David Mcleod believes it’s very important to look outside your specific area of practice for inspiration, and tells us about the journey from Sydney to NYC and who would be great mentors in different areas of design.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs? Out of high school I enrolled in a Computer Science degree at University of Wollongong. I’d never done any programming before then, so there was a very steep learning curve. I struggled through about a year and a half of the degree before realising that a career as a programmer just wasn’t for me. And I then switched over to a degree in Graphic Design and New Media.
It’s funny looking back at this now as this was clearly what I should have enrolled in from the beginning. I was always interested in visual arts at school, but I’d never considered a career in any form of graphic arts before then.
When I graduated I began freelancing on a mixed bag of different projects, ranging from designing and scripting flash websites, to creating a set of decals for a bicycle company and occasionally small logo/branding projects. I was really just happy to be doing any design work which meant I could learn something new and pay the rent!
When did you move to NYC and how easy did you find work? I had a bit of difficulty landing a job when I first came to New York late in 2012. And although I’d like to blame hurricane Sandy for this, in retrospect I think it actually had a lot more to do with my portfolio.
I’d only been illustrating for about a year at this point, and all this work was personal. The body of my portfolio was made up of commercial web design, and this meant there was a clear division between my personal and commercial work, which didn’t do me any favors when job hunting.
Realising this, however, did give me the push I needed to commit full time to illustration. And after spending the summer working back in Sydney I returned to New York the following year with a new portfolio and landed a fulltime job.
What does a typical working day include for you right now? I almost always start the day with the admin stuff that comes along with working as a freelancer – replying to emails and putting together estimates and other fun paperwork stuff. The rest of the day is then spent concepting and executing client briefs in a mixture of different software depending on what’s required. I also frequently making trips out to studios or agencies for meetings. Then finally at the end of the day I like to spend an hour or two working on personal projects.
What are your favourite blogs and online places you go for inspiration? I believe it’s very important to look outside your specific area of practice for inspiration, and I’ve always found itsnicethat.com is a great place for this – there’s a heap of variety on there. And like everyone else today I also follow a bunch of stuff on social media that I find interesting and inspiring. These range from fine artists and illustrators to accounts focussing on 3d printing and projection mapping. Anything and everything really.
Which three people in the design industry would you pick as mentors and why? This completely depends on what area of design you’re looking to get into!
For graphic design and branding I’d pick Michael Lugmayr and Eva Dijkstra of Toko studio in Sydney. They have such a beautifully balanced and considered approach to their Identity and print design.
For art direction I’d pick Stefan Sagmeister whose ideas and meticulously executed work is something I’ve admired for some time.
And for anyone wanting to work in 3D and motion design I’d pick Simon Holmedal who is the Technical Director at ManVsMachine. His work and the output from the studio is super inspiring!
What advice would you give students starting out? I began freelancing straight out of university and there were some benefits to this, however, looking back I think it would been a better to go for a junior position and get some studio experience under my belt before moving into freelance full time.