Original Interview: August 2014

The Freeform Foundry

We chat with Brett Novak from The Freeform Foundry in Perth. Brett and Ross have some great quotes, tales of too many chicken nuggets and how to start a studio on a budget (and in a spare room!). Thanks WA!

Tell us about how you got started in the industry?
As a young whipper snapper working client side in the renewables industry after completing studies in design, development and marketing, I found myself in the fortunate position of establishing the fundamentals of an agency team in-house; employing design, development and coordinator staff. The experience saw us ramp up the company’s brand presence and execute marketing and sales strategies on a national scale. The model, process and creativity stemming from the operation proved monumental! Being in my early 20’s at the time, it was a total rush. A few years in, having developed our craft along the way, we came to the conclusion that if we can improve brand, design and marketing across the board for one business, we could definitely apply the concepts concocted and creativity conjured to just about any business. After many, many late nights moonlighting, putting on excessive weight from 2am Chicken McNugget runs to McDonalds and an overall and lack of sleep and fitness, Art Director Ross Scotland and I finally mustered up enough courage to leave our day jobs and start our own venture. With less than $1000 between us, 2 laptops and a dodgy internet connection – a fusion of creativity and process took place. And with that, The Freeform Foundry was born (in a spare room at Ross’ parents house haha!).

Tell us about where you are today and what you love about your job!
4 years since then, much has changed out there – innovations in design, new media, fresh strategies, technological advancements and completely new ways of doing business. That change out there has also seen us evolve. We’ve moved into an office situated in the historic West End of Fremantle and our team has expanded to 12 exceptionally talented individuals spanning specialist roles in design, development, strategic services & account management. It’s actually crazy to think back just a few years ago when it was just two of us getting started, operating from the confines of a tiny room in a home nestled in the backstreets of East Freo! Over this time, we’ve had the privilege of seeing our clients grow from start-ups to successful businesses that are actively taking charge of their marketplace, fully equipped with the confidence of a managed and consistent brand in combination with creative, meaningful and effective marketing strategies. It’s so rewarding to see the brands we’ve created in action. The clients we had back then are still amongst our active clients today which is a really nice feeling. We’ve never had to actively promote ourselves, with all work still coming on referral. Even with bigger corporate clients on board, we’ve managed to stay true to our roots; providing our unique Fremantle blend of straight shooting, client focussed, complete design and marketing solutions. The crew at Freeform are super talented, hard working, creative and unashamedly quirky. It’s an honour to spend from daylight to dusk with these wizards, and I couldn’t imagine a better working environment. Although we’re all working, it’s never feels like a job. Everyday we all experience, learn and grow together. It’s a family. This, I love.



Which three people in the design industry would you pick as mentors and why?
We’re super lucky to bedded in an active arts and music (and beer!) culture here in Freo, which allows us to draw inspiration from everywhere! Having operated from a studio at PS Art Space for a while prior to the office opened our eyes to many great artists, designers and their inspiration and process. That being said, looking out to the wider world – Tom Sachs is definitely up there on the list for me. His studio process in the short movie “Ten Bullets” really resonated with me and is a constant inspiration in creative discipline. Dieter Rams and his philosophy of “Less, but better” are words we live by. It’s no secret we live in a world of clutter, bombarded by advertising messages and visual noise. We are inspired to create strict rules for brands to operate within, enhancing user friendliness and aesthetics. Many people assume that because there is less “design”, it is easy to produce, however the process and reasoning behind brand decisions takes time and careful consideration. Looking within Australia, Ken Cato has been responsible for some of our most iconic brands. With an array of work including Commonwealth Bank, Network 7 and a host of designs for top beer and wine brands under his hat, this guy is a bit of a hero in our book. To quote his personal philosophy, “What’s worth doing is worth doing well. It’s not about being first; it’s about doing it properly – otherwise, don’t waste your time. I’d rather not do it if I can’t do it properly.” Amen brother.

What advice would you give students starting out?
Set yourself achievable goals that will help better your individual offering. Make time to talk to people within industry, collaborating wherever possible. Whatever you’re interested in doing, whether it’s learning a new craft or starting a business- there is no better time than right now. So go for it! Opportunity is truly everywhere for those that want it bad enough. Whilst not everyone has a structured plan for success, the fact is that if you get involved, be super helpful, friendly and come prepared to learn- you’ll be surprised how many doors open up. Leave your ego at the door, replace fear of the unknown with curiosity, then back it all up with initiative. Hey presto, you’re rocking! I think it’s important to understand that there are no shortcuts to any place worth going. You’ve got to put in the hard yards. In the wise words of Ted Turner, “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise!”



Whats on the cards professionally and personally in the next 12 months?
Advancing deeper into the digital age, we’ve invested resources into our own R&D projects and have produced some exciting apps that are in Beta testing as we speak. They’re a beautiful blend of design & technology and we can’t wait to share them with the world! We’re still evolving and bettering our offering and process everyday. It’s an exciting time at Freeform and I’m looking forward to helping more businesses and people bring their ideas to life. Personally, I’ve also been working with some friends on a new clothing and lifestyle brand and shop The Rifle Club. We have just released our winter rage of apparel and we’re having a great time throwing events that support and combine local music, art, sport and culture. We’re in the process of fitting out the new store in Freo as a multipurpose store and art gallery, with a few exhibitions already lined up. The brand has a really wide appeal which has seen our last few gigs sell out with hundreds of people attending which is a really nice sign! We’ve had nothing but support in getting the label off the ground, all whilst supporting our advocates follow their own passions and hopefully make careers from them too. I love that in design and marketing you have the tools to turn vision to reality right at your fingertips. I just wish there were more hours in the day!