Original Interview: September 2014

Studio Round

Today we chat with Studio Round Creative Director Michaela Webb. Michaela will be talking at Sex Drugs and Helvetica this Friday in Melbourne and next week in Brisbane. We get the low down on starting out, big clients and becoming a non-stop student!

Where did you study and what were some of your first design jobs?
I studied my BMA in NZ from 1991 – 1995. I started studying a fine art degree, completed two years and then and changed to graphic design for the final two years. It was good to be able to swop and cross credit courses – I don’t think you can do that these days. Apple computers arrived at design school for the first time while I was a student, so we learnt everything in two ways, both analogue and digital. I remember well even having to learn how to manipulate the photocopier.

My very first design job was for a milk teat company, followed by tyre manufacturer. I worked on the Bridgestone Oliver tyre rebrand for 6 months, but was never allowed in the meetings as the whole tyre company was male. My boss didn’t think they would respond well to a 22 year old female telling them what they should be doing with their identity, and what wasn’t going to work etc. At the time in New Zealand everything had huge guidelines – it would take months working on one project, working through isolation areas around logos and endless stationary applications.

Studio Round Michaela Webb

Studio Round Michaela Webb

When did you start Round and how did it come about?
Rob and I arrived in Melbourne in 2002 after spending 5 years London. We had always loved the idea of being closer to home (NZ) while still living in a city that had a strong culture. At the beginning we didn’t know if we wanted to stay or not. It took us about 8 months to fall in love with Melbourne. While we were trying to figure out what to do we were lucky enough enough to meet the team charged with reopening The National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Rd. They needed a lot of work done in a very short space of time, and we were naive enough to keep saying yes! The first year was non-stop, with one client who needed a lot of different outputs. We worked with NGV and other arts based clients almost exclusively for about the first three years.

Can you tell us about the studio now?
We have been going for 12 years now, and have 8 great people in the team. As a studio we are now increasingly focused on the way we engage with our clients. We believe our people are our key and we don’t underestimate the importance of our company culture. We still work with NGV, but now have a whole range of other clients as well! We are currently working with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a Melbourne Hotel, a Sydney Hotel, restaurants throughout Australia, a florist, a cinema, a film festival and a design led reseller of high end kitchen, bathroom and home wares. We’re also developing make up packaging, a signage and way finding system for a large vineyard and creating event ideas for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. We do a lot more strategy before we jump into developing design solutions these days. We don’t have a type of client or single area of discipline we focus on. We work with people that understand the value of what we do. We love what we do, and want to make a difference.

Studio Round Michaela Webb

Studio Round Michaela Webb

What do you look for in a great portfolio?
Great ideas. Equally an insight into the candidate’s personality. We need to get a sense of the person behind the work, how they think and how they can articulate their ideas.

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?
Design is moving fast and so is our role. More than ever designers need to contribute their thinking, their way of seeing challenges from a different perspective. To make hard decisions, to change patterns and habits, to have a voice. We will adapt, keep learning and taking everything in – being a non-stop student really.

What are your tips for graduates finishing at the end of the year?
I think its important to start working in a studio as soon as possible, through internships, anything – even milk teats if you have to! But make sure you see everything as an opportunity. Think about what you’re doing, add value and use your initiative. And please understand, we don’t mean to not reply to all the emails that come through, so just keep trying!

round.com.au

Studio Round Michaela Webb

Studio Round Michaela Webb