Leeds-based designer Ryley Devine on internships, taking chances and working at Robot Food
Ryley Devine has long been a fan of Leeds-based agency, Robot Food. Often referencing the agency’s work while studying at Nottingham Trent University, once a junior role opened up there, she quickly applied – despite originally thinking she might be too inexperienced. Since joining the agency, Ryley has taken on a range of tasks and projects, including creating the branding for plant-based dessert brand, Over The Spoon. In addition to bringing the brand’s mascot to life, the project gave her a chance to show off her “loud, proud and colourful” illustrative aesthetic, and also increased her confidence. Here, Ryley discusses internships, starting a job during a pandemic and the pride of seeing her work come to life in the physical world.
Junior Designer, Robot Food
Place of Study
BA Graphic Design, Nottingham Trent University (2016-2019)
What I do
How would you describe what you do?
I’m a junior designer at Robot Food, and the job varies each week. I usually work alongside another designer, so one week I could be working on a concept for a design, or helping with research for a design strategy presentation – it really depends on what we have on.
My main expertise is illustration, so I usually help out on illustrative jobs, which I love. I also get the chance to step out of my comfort zone and work on things I’ve never tackled before, which is a great way to open up new opportunities and learn new skills.
What are the main influences and inspirations behind your work?
I’m inspired by pretty much anything loud, proud and colourful. Following designers like Cachete Jack, Malika Favre and Amber Vittoria on Instagram, got me through university, helped me to be more expressive and also to have fun with my own illustration and design style.
What recent project at Robot Food are you most proud of?
Over The Spoon! I was trusted to create Daisy the cow, the character for the brand, and got to draw her doing lots of silly activities like skateboarding and sunbathing, which was so much fun.
It’s the first of my projects to go into stores, so it was a proud moment when my mum sent a picture of her finding it in our local Tesco. She bragged to her friends that it was me who did it. I’m also gluten intolerant so it was really nice to work on a dessert brand I can eat!
“I’ve noticed that when I get encouragement and pep talks from my team, I come out of my shell a lot more.”
What kind of skills would you say are needed to be a junior designer?
Other than your basic Adobe skills, I’d say confidence plays a big part in being a designer. I’m still not the most confident person ever, but I’ve noticed that when I get encouragement and pep talks from my team, I come out of my shell a lot more, which helps with creativity too.
If you could pick one meme to describe what you do, what would it be and why?
[Below] I am the queen of forgetting to save my work, and there have been a couple of tragic times when I’ve lost it all and had to start again from scratch. If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that it’s always quicker the second time around. But, for my own sanity, I need to get better acquainted with command + S!
How I got here
How did you land the job?
I always used Robot Food for inspiration and reference at uni, so when I saw they were looking for a junior designer, I immediately sent over my CV. I wasn’t sure I had enough experience, but I hoped that even if I didn’t get the gig, I could message them to ask for advice on how to improve my portfolio.
Then, after one bad day at a London internship, I checked my junk mail and found an email asking if I was interested in the job and of course I accepted! The pandemic made things tricky at first, so everything was on pause for a little while, but then last summer I decided to take the plunge and make the big move up north.
In terms of advice, I’d say always shoot your shot with companies you like – you don’t have anything to lose! Even if you don’t think you’re experienced enough for the job, it’s always worth a try. You never know what might happen.
What was your journey like when you were first starting out? Did you find your feet quickly?
I did well with finding internships with good companies in London, unfortunately I just didn’t enjoy the majority of them. The days can be busy, so some internships would leave you to your own devices. Because of this, I often felt like I was missing out on the guidance and attention I needed to properly develop my design skills.
I contemplated whether a creative career was worth it, but when I got the opportunity to move up to Leeds and work at Robot Food, I noticed a huge difference. Everyone in the team is really passionate about what they do and aren’t afraid to have fun with design. They’re always happy to teach me new things, and give me the opportunities to work on a wide range of different projects.
If anyone’s seeking an internship, I personally would look into smaller design agencies. The smaller the company, the closer they work with you and the more you learn.
“I contemplated whether a creative career was worth it, but when I got the opportunity to work at Robot Food, I noticed a huge difference.”
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
Starting a job during a pandemic and working from home. Not being surrounded by other designers and watching how they work face-to-face can be pretty difficult. I’ve had to adjust to learning and understanding a brief quickly from a short Google Chat call.
One of my biggest challenges has been having the confidence to know that I am good enough to be here, and not being afraid to ask for help and advice when I need it. My team have been really good at adapting to the new situation we are all in, which has definitely made it easier.
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
Everyone knows that a junior starting their design career is going to be on a lower income than those with years of experience under their belt. But, if you’re determined and passionate to develop your skills and get the most experience out of your job, money doesn’t matter too much at the beginning. Ultimately, the outcome of the work is always the most rewarding part.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Everyone has bad days and everyone gets creative block. Some people just know how to hide it better than others.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Getting your first job in the industry can be hard, but don’t give up. Always put yourself out there, get companies to know your name and work. Focus on your practice in the meantime; do fun independent projects, learn new skills and watch YouTube tutorials. The perfect job will pop up when the time’s right.
Interview by Lyla Johnston
Mention Ryley Devine