The amazing Sydney typographer Luke Lucas tells us all about freelance life, the magazine Fourinarow he started while still studying and his tips on how to make your folio standout!
We’ll let you introduce yourself.
My name’s Luke Lucas and I’m a freelance creative who lives on the northern beaches of Sydney. For the most part I juggle life as the dad of two little boys with my professional life which primarily involves creating custom lettering for brands, advertising agencies and magazines. I love what I do because I largely work on my own terms. I work from home, get to spend plenty of time with my kids and I choose the jobs that I take on which means that when I am working it’s usually on something that I’m super excited to be involved with. The fact that I am paid to indulge in my obsession with typography and lettering is a true privilege.
Describe a typical day in the life of Luke Lucas!
There’s not really a typical day as such as it depends on what my kids are doing, what the surf is doing and the specifics around the briefs that are in the studio at the time. On any given day I like to spend time with my family, surf, meditate, responding to enquiries and working with type. Running a sole operator business I unfortunately also have to factor in time for some of the more boring stuff like general administrative tasks but this is a pretty small percentage of my day. The order in which I do those things kind of differs from day to day. A good balance between work and life, commercial and non-commercial creativity, family, social and solo time is important to me so if I have the flexibility to I like to structure my day in as balanced a way as possible. Sometimes this can be a real challenge particularly with the ebs and flows of freelance work but it’s something I like to strive for.
Please tell us a little about the magazine you started Fourinarow.
Fourinarow was a full colour glossy magazine that was created by myself and my good mate Jamie Driver and sold in skate shops, newsagents and bookstores in the mid 90s. We were studying an Associate Diploma in Computer Aided Art & Design and during the first year of that course, with very basic design knowledge and even less business savvy we decided to start a magazine. I think if we had of really thought about it, all of the reasons why that would have been a really bad idea would have became apparent but alas we didn’t. There were a couple of magazines in the States that were representing the non-lycra fitness side of inline skating but there was nothing that really represented what was happening here in Australia. Australia’s culture and influence on the scene was strong but there was no publication that really did it justice. That was all motivation we needed.
We’d been involved in the “sport” professionally since the late 80s so we figured why the hell wouldn’t we do this. The fact that we didn’t know the first thing about publishing, have the money or even owned a computer seemed irrelevant. That’s where it all began. From there it was really all about hard work, coffee and determination. It was anything but easy but it was a highly rewarding project to be involved with. We were studying during the day and working on the magazine in the evenings. In the beginning we were using the computer rooms at school to get things done and then one of us ended up getting a Mac clone (when they were around) which became the workhorse of the magazine. Between us we wrote, shot, sold ads, coordinated distribution and designed the magazine. We were busy boys.
We had a pretty amazing arrangement with our printer who gave us excellent payment terms so that we could effectively go to print without paying up front and then we could use advertising dollars after the issue was released to cover the cost. It was a very different time when the internet was a complete novelty, hardly anyone was printing off-shore and advertisers really had limited options to market their brands within a niche like inline.
Anyway cut a long story short, 2 editions down we decided to drop out of our course, get a little more sleep and focus on the magazine full time. We ended up publishing 8 editions overall in between offering general “graphic design” services to whoever was in need (in reality it was mostly designing nightclub flyers and catalogue work). Operating a magazine within a niche industry at its infancy it wasn’t great business from a money perspective. We had many advertisers go bankrupt or not pay be able to pay us and even though it had a great sell through rate in reality it was another 2 years after the release of the final edition of Fourinarow that we were finally able to pay back the last of the remaining to debt to the printer through other design work. It was a roller coaster to say the very least but I have no regrets. It was one hell of a learning experience.
What advice can you give students who are about to graduate and any tips on folios?
I did see a lot of portfolios over the years. The work was important obviously but it’s clear that there is a lot of talent out there so most of the creatives that we hired we did so based on their attitude, and how they would fit culturally within the organisation. I believe maintaining a happy working environment and producing good work go hand in hand so the people we shared our space with needed to be the right fit.
It might seem obvious but in terms of your folio be selective and only put your best work in… Quality speaks so much louder than quantity. Be able to describe your work, rationales and processes effectively. If you have the time, create and respond to an invented brief using your prospective employer as the client and demonstrate that you understand them and would be a valuable member of their team.
Where do you gather inspiration?
I feel like every brief can be inspiring and inspiration flows freely when you’re in a good headspace. When I look back at times when I’ve suffered from creative blocks or struggled to come up with a design solution it’s usually when I’m stressed, distracted, or my heart’s not in it. I feel we’re all kind of like a conduits for creative energy and the more creative work that we do and the more frequently that we go through the process the more freely the energy flows. The reverse is also true that if we’re for example stuck doing variations of the one idea for prolonged periods we easily find ourselves in a rut and without the constant flow of energy or creative thought, blockages can form and true inspiration struggles to get through.
Pretty much ever since I left Lifelounge I’ve stopped my daily pouring through blogs. I follow various people through social media but I don’t really regularly look at any blogs in particular anymore. It’s a bit of a time sapper.
What’s on the cards for the second half of 2014? Professionally and personally? Professionally I’m hoping it will be more of the same because I’m really enjoying the variety in the briefs that I’m responding to at the moment. I literally have no idea what jobs I’ll be working on next week let alone in months to come which is one of the aspects that I enjoy about freelance life.
A side project I’m involved with along with a couple of other dudes is a beer label – Harvester’s Brewing Co. It’s been going for a while now but it’s literally a side project for all of us so it probably hasn’t progressed as quickly as it could have. Our first beer has been on the market for over a year and a half now but more recently we’ve started malting our own locally sourced grains to go into our brews. Our first beer was beautiful deep amber ale and we’ve just finished our pilot brew of the second beer which is a lighter single malt ale so looking forward to releasing that one and getting it onto a few taps.
In other news I bought an old house literally over the last few weeks so I’m looking forward to throwing on a tool belt and getting stuck into renovating it a little. It was originally designed and built by an artist couple in the very early 60s so it’s a really interesting space but it literally hasn’t been touched since so it needs a fair bit of TLC before we move in. That and some asbestos removal but I might leave that with the professionals. My studio will be there also so I’ll be setting that up over the next few months.