I began my career at Fabio Ongarato Design (now Studio Ongarato), where I also met my wife and business partner, Caroline Cox. The experience of working with Fabio and Ronnen established the foundation for how I work to this day. Avoiding cliché and looking outward beyond design to affect broad cultural impact remain essential lenses through which we critique our work.
Later I travelled to New York where I worked at 2x4, a different scale and M.O. A mix of the theoretical and the practical, rigorous and multi-disciplinary. Working alongside Michael Rock, Georgie Stout, Susan Sellers, and the truly international team was an enlightening experience. However, I don’t think I really felt I’d found ‘home’ until I made my way to Base Design, where I’ve been for the last 4 or so years.
In a lot of ways, this career arc mirrors how my interests and priorities have shifted over time. There’s also a healthy dose of serendipity at play. The deeply referential exploration at Studio Ongarato gives way to the holistic rigour of 2x4, and then later at Base to a focus on human-centered-ness, both inside and outside of the studio. At Base, we often say, we don’t design for brands, we design for people interacting with brands. I think that says it all.
In January of this year, I opened the local satellite office of Base, where I operate as the Creative Director alongside my wife and business partner, Caroline Cox. Base is a network of studios led by creatives, working primarily in brand strategy, identity, digital. However, the Melbourne office is a little unique as it extends further into campaign art direction and content development than the others, given Caroline’s background in fashion advertising as Associate Creative Director of Lloyd&Co in New York.
Base is essentially all one company, made up of about 60 people split between Brussels, Geneva, New York, and Melbourne. While each office operates independent of one another, there are always company-wide conversations going on, creative meetings to discuss best practices and share work, and other inter-studio activities that help to break down the geographic barriers that exist between each location. At its core is a very strong internal culture and a very particular way of thinking and doing things.
After 7 or so years living and working in New York, and with the impending birth of our second child, Caroline and I were ready for a change. We wanted to settle somewhere more permanently, be around family, and allow our children to grow up as we did, in Australia. Around this time Geoff and Min, the New York partners at Base, introduced the idea of a local office and the rest is history. Cut to: Base in the antipodes!
It’s early days, so I suppose time will tell. That said, it’s already clear that the global perspective of the international network makes for a fascinating two-way conversation. We provide an Australian perspective to Base globally, and through Base, we’re able to bring a global perspective our work locally in Melbourne.
“Don’t worry about it, Dad!” Brilliant words of wisdom from my two-year-old daughter, Vivienne. She has a knack for always putting things into perspective and is a constant reminder to be mindful.
We're at the point now where it's unrealistic that a creative leader can know how to create everything the client needs. Establishing strong collaborative teams and an inclusive studio culture is more critical than ever. If your hierarchy isn't reasonably flat, and there isn't a culture of respect within your studio, I suspect you're going to be in strife. This is only going to become more pronounced over the next 5 years.
I think there will be a broader acceptance of technology as a condition of creativity, rather than a disruption to it. Strong brands will acknowledge new technologies for what they actually are — new mediums.
The last point I'd make is that for brands to truly stand apart, they must work hard to avoid the tropes of these new mediums. We call this “Branding, not blanding,” and it's something we've been thinking about a lot of late — you can read more about it here and here.