We get the pleasure of catching up with Louise Kellerman, the founder of New Zealand’s Graphic Design Organisation, Design Assembly (DA). Louise shares with us the best ways to get involved in the NZ’s awesome design community and what DA has planned for the next five years!
What was the chain of events that lead you to start Design Assembly? I’d been working as a graphic designer for about six years and had recently returned from three years in London to live back in my hometown of Auckland. There wasn’t a specific community for graphic designers in New Zealand, I felt the lack of a community that was passionate about the same things as me and I wanted to create one. I was working with a good friend from university – Shaun Lee and he was really my dumbo feather – he pushed from talking about it to actually doing it. The first Design Assembly (DA) event was a conversations evening with three speakers held in Auckland, New Zealand in August 2008 and over 100 people attended! From there I was really inspired and motivated that the community really wanted this, so one event became quarterly events in Auckland – a speaker evening, a documentary screening, a graphic design pub quiz and an end of year social event. And bi-annual events in Wellington and Christchurch.
The website was a natural progression from the events as a place to advertise and promote them, showcase the speakers and the content and from there we got a range of contributors to write for the website who are graphic designers or work in the field and now it’s a lively online community with new content nearly every day featuring everything from upcoming industry events, exhibitions, reviews, interviews, profiles of students, tutors and courses and more in-depth pieces as well. DesignAssembly.org.nz is the website for New Zealand graphic design.
Design Assembly also runs a CPD (continuing professional development) workshop series in Auckland throughout the year that seeks to support working graphic designers and students with a variety of topics that will feed their daily practice from hands-on type workshops through to workshops on UX design. In a nutshell Design Assembly is all about community and sharing inspiration, information and ideas. Design Assembly celebrates New Zealand graphic design and graphic designers and seeks to support, grow and challenge the community online and offline.
Any insider tips for students & young designers to get exposure?
Get involved! Come to all of the community events that are going on – there is so much going on in New Zealand, especially in Auckland that just wasn’t around six/seven years ago. These are a few of them – Creative Mornings, Semi-Permanent, Design Pro, Threaded & Dinz. Spread your course work experience component around a few studios, to get a sense of the type of studio you want to work in and the work you want to do. If you find a studio that you would like to work at, then do most of your work experience hours with them and make a connection. Lots of people get their first jobs at the studios they have done their work experience at, including me. Volunteer at one of the community events – hands are always needed for set-up and you’ll get to meet the people who run them up close and personal. Be passionate. Have a thirst for life long learning. Practice daily! Good things take time (and actually a whole lot of hardwork).
What are the not to be miss DA events and Workshops? and what is your personal favourite event?
I love all of the events as they are all different! The speaker evening you never want to miss, as it’s the opportunity to hear three different speakers in one evening. The pub quiz is especially fun and something everyone looks forward to each year. The thing I most like about DA events is the chance to meet new faces in our community up close and personal, have a good one-to-one chat and make a new connection. This year I wouldn’t miss the Autumn Conversations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch throughout March – as a student you can become a DA Friend for FREE and then come to the conversations evening for FREE! Stay up-to-date on all DA events and workshops here. DA Friends is a low cost subscription that students, individuals and studios can sign-up to be to show their love for Design Assembly and help keep Design Assembly going and growing.
Who are your dream interview candidates for the DA site? That’s a tricky one! Design Assembly is all about New Zealanders and showcasing great people doing great work in New Zealand and overseas. I’d like to feature more of the people that have been in the industry for a long time and really contributed to what it is today. It’s important to look back and recognise and celebrate these people in order to look forward and keep developing the story of our community. Max Hailstone influenced a generation of NZ graphic designers. I’m keen to do more research on him and interviews with people that worked with him or were taught by him. Welby Ings – a tutor of mine at AUT University and life-long influence, who I haven’t actually interviewed yet for Design Assembly…Kiwi’s quietly working away overseas doing top work & yet to be acknowledged. I’ve currently got Fred l’Ami in my sights for an interview!
What are the big goal in the next five years?
To keep Design Assembly going and growing into the best community for New Zealand graphic design and graphic designers. To keep serving the existing community that has developed and to strive to always be relevant and ever evolving to the needs and wants of the community. To continue to celebrate New Zealand graphic design and showcase it to the world. To develop and challenge our community through positive critical discourse and grow design writing in New Zealand. To be always for the community. To be here in five years time and have a BIG celebration when Design Assembly turns 10 years old in four and a half years time! Now that will be an awesome party.
What do you think the design community could do more of to give back? If you’re talking about giving back to young designers, students and graduates? I think the design community does plenty already, there are so many great studios and people that will give any young designer or student a little of their time whether it’s looking over a portfolio, showing them their studio, having a chat about their process or giving up their time to share and speak at any of the great events we have going on. If you mean in terms of giving back to the wider community and to causes, organisations or charities. This is a personal one – taking on one project pro-bono or more if you have the time and resources is awesome. Using your expertise to enable these organisations to communicate or simply giving your time in service. I’m a great believer in the philosophy that when we all (not just designers) give our time that we can personally spare to take up some community service then our communities, New Zealand and the world is a better place for it.