complete the task that is at hand.

I have found that these qualities are essential for anyone in the creative industries if you want to succeed in creating effective, thought-provoking and meaningful work for a wide range of clients and jobs. You really need to enter the world of your client and find out exactly what makes them tick. There is no way you can be an expert at everything, but you can have expertise in a number of sectors – and that is exactly why I have found my time at Fogg to be so interesting. As a designer I get to learn about lots of different worlds – some I would never have come into contact with if I was working in another job. Because our client base is so diverse, every job comes with new opportunities and challenges, and our approach to each project is unique and relevant to the proposition that we are working towards. Through various modes of research and (most importantly) talking to clients, we at Fogg gain expertise in new worlds every day.

As well as gaining knowledge in new business sectors, we also gain new skills in our own sector. The variety of projects we undertake means that we constantly have to overcome new problems. Our latest challenges have seen work moving more into the world of digital. This is a new and exciting venture for us because as we are pushed out of our comfort zone we discover new and innovative ways to help our clients interact with their audiences.

So, as for the expression “jack of all trades, master of none”, I think this is an old expression that originated in a time in when certain trades required a much longer time to learn, and information was less freely available and most of the master tradesmen would closely guard their secrets. Nowadays, as we work alongside people in various disciplines, we inform each other, and it is much easier to solve problems. The challenges that we face with our projects mean that we are constantly having to learn new skills, and we take these skills forward onto future projects.

Jack Fairhurst,