The Design Kids

After 8.5 years running TDK, we chat to our own founder Frankie Ratford about all things design, the 52 Books project, her self-imposed SIX YEAR roadtrip (6 months left to go) and her brand new personal site over on Wix,

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

I remember clearly as a teenager being in a supermarket in a Swiss/French boarder town on a ski trip with my family and falling in love with this mint green kettle. I tried in vain to get my dad to buy it for me and he really couldn’t understand why I, as a 13 year old, wanted a kettle! I couldn’t explain it either, but it made me realise I saw beauty in this everyday object that others missed, and maybe that’s what made me different from my family full of accountants. From there my strongest subjects at school were Maths and Art, which lead to design. I’ve never wanted to be anything else except a designer. Actually, scrap that. My two back up plans are becoming a pool shark or a truck driver. Or both; a pool sharking truck driver! I left the UK when I was 18, and went on to study Graphic Design at Swinburne University in Melbourne and graduated a fully fledged graphic designer in 2008. Since then I’ve been evolving my role from a traditional graphic designer; sitting at a desk, clients, etc – all things I don’t like, to something more suitable to me – a traveling, talking, community builder within the same industry. Win-win.

What does a typical working day include for you right now?

Whenever people answer this question, they say there is no typical day. In my case, I don’t even have the luxury of where I start my day, where I’m waking up. It could be the airport floor, someone’s couch, a tent, a luxe hotel or a friends house. As a nomad I’m constantly looking for somewhere to sleep, somewhere to shower and somewhere to use the WiFi. If it has all three, that’s a good day! After figuring out basic functions like where to brush my teeth or eat, my day is usually a mix of meeting with Creative Directors to learn more about their design studio and the design landscape in that city, talking at universities, emailing (boo!), running workshops, trying to do something local in the place I’m currently in (e.g. a Turkish bath in Turkey), running the business side of TDK, gathering TDK content, day dreaming up new things and directions for TDK and working with our sponsors. And catching planes. I catch a lot of planes.

Design work by The Design Kids The Design Kids interviews The Design Kids work-2

Any passion projects/collabs you would like to share?

I have two: Tassie Design Shack (@tassiedesignshack) and my 52 Books project #FR52booksfor2018 (or 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017). In 2015 I bought an original 1960’s blue fisherman’s shack in rural Tasmania, painted it white, named it the Tassie Design Shack and started running Design Residencies during the winter months. Being a nomad means I’m only home a few months a year, so I decided to run Winter Residencies there each year for designers, resulting in large scale murals and small scale artworks. It’s also a gallery for all the printed goodies from my travels and is available to rent in Airbnb during the rest of the year. Its a nice way for me to still do some design work - whether its collectable postcards of each mural for the guests or our cute colourful house manual.

The second project is which I started back in 2014 is a self initiated project called 52 Books. The idea was to try and read a book a week, for a year. It was so fun, I can’t stop! Mainly business books, as I have a real hang-up about not knowing how to run a business, I never studied business and I feel like TDK has been really trial and error. Now its in its 5th year, I’ve documented each book on Instagram via the hashtag above. There are some awkwardly embarrassing fiction ones in there, but whatever haha!

People always ask my top 10 so here we go (okay, thats 12);

— Four Hour Work Week, Tim Ferriss

— You Are A Badass, Jen Sincero

— The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck, Mark Manson

— The Art Of Asking, Amanda Palmer

— Principles Of Success, Jack Canfield

— The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey

— Braving The Wilderness, Brené Brown

— Walden, Henry D. Thoreau

— It’s Not How Good You Are It’s How Good You Want To Be, Paul Arden

— Business Secrets Of The Trappist Monks, August Turak

— Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell

— How Google Works, Eric Schmidt

Can you tell us about your new site?

I’m super excited about my new personal site – for a long time, I’ve hidden behind TDK as a brand and made it about everyone else. I saw myself as a doorway to the graphic design industry, where originally my design students could come to me/TDK and get a peek into the industry they were about to join. As it grew bigger than my classroom and bigger than just Australia, I still saw myself as that doorway. It blew my mind being asked to speak at conferences because I saw my career as being that invisible link between both sides and I would have nothing to say, nobody of work to show off.

I think designers are suckers for always having ‘under construction’ on their site and not making it a priority. It was so easy just to smash it out and get something live. AND it's sexy! I kept it really simple - highlighting the 6 main areas of my career right now; my company The Design Kids, my road trips, my speaking gigs, my workshops, my 52 book project and my Tasmania shack via an animated resume and large image gallery, complete with bright Frankie colours and a couple of funny testimonials.

The other reason I wanted to get my site up was for my new coaching arm. I think my strength within design is in positioning within the industry - how to position the students to get a job. I could apply those same skills to studios - looking at both industry facing and client facing sides of their company and helping them with their growth internationally. I’ve been doing it unofficially for over a year now, but my new Wix website means I can integrate all the info on it and make it more official. Excited about this new direction! (Hot tip – I’m offering free 20 minute chats about your design studio if you’re reading this).

Design work by The Design Kids The Design Kids interviews The Design Kids work-4
Design work by The Design Kids The Design Kids interviews The Design Kids work-4

It made me realise I saw beauty in this everyday object that others missed, and maybe that’s what made me different.

Who’s on the team, what are their roles and why do you love them?

I love this question! The hardest thing about running your own business is to hand over your baby to other people. Chloe joined our team in 2016 and has been a complete godsend – she used to run our Brisbane chapter and now she’s runs everything current TDK (content, hosts and emails). She’s my go-to in every situation and I’m so grateful to have her on the team. Happy 2 years Chloe!

Corrie is next - one of my oldest friends and has always been such an advocate for TDK. As a designer herself and ex lecturer Corrie has impeccable taste, she’s super fun and I’m stoked she’s finally on the team, she’s perfect to bounce ideas off of. Right now she’s working on new city content, so launching TDK resources for graduating designers to get a job in different cities around the world, in the continents I haven’t managed to drive to. Happy 1 year Corrie!

Since last week, our socials are run by Tina Victoria, a Melbourne designer, but over the last 3 years Casey Schuurman and Kate Pullen, both Type babes from Melbourne have been running the show. Our new developers Rascality are based in Berlin (Kelsey actually used to run TDK Wellington chapter so keeping it in the family) and they are fantastic, a small team of young developers who are miles ahead of me.

We also have awesome City Hosts in each city (most cities, if yours doesn’t have one, we need you!) who run our FB city pages, our #TDKtuesdays meet-up and write our city based newsletter - sign up here!.

2018 for you in a sentence.

My two words this year were: magic and the unknown. I try to sprinkle magical fairy dust on my life constantly — whether it’s a surprise picnic lunch under a tree, adding fairy lights to any occasion, buying the whole coworking space ice creams to get over the 3 pm Monday hump or just generally making every day a little bit more special, it's important to celebrate little things, with good people. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted. As for the unknown, I love being out of my depth and constantly growing, learning, falling over, getting up again, evolving as a human. 2018 is a lot of firsts for me / I feel like I’m blindly walking into the dark all the time with no idea what’s going to happen. And guess what? I love it!

Design work by The Design Kids The Design Kids interviews The Design Kids work-6
Design work by The Design Kids The Design Kids interviews The Design Kids work-6

Where to find The Design Kids online.

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