Original Interview: March 2014

Tobias Blackwood

Tobias has been all over this planet spreading his talent wherever he goes! He decided to pack up and head over to Amsterdam and made some magic in Brandbase studio. Now, back on Aussie soil, he continues to wow us with his talents, he’s back studying to perfect his work.

Tell us about you – where/what did you study?
Hey guys, my name’s Tobias, I love eating dumplings and wearing hats. I began my design studies at Tafe in 2006, only finishing in 2011 after some lengthy time off to experience the world. I was left unsatisfied after graduating from Tafe and wanting much more from my design studies. So, after some more time overseas and a small stint in a local studio I decided to enrol at UniSA. I’m now in the final year which is great, I feel like I’m finally receiving the design education I always wanted. I also do some freelancing and consulting from time to time. It’s been a really long journey in and out of study, living here and there, but on the flip side it’s been the best opportunity for personal growth and now I have much more focus.

I see Amsterdam on your Behance?! Tell us about that!
Oh man, Amsterdam’s such an amazing city and that was easily the best time in my life! I moved there on a whim in 2010 after vacationing there two years prior. I just loved the city and it felt so homely, plus it’s hyper creative and open-minded. A friend of mine from there, Edwin Servaas, threw me a bone and helped me land a little gig at an awesome Ad agency, Brandbase, where he was the studio manager. This was a great eye-opener to the demands of a busy workplace. It wasn’t even one of those large international agencies with English as the spoken language! It was small and hectic, everyone naturally spoke Dutch to each other and English to me which was a little struggle. I lived very central in the 9 Streets, between Jordaan and Dam Square, just down the canal from Brandbase. I still have my original affinity with Amsterdam.

Tobias Blackwood South Australia

Tobias Blackwood South Australia

Any advice you’d give to students or grads starting out?
I hope this doesn’t sound condescending as I’m a student again, but I’ve spent a lot of time in and out of study so this is mostly for students starting out…
– Be diligent in your studies, don’t goof around and be a time waster. People remember that kind of behaviour and your classmate may one day be the person interviewing you.
– Design trends come and go like the seasons so don’t waste your time with that crap. It might be enjoyable work and look decent for now but original design transcends that nonsense.
– Think of college and Uni like a safety net… which you pay for. Experiment as much as possible. Don’t waste your time being safe and lame, try new shit, push yourself, do work others aren’t doing. If you want to be safe then do an accounting degree.
– Don’t underestimate the power of networking. Be a member of AGDA, go to events, talk with people and keep in contact with them. If you worry about finding work just remember that someone’s always able to recommend you to others when the time is right
– Learn from history. Buy books, read them, have a collection on your favourite subjects.
– A little off topic… save your money and go travel. See what’s going on, experience other cultures, visit design museums somewhere else. Life experience is a beneficial experience.

What has been some of your favourite collaborations or work over the past year?
Two collabs stand out but the most intimate was with my friend Tyrone Ormsby at the Adelaide Film Festival (AFF) in 2013. He was their Designer and got me onboard to help with the Adelaide Festival of Ideas program guide. Setting the scene, the AFF HQ is in the refurbished Glenside Hospital which used to be a Lunatic Asylum, so it was well spooky to be the only people in the building and finishing work at 3am to meet deadlines! Then last December I was again asked to design a poster for my friend Edwin Servaas, actually for a client of his in Massachusetts, U.S.A. It’s really cool to work with someone on the other side of the world, for a client of their’s in a totally different country. I think we’ll be collaborating more through the year. Aside from paid work, I did some signwriting last winter, and another one recently on 14ounce selvage denim.

Tobias Blackwood South Australia

Tobias Blackwood South Australia

What are your personal and professional goals for 2014?
Mmmm, I aside from needing to get a proper website up and having fun with my work, I really want to be immersed in design and creativity in many ways  that I missed out on last year. I want to develop my creative processes, painting with new tools, drawing more, spending more time day dreaming. Last year I wrote an essay on improvisation in jazz as a method for shaping a design practice, which really influenced me and I believe music and design go hand in hand. I’ve a personal philosophy shaped from that and I aim to expand upon this and see it reflected in my personal identity, then on to my work.
Professionally I’ve had some wins since last Christmas, being published in Threaded Magazine, winning a nation-wide identity redesign comp, seeing my freelancing snowball and now this interview. So I’d naturally enjoy having this continue. I think my personal work influences my professional practice so that’s probably why I’m so inward focused, except for learning to implement contracts and how to deal with clients, that’s a different ballgame.

Favourite places to find inspiration?
Honestly, I find online inspiration overly stimulating and I think it hinders original thought by creating room in one’s subconscious for copying. However, I’ll have a small glance on Behance now and then. I follow some amazing studios and individuals on there (HeyDays, Anagrama, Jason Little, Wang Zhi Hong to name a few). It’s also cool to see very talented student designers from the world on there. Offline… simple things like cooking, getting away from the computer and chillin in the park, associating with similar minded people in different industries. I also listen to a huge variety of music, something for every mood. So inspiration’s a balance of many things.

Behance: www.behance.net/bytobias
TheLoop: www.theloop.com.au/bytobias/portfolio

Tobias Blackwood South Australia

Tobias Blackwood South Australia