We spoke with the Director of Inklab – Colin Haining, how being a competitive bunch by nature helps challenge themselves each day to produce better work, what they look for in a graduate and the table tennis comp – ‘The Terror-dome’!
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do. Inklab is a creative agency bringing brands and people together. We are a team of creatives, designers, and developers who produce work for clients of all sizes across a range of industries. Our key areas of focus are brand strategy and digital creation. We work with like-minded clients who value the importance of creative, the impact it has on their business and who are a pleasure to work with.
The key to our success is passion. We all enjoy the process of design and creative pursuits. We thrive when we’re working together and combining our talents towards a common goal; be that a brand, a website or bespoke illustration project.
Being a team of sports fanatics by nature, we’re a competitive bunch. We’re always challenging ourselves to produce better work, making each project bigger, more adventurous and more successful than the last. The creative industry is super competitive, so we’re not just up against other businesses, we’re challenging each other to bring out the best in ourselves and the work we create for clients.
Yep, we’re those cliché designers with a table tennis table in the office. We do, however take this very seriously— with an in-house league, detailed scoring, statistics and fragile friendships when we step into the room we’ve nicknamed ‘The Terror-dome’.
What qualities and skills do you look for in a graduate? Honestly, we’re pretty open to talent in whatever shape that takes—and we love working with great people. First and foremost; you’ve gotta have passion and a design eye. Skills can be taught, but you have to bring the fire to the table; Secondly, attitude. We look for someone who’s pushing themselves personally; Whether that’s as part of another creative team, or as a side hustle after hours working on self-initiated projects. We respect the self motivated, and love to help nurture good talent for those who are willing to learn. Early on, design’s tough, you’ve gotta put yourself out there, get experience, work with other talented people and refine your own talents.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2016, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age? Our agency is built on digital, almost every project we deliver has a digital component. We’re all grounded in traditional graphic design principles which has helped to shape our direction as our focus has shifted over the years to becoming a predominantly digital studio.
The lines are blurring more and more each day between ‘traditional graphic design’ and digital. The concept of brand strategy has changed drastically as the immediacy of digital has created new demands and expectations for brands to communicate more efficiently and effectively. It’s been fun to be part of the design industry as it’s progressively shifted focus away from a fairly limited print environment to a world of possibilities with digital outputs such as interface design and user experience.
Digital practices have allowed us to automate our workflow and service delivery, reducing our administrative burdens and allowing more time for creative and problem solving. We consider ourselves lucky to be running our agency at a time when there’s a digital tool for almost everything you can think of, from internal and external communication, sharing, markup, changes and alterations, and if there’s not, we can make one!
What have been some of your highlights since you started out? There’s plenty of different highlights and for different reasons. I’d have to say a highlight is creating your own business that you can wake up and head to excited every morning.
No business is the same (and every day throws its challenges) but it’s rewarding creating a culture where you and your team can enjoy each day, push each other in work, play and everything in between.
We’ve always had a huge passion for sports, some of our creative highlights would be creating work we’re proud of with well respected sports brands like the Canberra Raiders, Trek Bicycles & Gold’s Gym.
In 2014 we were shortlisted for best identity for Parlour Bar and Restaurant at the ‘Eat Drink Design Awards’. At the Page Awards, we were shortlisted for six projects including two winning entries. Winner ‘Best Brand’ — Parlour Wine Room and Winner ‘Innovation Excellence’ — Roundhouse Hotels.
Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt? It’s moved so fast in just the last five, where to start! I guess the last few years has seen the push for a more seamless web experience through responsive design, which really catered to a lot of the issues around mobile and tablet browsing and shopping. I think that trend will continue to grow, but be more of an evolution and extension to be all aspects of your digital life. It’s already being driven by wearable technology now—but will continue to make the shift to our homes and everyday life, such as the way we consume content through TVs or interact with products through virtual reality and cars to name a few. I think with these shifts in technology in our lives, we’ll see the focus on human interaction and design working seamlessly together.
The big benefit of this shift is that design and digital are becoming so ingrained in everything we do, technology is becoming simpler to use, easier to understand and as a result we as creatives can focus on problem solving and new ideas, rather than grappling with what is and isn’t possible with technology. It’s important for agencies like ours to keep learning, evolving, being at the forefront of these changes.
What advice would you give students starting out? Put in work. That old saying about putting in ten thousand hours of practice… don’t skip this step. You need to work your arse off to get anywhere in design and it’s not until you’ve lost more sleep than you’d like to recall, failed miserably and thrown it in a few times that you’ll come out the other end a proficient designer.
Get experience. Surround yourself with people you love to work with from peers at your own level through to professionals who have all the wisdom and know-how. Learn your short-cuts to build up your technical speed, but don’t take creative short-cuts. The best design outcomes are born from exploration of all the possibilities. Experiment with designs that challenge you, and never take the easy option — it’s boring, it’s been done and you won’t look back at your work later and still enjoy it.
Finally, you need to understand business. At Inklab, we don’t expect anyone to have thirteen degrees under their belt, but you should understand the best way to help a business and focus on what allows them to become successful. You can only get this through learning, researching and paying close attention to business problems rather than getting caught up with design ideas that might not be appropriate.