As a kid, I liked drawing. But as I got older I got worse, not better. I had no patience. And I liked ideas more than the idiosycracies of execution. Plus there were tons of people who were better illustrators and crafts people than me. So I turned to design and found that through good ideas I had more ability to create something meaningful. To be dynamic and communicate in an engaging way is what really excited me.
I dropped out of university in first year – graphic design – I was too busy working in a nightclub five nights a week. When all my friends graduated I realized all I had was 15 medallions (yeah, free entry and free drinks – ha ha!). But when I sobered up, and realized I was broke and useless, I decided I would become a designer. I printed a business card and shazam, off I went in complete naivety. What I severely lacked initially in skill and knowledge, I made up for over time with perseverance and passion.
Micro – in the Sydney office, where I work from, it’s a dog’s breakfast and complete mess. I’ve existed here for a number of years for financially cost effective reasons. But it works against good thinking for me – and I find it hard to concentrate. Unlike my Melbourne office which is a temple of cool and beauty. I spent a fortune on that place, and I only work there one day a week! Anyway with more money at hand, I’m working on a new gallery like Sydney office! It will be an environment of perfection. I can see it and almost feel it, now I just have to bring it to life. Macro – The crazy thing is that, I can work anywhere you can imagine I could be. I would be banging out work in a taxi, on a plane, at a restaurant… I don’t have time for down time. While it’s no theme song, my Mars Bar moment is more: work, exercise, work, family, work, play, work, rest (start again).
I’ll skip the mentor bit, and focus on some great people I’ve met in design. Steve Cornwell (Cornwell) has become a very close friend, and all the good times we’ve had, bore no relation to design at all. Eating, drinking, being crazy, having holidays together – that’s living. Plus I think he’s achieved the most success of almost any individual designer in Australia. Another close friend who is a creative genius and great fun to be with, is Matt Remphrey (Parallax Design) in Adelaide. Trevor Flett is a bloke I’ve always enjoyed hanging out with. He’s got a big personality. And it feels like he knows how to live life. He doesn’t seem like a designer at all! Other interesting people who fit into this category are Zoe Pollitt (Eskimo) and Annette Harcus (Harcus). Designers are serious people. But sadly quite often seriously fucking boring! Lots of very smart people… but many live in their own world and fail to have any meaningful impact on the people and things around them, which I find unfortunate. I look for people who are engaging, fun to be with, are innovative, understand commerciality, and aim to be the best.
All that stuff about being passionate, working really hard, experimenting, being modest, trying to get a mentor – it’s all true. But it’s only true for the 5-10% of people who actually do it. Or who are any good. For the other 90+%, think about what you really enjoy in life - as much as true honesty might pain you… be honest with yourself, as design might not be your calling. Being honest with yourself sounds much easier than it really is. Ask yourself the tough questions and don’t shy away from the answers. Try different things and figure out which is a fit for you. There could be another creative career, or something else entirely. Better to figure it out when you’re 20-25, rather than when you’re 35+. Ignore what you think is cool or popular. Do the thing which makes you happy. Don’t be driven or influenced by older people or relatives who had financial success doing a particular thing – but pave your own way. If you’re brilliant, then you don’t need a pep talk from me. You should already be making things happen.
I’d like to think that my five-year plan is based on realism. The way I’ve been planning the evolution of my business… is that I need to create the job of my dreams. While that seems idealistic, I’ve had enough diverse experiences to know. Paper work shits me. Meetings half-shit me. Meaning half of them are amazing and half of them… make me want to put a pencil in my eye. So over recent years, I’ve been hiring really smart people who are depleting my suicidal pencil thoughts. So basically I am getting rid of 80% of what I do to focus on the 20% of shit that actually makes me happy and proud.
My real plan is to redefine myself. As bullshit as that sounds. I want to take a more entrepreneurial approach. Sure, I want to solve problems for clients, but in a way they didn’t expect. I know being ground breaking every day is unrealistic. But I know that there is great potential to do at least two truly incredible life changing things every year. As I journey through my career, my skills continue to expand in a way that is completely unexpected, but exciting to me. On top of that, I want to be my own client again. It’s how I started and I want to go back to that as a portion of my work, but in a totally different way. That means having a unique idea, teaming with the right people, taking some risks, and fully committing to it.