Graphic Design Insights from Inside the Fashion Industry: IDI Graduate Interview with Helen Bamborough

Helen graduated with a first class BA (Hons) Graphic Design degree from IDI in 2013. Until recently, she was working in the fast-paced world of fashion as a digital graphic designer for edgy clothing brand Whistles.

Helen has now gone freelance, mainly working for fashion e-commerce sites. Helen has taken a breather from her busy schedule to catch us up on her progress and to share what she has learned so far with the next generation of graphic designers.


I’ve gone freelance, mainly working for fashion e-commerce sites. This is a really exciting new phase of my graphic design career.
Helen Bamborough
BA (Hons) Graphic Design

Any new developments since we last spoke?

Yes! I had a baby last year who is now seven months old. It has been an amazing experience and a big shift in focus since changing careers after graduating from IDI.

The great thing about graphic design though is that you can design anywhere and anytime, which has been really beneficial in keeping me sane when staying at home with a baby all day has been driving me nuts!

Working flexibly, in terms of where and when I can work is now the biggest consideration when looking at any work opportunities in the future.

Since we last spoke, how has worked changed?

Last September, I gained a promotion at Whistles, which was a great confidence boost. I also started to take more ownership of their email designs and further developed my HTML coding skills by building and deploying emails in-house.

Although coding wasn’t something I particularly wanted to focus on, the more I learned, the more I enjoyed it and also realised it’s a great skill to set yourself apart from other designers.

I’ve continued to build my Etsy shop over the past year, but have to admit this has been hard since having a baby! It’s on pause at the moment, but it’s something I’d like to pick up again in the future. Recently, I’ve gone freelance, mainly working for fashion e-commerce sites. This is a really exciting new phase of my graphic design career.

graphic design example
Designed by Helen Bamborough

How would you like to develop as a graphic designer?

I would still like to gain art director experience, directing photoshoots or campaigns, as it’s a great skill and not to mention an exciting part of the job! My ultimate dream is to have my own business either designing for clients or designing products, or a combination of both.

Designers like Anna Bond are a great inspiration – a talented illustrator who has grown a multinational business (Rifle Paper Co).

helen's graphic design work
Designed by Helen Bamborough

What sort of challenges do you face in your role as a graphic designer?

The main problem designing for fashion retail is that the pace is extremely fast. It is rare to have time to develop concepts or inspiration. There are also a lot of last minute changes as products have sold out or the editorial direction has changed.

How do you deal with this?

The only way to overcome this is to not get too attached to what you have designed and be prepared to change it last minute. A good thing to remember is that often these changes can improve a design – no matter how much you liked it before! It also helps to be ahead of the game and always be on the lookout for inspiration for the next season, storing up examples for sales and holidays, like Christmas for example.

Graphic design for vogue summer sale
Designed by Helen Bamborough

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into the graphic design industry?

Keep it simple. In the beginning I wasted a lot of time over complicating and fussing on details rather than creating a solid concept to work from. Also, don’t spend too much time researching other people’s work – Pinterest and Behance are great for short bursts of inspiration, but they can also be like black holes, spitting you out hours later and you’re still no closer to coming up with a great idea.

Do a course in graphic design if you don’t already have a qualification. The only regret I have is that I didn’t do it earlier! Most importantly, though, you will need passion, resilience and a sense of humour!

VOGUE email stripes trend
Designed by Helen Bamborough

What was your best memory of studying graphic design at IDI?

Starting each new term and finding out the briefs for the first time. It was always exciting to get into something new and learn new skills.

What was the most useful skill you took away from IDI?

Working towards a deadline, and the research and development process – this has stopped me pursuing ideas that aren’t relevant or simply not going to work.

Style_Notes_LFW_SEPT_2013_MASTER
Designed by Helen Bamborough

Would you do it all again?

In a heartbeat!

What graphic design skill should students ensure they perfect rather than neglect?

Typography – the basic skill of setting type in an elegant way, paying attention to tracking, kerning, sizing, orphans/widows and the pairing of fonts.

Style Poster_Mockup
Designed by Helen Bamborough

What are the best resources for graphic design tutorials, materials and inspiration?

These websites (listed below) are great for graphic design tips and inspiration. You should also read It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be, by Paul Arden.

IPAD email mockup
Designed by Helen Bamborough

If you enjoyed this blog and want to see more of Helen’s graphic design work visit her online studio.


StyleCampaign – Tips for designing an email from the ground up

We Made This – Cool design blog with lovely images

It’s Nice That – Keep your finger on the graphic design pulse with this page

Serifs & Sans – Inspiration for minimal design and modern typography

David Airey – Exciting graphic design blog, great place for industry news and inspiration

Codecademy – Fantastic website where you can learn to code interactively, for free


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