Chil3 are a studio from Perth run by the fabulous Londoner Becky Chilcott since 2000. Its Becky we can thank for the prestigious ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers) direct from London to our shores, making its way into student briefs across the country. We chat about how she got to where she is today, working with the late Alan Fletcher, how she got to meet Joseph Müller Brockmann, Irma Boom and Wim Crouwel (!!!), the importance of always learning and her tips on how to be the best graduate possible.
Tell us how you got involved in the creative industry and your path to where you are now?
Coming from a creative family (my twin sister Claire is ceramic designer and Creative Director of Maxwell & Williams and my brother Tim is an award-winning silversmith turned knife-maker at Green Man Knives), I’ve always been interested in all things creative. I didn’t pursue a creative career, however, until I studied typographic design as a mature student in my late 20s. It was the early 90s, and I had moved back to London from Perth. Claire, who was in Perth studying design again – this time computer graphics – sent me two copies of Baseline Magazine. That was it, I fell in love with typography and knew that was what I wanted to do.
I had previously been a trade magazine editor so this seemed the perfect balance of words, design and craft. I researched the best places to study, and decided on London College of Printing which had a very highly regarded typography course. During the interview, I was asked if I would prefer to do a foundation course first, and I said no, it was this or nothing, I was uncharacteristically single-minded. My folio was pretty woeful, but I guess there must have been something there because luckily I got in. I enjoyed every minute of studying – looking back, it’s a real privilege and from there worked freelance for publishers such; Thames and Hudson and the Guardian newspaper. I spent several years in a small design studio, Typographics, run by one of my design former tutors Eugenie Dodd and her husband Robin Dodd. With Benedict Richards, we worked for a range of publishing and arts clients. We spend a lot of time together (we worked very long hours) and took studio trips for long weekends to soak up the design and culture of other European cities. It was an incredibly intense and rewarding experience, I learned so much, but the long hours took their tole and I decided it was time to move on.
I freelanced for a while for Dorling Kindersley and then got another dream job, designer, with a small team, at the National Film Theatre (now know was BFI). They hadn’t had an in-house designer before, rather an editor to produce their monthly program booklet, so it was a newly created position. I was chosen because of my editorial background. In my first year, the London Film Festival event branding and roll out was conducted by Conran Design but in the second year, I persuaded them to let me work on the roll out, as Alan Fletcher had already been approached to work on the event branding. So Alan Fletcher was the art director, and things grew from there until we were working on all the event branding roll outs for the NFT’s annual program events and two annual film festivals. I worked on amazing projects, had an incredible team, met a lot inspiring people, went to some pretty good parties and learned so much about film and promotion and exhibition of the arts. One of my team, researcher Jake Ronay, went on to study typography and worked for design firms such as Moving Brands. He’s moved on from there since but is now one of my unofficial business mentors.
While I was packed into a tube train of wet commuters, I yearned for the Australian weather and decided to move back to Australia for the Millennium. I set up Chil3 in 2000 and that’s where I have been working ever since. I won’t say it’s been easy, as anyone who runs their own studio knows, it’s a lot of hard work, and you have to have nerves of steel at times. On the other hand it is incredibly rewarding and we are lucky enough to have some inspiring clients.
You’re a part of ISTD – tell us about that…
I first became involved while I was studying. My course leader, Dave Dabner, was heavily involved in ISTD, and being successful in our ISTD project it was the pinnacle of our course. Those with the drive and ambition were able to undertake the ISTD Student Assessment Scheme as our major project in our final year. I was asked to be a student representative and, on graduation, was asked to sit on the council. I have been involved ever since, with the exception of a few busy years working at the NFT. During that time I helped with the re-design of Typographic News and became the editor for several years. Being involved in the ISTD has been one of the best experiences of my life so far. It will have been 20 years this year, and I’ve professionally ‘grown up’ with some incredibly supportive mentors such as Freda Sack. Just after graduation was the time when ISTD ran an exceptional lecture series in the mid 90s and I was lucky enough to meet some of my design idols, Joseph Müller Brockmann, Irma Boom and Wim Crouwel to name a few.
When I got to Australia, I was teaching typography part-time and wanted my students to have the same experiences I had. On a trip to Sydney I met up with Vince Frost (former ISTD Professional Awards Judge and now Honorary ISTD member) who was very encouraging of setting up ISTD in Australia. His then design director, Ray Parslow (now at Extrablack) wrote one of the five ISTD briefs with a view to running our own Australasian Student Assessment Scheme. So in 2009 we held our first Australasian ISTD Student Assessment (the last in the series of five around the World) hosted by Nicki Wragg and Swinburne University. Annette O’Sullivan, a former graduate of the LCP Typography course and ISTD member had set up an excellent typography course at Massey University in New Zealand, and she introduced the ISTD scheme there. Over the past five years the ISTD Student Assessment Scheme has grown with six participating institutions and almost 100 entries. For students it’s an incredibly rewarding experience and if they are successful they can put MISTD after their name. One of the earlier Australasian members to go through the scheme, Edwin Visser said, “ISTD was a pivotal point in my design studies and career, affecting the way I designed all my projects following the assessment. Never before had I studied type so intensely – the leading, kerning, indents, rags, and widows & orphans would probably have been ignored without ISTD. Type is now scrutinised at every opportunity with immense pleasure.”