We talk to Luke Carson – the mastermind behind Bird. He gives us vital tips on how to make it in the real world as well as how he got to running his own studio. Here at TDK we are all about helping students and graduates and guess what… We’re teaming up with Bird and we are going to run student workshops, coming soon.
Tell us how you got involved in the creative industry and your path to where you are now?
It has been a fun journey, so far. I have always had great interest in illustration, art and the aesthetic of objects/things, so on recollection it is a very natural progression to be where I am today. Creative interests eventually led me to study graphic design at Swinburne and brought with it a broadening of perspective and knowledge of international and local design. I also benefited immensely from being accepted to be apart of Swinburne’s industry based learning (IBL) program, whereby I got to work and learn throughout my entire third year of study with a local design studio. I learnt so much, but importantly it was an introduction to how a real studio works and the what’s required of a designer. Learning like this in a professional environment, at a time when my design skills were quite raw, was one aspect of my design education that I believe guided me the most. I was also lucky enough to be kept on for work throughout my final year of study too, which was very helpful being a student and working at the same time. By the time I’d finished my studies (2004), I basically had two years design experience and quickly gained a junior design position at a Melbourne studio. As the story goes I worked hard and learnt many things until I was ready to open Bird in 2011.
Can you give us a run down on the daily life of your studio?
Each day generally begins early, where it’s catching up on the previous afternoon emails and project correspondence. Project tasks then take over and the day is dictated by the current progress on particular projects. We like to be hands on and experimental in our conceptual work so if we’re working on the early stages of a project it’s sketching, brainstorm, cutting, shapes, stamps/ink, brush etc. Anything that drives the creative process and is suitable for the project. I love how working this way pushes and sparks the mind down different creative avenues. Unlikely ideas can be generated this way and I also think it’s worthwhile staying off the computer during this early stages of a project. Obviously all projects are different and we’re lucky to enough to get a variety of projects through the studio that are a mixed bag of branding, print/web design and architectural signage. So each day tends to be different and not repetitive.
What is on the cards for Bird this year?
We have an exciting year of growth ahead. Currently we have some interesting brand and signage projects on the go, which has us really inspired, so the energy levels are generally high. A new phase of the business is taking shape too and we are expanding our team. No doubt it will bring a new dynamic to how the studio operates. Among other things we’re also working with The Design Kids to organise and host a student educational workshop.
What do you look for in a portfolio?
Interestingly I appreciate it when I see a well-prepared folio of work but it is important to be realistic and understand that all, or the majority, of the work showcased in a graduate portfolio is generated from university briefs. This is why I generally place more emphasise on how the outcome was achieved, backup work and knowledge of their own work i.e. how was the grid constructed, font’s used, is it functional and sticking to the brief. I also would rather see and hold the work if possible. This helps with seeing the attention to finished detail, skill and show’s the pride you have in your work. If it’s a package or book/magazine bring it with you to the interview and if you notice that this piece has raised the attention of the interviewer pull it out. If possible showcase other work too. Create your own briefs or include any freelance projects that have been undertaken. If you’ve undertaken an internship you can present a piece you’ve assisted with and explain in detail how you contributed to the outcome.
Personality/experience vs. portfolio/qualifications
Personality/experience — Personally, our studio is quite small so it’s important to be able to get along with the people/personalities you’re working with. It’s important because you’re often working quite closely with this individual and become passionate about particular projects. Designer’s can be quite set in their ways and the aesthetic of particular work so people need to get along and complement each other’s creative ideas and follow direction.
What advice would you give students and new graduates starting out?
Be confident in the work you have in your folio. You’ve spent lots of time preparing this selection of work which represents you; understand each project inside and out so you are prepared come interview time. Utilise any time you can spend talking to studio’s, designers and teachers by listening/learning from feedback and asking relevant questions. Do your homework prior to meeting or emailing studio’s or designers. Find out more about them and show a genuine interest. You’d be amazed how far an engaging, short and sharp email will get you. First impressions count (check spelling) and can make or break the whole engagement. Importantly be patient, learn about local design and its past and present leaders and remember to say thank you!