We get the absolute pleasure of catching-up with Christopher Doyle, the extremely talented Creative Director of the Sydney studio Christopher Doyle & Co. Chris shares his wisdom on design, why having a mentor is so important and a little info on a future internship program he is hoping to launch, a must read!
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
Fell in love in probably too strong a term. But I would say that my idea of what design is and what it can be was dramatically altered in my second job. I was exposed to a certain type of design that was completely new to me. It was very ideas led and had a strong focus on language. I realised that up until that point, throughout University, I’d had very little understanding of the potential of design. Until then design was something I had been selfish about. It was about my interests and tastes. Once I realised it could, and most often should, be about other people, it shifted the whole way I worked.
How do you deal with non creative clients that don’t see your vision?
It’s rarely a problem as we never aim for a client to be on board with our personal vision. It has to be about what is right for the project. An answer that both the studio and the client feel ownership over and are proud of — an answer that solves a business problem. Of course taste comes into it from time to time but I try to keep those conversations as relaxed as possible. I am far more concerned with making sure the right idea is approved. If your client loves the colour purple (the colour I mean, not the film) you have to find a strategic reason to avoid it, not just that ‘it’s awful’. Arguing that you don’t like purple will get you nowhere.
Whats the big goal in the next five years?
Simply to grow. I would like the team to be 5 people in two years but never more than ten.
Whats your take on internships? And do you take interns now?
My take on internships is that they are crucial and that they should be paid. We don’t currently take internships simply due to space but as soon as we are able to we will be launching an internship program.
What advice would you give students starting out?
To be hungry, humble and curious. And connect with as many people as you can. I don’t understand designers who aren’t on Twitter or Instagram. There are so many ways to build relationships with people today — Social Media, AGDA, #TDKtuesdays, Creative Mornings etc. Get involved! Good jobs in great studios with good mentors are rare. If you find one, hang onto it and be patient. Learn as much as you can. I also just wrote a thousand words on this, which can be found here.
What qualities and skills to you look for in a graduate?
Above all else, I look for evidence of clever, original ideas. I then look for empathy, humility, confidence and common sense. I look at layout, type, colour etc. But those things are less important to me.
Which three people in the design industry would you pick as mentors and why?
Aaron Hayward, Julian Melhuish and Chantal Manning Knight.
Arron currently runs Next Episode, and before that was a founding partner at Debaser. Jules runs a design studio called Churchward Melhuish. Both Jules and Aaron are clever, talented guys but they are also normal, generous people. They are not concerned with fame or awards, which is rare these days. They just want to do great work. Jules mentored me in my second job 14 years ago and I still go to him for advice today. Aaron and I only met a year ago but we now regularly catch up and chat design business. I would be lost without people like this.
Chantal runs Cloak & Dagger, a small recruiting business focused on design and creatives. She has amazing energy, knows the Sydney design scene inside out and is a lifeline for designers of all age looking for guidance.