Cover girl

Illustration graduate Sarah Kent beat more than 100 applicants to reach the final of Cosmopolitan magazine’s cover design competition for the Ultimate Woman of the Year. Sarah joined fellow finalists for a day at Cosmo’s offices and featured in the magazine itself. She tells UP for Uni how her degree helped.

By Steph Hall

I chose to study illustration at university because I liked the idea of creating images for a specific audience and purpose, whether it’s a children’s book or a poster and I enjoy painting and drawing. The lecturers are great and encourage you to use lots of styles, which I think is important.

I was able to use this to my advantage when I entered the Cosmopolitan competition. It looked like a fun project and a lot of possibilities came to mind straight away. The ‘Ultimate Woman of the Year’ awards celebrate women who’ve done amazing things and made a difference to others. The illustration had to express greatness without being too specific to any one kind of person, so I felt a superhero was perfect for the job. What’s more “ultimate” than someone who uses their powers for good? I gave her a pout and a pose that says she’s ready to take on the world (while having as much fun as possible).

The day that I and the other finalists visited Cosmopolitan was really good fun and gave us a great insight into the magazine world. The judges said they chose my illustration because it was quirky and completely different to anything else they’d seen. They were complimentary about all our work and it was interesting to hear why each design was chosen.

Being recognised by such a huge magazine is definitely a highlight since finishing my degree. I have also been lucky to get a job as a Graphic Designer for Hampshire County Council after doing a 3 month internship (work experience placement). My job is fast paced but highly creative and I work with amazing people. I’ve had the opportunity to do some lovely projects including a pop-up leaflet featuring an illustration of a tree house at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens in Romsey. The work is varied and involves designing flyers, banners, exhibitions and brochures. Many are for our museums, countryside parks and libraries so they require fun, exciting and family friendly designs.

My advice to anyone who wants to become a graphic designer is that learning Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign (design and publishing software programmes) are an absolute must. I also recommend getting any work experience you can (even if it is unpaid) as it will help you ‘stand out from the crowd’ and make the most of any opportunity that comes along. I know for a fact that without having illustration work experience alongside my art degree, I wouldn’t have got the job. It shows you can get along with people and are already familiar with how challenging designing for a customer can be.

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