We chat with Ed Knox and Lauren Jury Armitage from Perth studio Design Cooperative. We first crossed paths via AGDA and stoked to get them on the show line up in 2013. Both mature students while they were studying, they now collaborate with other Perth designers in their own ways. Its nice to hear about different ways of working that isnt a traditional studio 9-5 vibe, well done guys! (Questions are answered by EDK for Ed and LJA for Lauren!)
Tell us about how you got started in the industry?
EDK: I was a mature student and worked part time (for free) at a design agency while i studied for my degree. This was not ideal and wasn’t appreciated by the lecturing staff but it enabled me to have an advantage or a head start with industry experience at graduation. As it happened, I was taken on full time by the company I had been working for anyway so fortunately I hit the ground running.
LJA: I began an arts degree straight out high school which was super interesting but not very engaging (for lots of reasons). I gave that a miss and spent the next couple of years doing a graphic design degree (which I didn’t finish either) and earning coin to go backpacking. Travelling was the best thing I could have done – it continues to inform my design sensibilities and attitudes in general. After returning to Australia I completed my advanced diploma in graphic design at TAFE and graduated aged 25. I got my first design job in a small boutique studio that mainly dealt with wine labels and packaging, annual reports and advertisements. Being part of a small studio allowed me to get involved with the entire design process which was an amazing opportunity.
After a few years I moved onto a larger and far more corporate-focussed agency where I became part of a larger design team. This was another excellent opportunity – working on projects with larger budgets and bigger scope. Although I learnt a lot, and met some wonderful people, it wasn’t a good fit and I left just as the GFC blew up. A combination of job climate and wanting to try working for myself on my own terms led to freelancing for the next couple of years. I was in a fortunate position – my partner supported me fully, allowing me to set up a reliable client list that included studios and agencies across Fremantle and Perth. I loved this period – it allowed me to see how lots of other studios operated and I was exposed to a huge range of clients and projects. I also got to operate on my terms and set my own agenda. I worked hard to uphold values I believe a freelancer needs – a strong work ethic, respect and trust for the person directing the project, an understanding of budgets and timelines, challenging and improving your design skills and process, plus commitment and reliability to the task at hand. Charging reasonable rates also helped. I took a year off to start a family and returned to my current set up – I’m one of two directors at Design Cooperative, working alongside Ed. We have our own client lists but often help each other out to mix things up a bit. We have a few other members, who operate in a similar way.
Tell us about your typical working day/week now.
EDK: I work full time running a small design company – the weeks/days can be intensive with deadlines but that is the nature of the industry and something everybody has to deal with.
LJA: I’m currently in the studio Tuesdays and Thursdays and, if required, on other days for meetings, press checks etc. I can operate from home if a project demands it but I make a real effort to keep home and work separate. A usual day starts out with going through emails and following up on current projects – calling clients or suppliers, sending out estimates or purchase orders, responding to queries. The rest of the day is spent working on current projects, meetings or getting some studio admin done. We’ve just moved into a new space – we’re having fun exploring the area and trying to find decent coffee. Beau est Mien (www.beauestmien.com.au/) is just around the corner – I’ve been using their studio access dates to work on some etching and hand printing which has been great fun!
What advice would you give students starting out?
EDK: Be prepared to work hard for little reward. Follow your creative goals rather than settling for a wage. Accept criticism about your work as important feedback while baring in mind that design is subjective – YOU WILL BE SHOT DOWN!! Enjoy what you do and put love into it if you want to get results.
LJA: Listen to feedback and react to it. The worst thing is to nod and say you understand and then go away and completely ignore it! If you don’t agree with the feedback, that’s fine – but say so and explain why. These conversations are always the most productive. Take opportunities where ever they appear. This leads to a great network of contacts and mates. Use your hands. Walk away from the computer – now! Innovation and originality come from the unpredictable. Don’t be afraid to make ‘errors’ during your design process, these ‘errors’ will be the seed of something different that you can then work up further. Share your ideas and collaborate. Don’t be scared of letting your ideas out into the world! Be nice – no one likes a wanker.
What’s the big goal in the next five years?
EDK: To work only for clients and on projects that I have a genuine interest in or enjoy working with… It’s a constant goal!
LJA: The goal is always to work with clients that appreciate the design process and are eager to contribute. I’d love to be doing design outside of print and web, getting more involved with the craft elements of design and production, including etching and screen printing.