When did you fall in love with design and how did you get started? It wasn’t until my final year of high school that I found design. I always had an interest in art but growing up in a small town and going to a more sports and science focused school ensured I was pretty ignorant of design. I actually was accidentally put into design class after I enrolled in photography. This mistake was of corse a blessing – I was immediately attracted to the aggressive nature of post modern graphic design. I quickly changed my university degree away from anthropology to a bachelor of Design and visual communications. In its first few years, the course was very broad and I found myself drawn to the abstract and fine arts papers rather than the pure graphic design ones. Once I found advertising tho, thats when I really found my stride in design. I loved the dedication to the ‘big idea’ that the field embraced. Advertising to me was a collision of my three big loves – art, pop culture and news media.
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened? Well, getting into an advertising agency as an art director was hard. I had finished university and was forcing my book into everyone and anyones hands. I had a copy writer who I was working with (as is the tradition in creative advertising) but after 4 months and being fired as a part time retail assistant I was in a low place. But rather than give up, I just got more desperate. After all – advertising was the only thing that I genuinly felt competent at, if I couldn’t get a internship in this – I’m fucked.
After 5 months I eventually got offered a placement. And then the real work began. It was a steep learning curve but I had somehow landed myself at the best agency in town and I was not going to let this go. It was long long hours and personal relationships suffered as a result. But after 9 months and 3 missed rent payments, I was offered a job. Even now when I look back on that period – it was both the most terrifying and yet important period in my career.
What three naughty things have you done in your career to get ahead? Naughty? I am not sure if it is naughty but since my first job in advertising I have always put my hand up for anything and everything – even if I don’t know what it is. One of my favourite quotes is ‘bite off more than you can chew – and then chew like fuck’. It has meant a lot of stress and a lot of all nighters. But the more you put your hand up to opportunities the more chances you have to succeed.
The second thing is actually not too far away from the first thing. I am not great on the tools. And in all honesty – I don’t think I ever will be. It is simply not a strength of mine. However I am pretty good at pretending I am. I will do whatever I can to get an interesting, beautiful result for my projects and if that means asking for the advice or even help from others – I will. My old creative director said to me once ‘Always work with the best. If you are the best concepter, well get the best whoever to bring the concept to life.’ I believe in that. Steve Jobs was never the best programmer – but he was the best tech visionary. I don’t have a third ‘naughty’ thing but I did name drop SJ so surely that counts as a third thing.
What career advice would you give your 16yr old self? Don’t let perfectionism get in the way. As a 16 year old I was so stuck with self doubt that I never finished a single project. It was never right, it was never exactly how I wanted it to be. By the time I was ready to head to university I had a large collection of half projects. It doesn’t matter how many great half projects you have, none of them will ever be worth more than one finished project that exists in the world. Oh and talent counts for fuck all.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? 1. It is not a good idea until you have made it.
2. The overnight test works.
3. Be ruthless with the work. If it isn’t working, start again.
4. There is always a better way or a better design or a better idea.
5. If you are getting paid to draw, design or think you are luckier than most.
Whats the big goal in the next five years? To leave advertising and become a full time maker. It is a bold move to leave the security of the agency but ultimately I want to only work on projects which make my heart sing. I also want to go to space.