Graphic designer Will Scragg on keeping secrets and redrawing Marvel characters at The Walt Disney Company
Ever wondered what it’s like to work at The Walt Disney Company? Graphic designer Will Scragg is able to give us a peep into the process behind the company’s projects, while protecting its allure. With a role that entrusts him with everything from trend research to redrawing characters for Adidas X Disney collaborations, his work has included designing a Pixar planner and an inspiration deck based on South Korean fashion trends. The job demands both a futuristic flair and keeping projects under wraps, so here Will keeps it fun – speaking to us about the character office visits, leading with your passion and the joy in being the first to know the Marvel spoilers.
Graphic Designer, The Walt Disney Company (2021-present)
Creative Design and Product Development Intern, The Walt Disney Company (2019-2020)
Place of Study
BA Graphic Design, University of Hertfordshire (2017-2021)
What I do
How would you describe what you do and specifically what you do as a graphic designer at Disney?
I work as a designer on the Adidas account, so a lot of the things I do revolve around building and maintaining a good relationship with them. My main job is to help provide inspiration for all of the Disney X Adidas collaborations. This can include creating mood boards, designing mockups, artwork experimentation and trend research.
I also work alongside Adidas designers helping them use Disney’s characters in the most effective way. This often means I have to redraw characters, create patterns and edit colour pallets. Other members of my team help with different areas across the Adidas account. Their roles include product development, marketing and strategy. We all work close together and rely on each other to ensure the relationship with Adidas runs smoothly.
Adidas also works quite far in advance which means a lot of the collaborations we’re working on are top secret and involve classified Disney projects. (Which I love because it means I get to find out all the Marvel spoilers before anyone else)
What recent project/piece of work at Disney are you most proud of?
Like I said before, Adidas work very far in advance so all the the stuff I have worked on since joining in May 2021 still hasn’t been release yet and I am sworn to secrecy. I will however say I am most proud of a collection I helped design patterns for, which should be coming out in winter of 2023.
However I can share some stuff I did as an intern. I worked across various accounts and was able to design product for Primark and Asda. For Primark I designed a weekly planner as part of a wider Pixar collection and for Asda I designed some Marvel giftware. I am still incredibly proud of them and I can’t begin to describe how amazing it felt to have my designs on shelf in store.
What’s your favourite thing on your desk right now?
Well since we’ve returned to office ‘post covid’ work have put out a no clutter rule. We have a clearer work environment, so the most exciting thing about my desk is my beautifully neat stationery draw. However the weirdest (or the best) thing about the office is that sometimes we get visits from Disney characters. How often do you get Donald Duck looking over your shoulder while you’re working on a deadline?
If you could pick a meme to describe what it’s like to work at Disney, what would it be and why?
Of course it has to be the ‘yassifyied’ Baby Yoda [below]. I sometimes forget how cool my job is but when I take a step back and see everything I do, I can’t help but feel like a girl boss.
How I got here
What kind of skills are needed to do your role? And would you say you need any specific training to do what you do?
I’d say for my role a good level of knowledge on Adobe Illustrator is vital, as everything is done on there along with the function of being able to pull together clear mood boards. I would also say you need to be able to ‘think outside the box’ and come up with fleshed out concepts.
Of course working for Disney you need to know a lot about all of the franchises but it is good to specialise in a certain area. For me it’s Marvel and I think my knowledge and passion for the franchise is what helped me secure my job.
How did you land the job?
I was perviously an intern for the company as part of my sandwich placement for my degree. I now work on a completely different team to the one I was on before, however I’ve been told that my proactiveness and ability as an intern played a part in me getting my current role. In terms of landing a role and tips for interviews I would say you have to be confident without being cocky.
“A lot of people interviewing for the same role as you will have a similar skill set. Thinking of something that makes you stand out or you’re passionate about, is vital.”
A lot of people interviewing for the same role as you will have a similar skill set, so thinking of something that makes you stand out or something that you’re passionate about is vital. Find ways of dropping these things into your interview so that employers can see your knowledge and unique ways of thinking. For me again it was Marvel, I showed my interviewer a project I had done for myself where I turned characters into emojis. It was this love and passion for the characters that made me stand out from the crowd.
I would also say it is very important to come across as likeable. I know that sounds a bit weird but while employers are looking for skilled people to join their teams they are also looking for people who they will get along with. So just keep it light in interviews, – yes you have to present your best professional self but – show a charisma.
If you could pick three things that you’ve found useful or inspiring to your work or career, what would they be and why?
I would say one of my favourite sites for inspiration is this art shop called Drool. I found them on Tiktok and they sell these beautifully designed prints. I always go on the site and have a look through if I’m lacking inspiration. It’s also a great way of finding new techniques to try out which I frequently do.
I also use WGSN reports to help me find new trends emerging in the design world. With Adidas working so far in advance WGSN’s future trend reports are such a helping hand for us.
I have also found it useful to look outside of the world of graphic design for inspiration. One of my team’s most useful pieces of inspiration is a research deck I did on South Korean fashion trends. Looking further afield to South Korea for inspiration has majorly helped us as a team, as it has exposed us a different way of thinking (as well as introducing me to the world of K-pop which I am eternally grateful for).
“Look outside of the world of graphic design for inspiration. One of my team’s most useful pieces of inspiration is a research deck I did on South Korean fashion trends.”
What would you say has been your biggest challenge along the way?
I’d say my biggest challenge along the way has been confidence. Meeting me you wouldn’t think I’m a shy person, but I very much am. It’s been hard for me to get my ideas across and speak up in meetings, this is something I’ve had to work on a lot in order to be an asset to my team.
I am a lot – and I mean a lot – better now and I regularly chip in on meetings and feel like a proper member of the team. A practice that really helped me overcome this confidence issue was spending 5 or 10 minutes before a meeting, writing down a list of things I might want to talk about. I cannot begin to describe how much of a help this little crutch has been in helping me develop.
What have been your greatest learnings with making money and supporting yourself as a creative?
I would say location has a lot to do with making money and supporting yourself. Yes the salaries in London are very good and yes there’s a lot of roles in London however London Is very very expensive to live in. My advice would be trying and find people to live with as the more people you live with the cheaper it will be.
Also, when looking for places to live, consider your commute and how much it will be if you take public transport. It may feel like a little amount here and there on the tube but trust me it adds up quickly. Also if you need to buy anything to help you with your job find out if your work will provide or pay for it.
I will also say keep a little money aside for yourself, creative jobs can cause burnout and sometimes you’ll need an extra bit in your bank to treat yourself.
What’s the best career-related advice you’ve ever received?
Find something you love doing and then get people to pay you to do it.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into a similar role?
Experience is always good. I’d definitely do a sandwich placement if your uni course provides it. And if you aren’t at uni, having a few internships under your belt is a big help. Definitely research into the role you’re applying for and see how your current skills can translate across.
For a role like mine having a good knowledge of franchises is very helpful, and also staying up to date with fashion trends is great. Also asking around – get yourself on LinkedIn and find people who already work for the company and see if they have any advice. I did this while securing my role, and the person I spoke to on LinkedIn turned out to be my new boss.
Interview by N'Tanya Clarke
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