Featured Creatives

Carla McKee

November 2016

Graphic Designer and Swinburne University sessional tutor, Carla McKee, steals some advice from Dory (you know, Nemo's mate), tells us about her internship in Barcelona and how teaching has shaped her practice. 

What are some of your earliest creative memories and what lead you into design?

I have fond memories of grade six monthly ‘project book’ assignments where we researched a topic and presented our findings in a journal. I would spend most of my time developing the headings…  developed a system of creating letters according to set rules which would be revised and improved each project. Eg. how rounded the corners were, if the apertures were circles, D shaped or fat looking crosses… It was a bubble writing inspired, of course. I had unknowingly created a typeface(!). Later in high school one of my teachers suggested that I was getting into less trouble in art class so I should do more of those electives… I sort of just followed the natural trajectory from there.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I started out in a Certificate IV in Applied Design at RMIT and then enrolled in Communication Design at Swinburne University of Technology. The Swinburne honours degree includes a year of Industry Placement which I completed at Chimera Design, the supported internship was an invaluable experience, building not only my design and professional skills but also my confidence and a realistic appreciation of what a design role in the real world is all about. I spent the next six months finishing my honours research via correspondence in Barcelona, Spain where I was working as intern at Estudio Mariscal which was a totally different kettle of fish! The two placements combined meant I graduated from uni with a year and a half of industry experience.

Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if and how it shapes your practice?

I often work as a sessional teacher in Communication Design at Swinburne. Some of my closest peers and biggest inspirations are dual teachers/designers which led me to think about education as a way of supporting and developing a strong design practice. There are so many ways in which teaching has shaped my practice, but articulation and feedback has made the most obvious impact to my process. As a designer I often work independently, so switching roles between designer/director to be objective about work in progress is something I rely on.

What role does digital design play in your studio in 2016, and how to you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age?

Digital design is quickly becoming a large part of what I do, with about half the work I’m involved with leading to final outcomes on-screen rather than on-paper and I really really enjoy it. What we can do as communication designers in digital mediums has progressed SO far in recent years—it is excessively exciting. As far as traditional graphic design goes, many of the intrinsic theories of communication design are media independent. Developing a functional and engaging printed artefact requires much the same consideration and process as a digital screen based outcome.

What advice would you give students starting out?

Work hard and be nice to people.
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

Sustainable work practice means sleeping, eating and making time for friends/family.

You will always be more proud of your work if your clients are happy. Listen to your clients in order to make work everyone is proud of.

Exploit the potential of the medium, don’t try to bypass it’s flaws.

Process is key, don’t skip steps. In-fact process is almost like magic. Works. Every. Time.

Downtime is an important element of aforementioned process.








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