Lisa Nicole is a skilled typographer who made the switch from fine arts to design while studying at Massey in Wellington. Lisa tells us about how she loves her life freelancing in Wanaka, how she got there and why it is important your creative network.
When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started?
I’d always loved drawing and painting since I was a kid and I actually wanted to be an artist rather than a designer. Design seemed quite daunting and overwhelming to me and I didn’t think I’d be any good at it. I started uni doing a Fine Arts degree but it just wasn’t me. The fine arts papers seemed to be all about the ‘idea’ and not much about the technique or skill. I really wanted my work to be meaningful and also look good which is when I made the switch to design. I liked that there were rules and briefs to work to. Sounds weird but having a strict brief to follow actually gave me more creative freedom and I started to enjoy design far more than the fine arts papers that I took. I enjoyed the fact that what I was creating and designing was for a purpose. The more I learnt and practiced design the more I loved it.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Keep designing! Even when uni’s over and there’s no more projects, just create your own. I actually had hardly anything from uni that I wanted to put in my portfolio so I just continually worked on making cool things in the style that I was into. Also, be open to doing projects for free. Only if it’s going to benefit you as well and is something you can use in your portfolio. I would also recommend having a really nice printed portfolio instead of showing your work on an ipad or laptop. When I went to agencies to show people my work they really enjoyed flicking through my portfolio and always commented on how nice it was to have something physical to look at.
Tell us about where you are today and what you love about your job!
Today I am sitting in my little studio at home in Wanaka. As a freelancer I love that I can live in a place like this and have a job I love. I enjoy the freedom of not being locked into a 9-5 day. It is difficult being a freelancer too though. I go through quiet patches when I don’t have any work which freaks me out a little bit. And then there’s the opposite when I get a whole lot of work at once. I’ve only been freelancing for a couple of years so I’m still trying to build up a client base and make a name for myself among all the other talented illustrators out there.
What has been your highlights since you started out?
I think my first highlight was working as a freelancer for Ocean Design in Wellington. That pretty much was my first step into the industry. I found it quite tough getting a foot in the door at the start and it’s hard to persist when you get turned away most of the time. Ocean was awesome though and gave me a shot! It was great to get that experience in the real design world for the first time and they gave me some exciting projects to work on, the first one being a large mural design for their entrance way!
Whats your take on internships? and do you take interns now?
I think internships are awesome! I did one in Sydney for an agency called Co Partnership. It’s a great way to learn the ins and outs of the real world after uni. I think that’s one thing that was missed out of my degree. I learnt so much at my internship and I think it’s a win win for both parties. As long as it’s gone about the right way I guess, you hear some stories of interns getting taken advantage of but I had a great experience. I would definitely recommend trying to get an internship after you finish your degree or even during the uni break holidays. If you’re good it’ll probably lead to paid work.
Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?
I studied Visual Communication Design at Massey University in Wellington. I started off as a Fine Arts degree and then switched to the Bachelor of Design. My first freelance job was with Ocean Design for 4 months and then I had quite a few contacts from that that I could carry on as a freelancer just working from home. It was pretty cooI and exciting getting my first commissions from real clients! I’ve also recently signed up with International Rescue so that’s also been quite exciting for me.