When did you attend Reigate and what did you study?

I was at Reigate between 2000 and 2002 and did A Levels in Psychology, Media Studies and English Language & Literature.  

What subject did you enjoy most?

I had an incredible English teacher John Pitt. He was so passionate about English that it was impossible not to be totally engaged. I loved learning about things like syntax and analysing poems. But I guess Media Studies was my favourite subject.

It was the production side of things that I got most out of – working on radio productions, scripting, recording vox pops.  I enjoyed having an end product.  I loved dissecting films too and trying to work out what different shots meant and how things like use of colour, space and close-ups impacted on the feel of the film.

What did you do after you left Reigate?

Immediately after College  I did a bit of session work, playing the bass guitar, as a member of Vinnie Jones’s support band and played on Top of the Pops which was a lot of fun.  We got invited to all sorts of VIP parties.  

After that I played with the punk band the Blow Ups for a while. After a while, I started to feel a bit directionless and went in to College on the last day that UCAS applications were due in and on a whim applied to do Interactive Media Production at Bournemouth University – the Media School for excellence. I wasn’t sure if I was even properly qualified to do it!

What did you like about university?

The course was brilliant. In a nutshell it looked at different ways of interacting with digital audiences.  We covered everything from HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Flash, got to make 3D computer games built in Cinema 4D and programmed using Adobe Director.  What I liked was that the theory was always mixed in with a practical purpose.  We were given specific briefs to build ‘real life’ websites for local companies, made Flash or 3D games – either working on our own or in groups.  We orchestrated our own photoshoots, wrote our own copy … did everything for real.

How did you start your career?

I knew I enjoyed front-end coding and illustration best and had my own deviant art page, to show and share the illustrative work I did in my spare time.  It was through that, that someone saw my work and on the back of that, offered me my first job. 

Oval Cube was a small start-up company based in Croydon.  I worked there for 3 ½ years and got to do a lot of design work.  As there were only three people in the company though, I had to do everything from pitching for work, meeting clients, managing budgets and building wire frames.  I learnt a huge amount in a really short space of time.

After Oval Cube, I went to work for the agency Thin Martian based in Old Street. It was a much bigger outfit with around 25 people working there, with lots of prestigious clients like Microsoft, Puma and Dead Mau5.  I was there for two years and then decided to get a visa to work as a snowboard instructor in Whistler in Canada for six months.  I had a great time and travelled around afterwards visiting places like Vancouver.

When I got back to the UK I started my own limited company and have been working as a freelancer ever since.  I worked for agencies for over five years and you can get stale if you stay doing the same thing for too long.  Being a freelancer means getting to meet a lot more new people who bring new challenges and I think that’s how you learn fastest.  

What are your plans for the future?

My dream is to start my own company and I’m on track for doing that.  I’ll probably work as a freelancer for another year or so and see what happens. There’s so much work out there. The digital industry is absolutely booming. Around Old Street and Shoreditch there are lots of start-ups. The Silicon Roundabout is a real word creative playground attracting companies such as Apple and Google to the area looking for fresh new talent!

I’ve been offered several Creative Director roles, but for me, having a full-time position means getting too bogged down.  As a freelancer I have enough time to learn new stuff in my own time.  If you’re not on the ball in my line of work you get left behind. Design is my hobby and for me it’s important to be always learning something new. 

The future is definitely bright.  Mobile devices are already taking over from desktop computers as the main way of connecting to the Internet. Mobile and nailing the true value of apps and social media is where it’s all at.  I feel part of a digital revolution and these are exciting times.

Jacob Lee

Left Reigate College: 2002

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