We talk with Tracey Allen of Liminal Studio a multi-disciplinary studio situated in Hobart. Tracey tells us about her non traditional route to finding her niche in the design world, why she loves collaboration. Tracey was also one of the masterminds behind the planning of last years AGDA’s Australian Design Biennale in collaboration with MONA!
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
As a child I made books and things. I was always inventing and would have my dad help me make my creations. I loved art but wasn’t much of a drawer. Looking back I’ve always loved design in some form, but then I didn’t know that was what it was, and I certainly didn’t realize that I could make a career of it. This meant my design career path has been somewhat left of field to most. As a teen I dropped out of school to carve out my own pathway in a series of jobs in Sydney before undertaking a prolonged hiatus travelling the globe. I returned with a desire to learn design and went onto complete my HSC at 27 and continued onto University to study.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I studied Visual Communications at University of Technology Sydney and graduated in 2001. I had other jobs before starting a career in the creative industries. My first job in design was as a student tutor in typography as a 3rd year student. I also started my own design business as a student. After graduation, with the encouragement from my lecturers, I moved to Tasmania and started lecturing at the University of Tasmania. After a year I became Head of Graphic design. Four years later I decided to concentrate on my design business rather than as a teacher.
How do you deal with non creative clients that don’t see your vision?
For me it’s important not to appear arrogant with an ‘I know best’ attitude. The design process involves two-way dialogue with the client. I discuss the concepts and ideas early and make prototypes or drawings to help clients ‘see’ my vision, this ensures we are all heading in the same direction. A successful project for me involves effective communication and the ability to understand the client’s needs. If you are genuinely excited and enthusiastic about the project, a client will see it and trust that you are working in their best interest and in turn give you freedom to explore.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
There have been many highlights but a couple that really stand out. As a 4th year design student, during the summer break a group of us were asked to partake in an international design competition. We won and represented Australasia and the prize was a trip to Berlin for a week – it was an amazing experience. Also, being awarded the Arts Tasmania/Vitra Design Fellowship which took me to France to attend a macro lettering workshop with the Spanish design studio CuldeSac. My most recent highlight was Co-chairing last years Australian Design Biennale for AGDA, it was a lot of hard work but the opportunity to meet some of my design heroes made it all worth it. Also last year I was a finalist in the Telstra Business Woman’s Awards which was great recognition beyond the creative industry.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
Keep it fun, be modest and don’t take yourself too seriously. Maintain a balance of projects between those that pay the bills and others that are creative, fun, keep you inspired and make you proud. When you work on ‘love’ jobs, agree on the terms at the beginning and have it in writing. Listen and spend time with the people who will produce your designs – printers, fabricators, manufacturers etc. You will learn so much, which will help your designs. Be open, honest and ask questions. There is life outside design, be interested in other things as it feeds back into your design… well it does for me!
Tell us about any collaborations you have been doing.
Collaboration is one of the biggest drivers of my success. I love to share, involve and continue to learn from others it has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my design career. My most significant collaboration has been in the formation of Liminal Studio with Elvio Brianese and Peta Heffernan. Our structure enables me to draw on the expertise of other design streams to explore a broader range of ideas and thinking. The advantages of a multi-disciplinary studio create opportunities and involvement into the architecture and interior design spheres.