Eric Di Cuollo – Director of ED. is a digital agency based in the nations capital, Canberra. Eric tells us how Canberra designers and agencies are really starting to punch above their weight in the design community. He explains how crucial communication and process with a client is. While also looking at portfolios, the importances of how a designer can articulate design. Also how being involved in government work doesn’t have to be boring!
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. We design great brands, websites and apps from the ground up that help you sell your products, services or message.
What do you look for in a great portfolio? Well reasoned solutions. Even if something looks great and is presented well, we prod and poke to find out the thinking and experimentation that led to that design. Heck, even if something doesn’t look great, understanding the reasoning behind it can help you learn a lot about a person’s talent and process, and those can be harder to come by than great technical skills.
We also love when a concept has been applied to different forms of media. This one can be tricky because some courses tend to structure their assignments into ‘business card week’ and ‘poster design week’. That type of segmented thinking results in restrictive designs. We much prefer seeing a café brand rolled out into stationary, signage and website mockups because it shows us how considered their design process is, and it also reflects the versatility of real life brands and designs that we have to create day to day.
Finally, whether consciously or subconsciously, we also tend to do a lot of ‘reading between the lines’ with portfolios. We like to see that a portfolio has been designed with consideration for their audience, and conveniently in that situation the audience is us! Before anyone freaks out reading this, this isn’t typically a make or break issue and we don’t expect everyone to know how to build their own website or understand every nuance of professional letterpress printing, but a thoughtful approach will shine through and could give you the edge.
What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate? We love hearing about side projects or collaborations they have been working on, even if they’re rough or unfinished. It tell us so much about what their interests are and the kind of work they’re passionate about.
We look at their ability to articulate design as this gives us an understanding and insight to how they’ve approached the design.
What have been some of your biggest disasters and how have you learnt from it? Unfortunately we’ve had a small handful of projects go south over the years, and while they each had their own specific circumstances, for the most part they all shared one thing in common; the communication could have been better or we skipped steps on our process.
No matter how hard you’re working, how great your ideas are and how perfect your solution is to the client’s problem; if you’re not constantly checking to make sure you’re on the same page then it’s all for nought. It’s often the projects you think are running the smoothest that can have the biggest issue down the track because they’re the ones you’re tempted to.
It’s crucial to remember that while you might live and breath design and do it everyday, for most clients it’s a scary and foreign concept to them. If you’re not doing a good job of holding their hand through the process, then they’re going to turn to their colleagues, friends or family for a second opinion, and that is always the scariest position to be in.
What is the design landscape like in your city and where do you fit in? There’s no escaping the fact that the Canberra design scene is in it’s infancy. It doesn’t have a thriving design culture the likes of Sydney or Melbourne, but it’s getting there.
Since ED. started in 2012, there’s been a huge surge of local businesses popping-up with a heavy focus on interesting design; cafes, bars, restaurants, retail, markets etc. This, in turn, is giving Canberrans a certain sensibility for design and they’re now actively seeking out similar experiences and products. Add the fuel that is Instagram and social media, and Canberra designers and agencies are really starting to punch above their weight in the design community.
A huge part of this of course has been driven by some amazing local artists, designers and musicians who are shaping Canberra’s cultural landscape.
The other side of the coin is that with the huge presence of Government, a lot of work is either for Government, related initiatives or for other prominent national institutions. Sounds boring right, but it actually means your work has an excellent opportunity to make a national or even international ‘splash’. We recently launched the new brand for Transport Canberra and to see your work become part of the community and something that will be part of the Canberra experience for years to come is very special for us.
Whats the big goal in the next five years? After four years of being the ‘new kids’ and finding our feet in the industry, we’re finally at a point where our work is actually starting to be recognised. Our goals now are to work out what our role and responsibility is within the community, and how we can start to give back and engage with local designers and developers. We are always aiming to get bigger and exciting brands to work with, this growth keeps the team excited and motivated and out of their comfort zone so that we are continually pushing boundaries.