Way back in high school. I’ve always wanted to do design. I was the kid who spent way too long on the ‘title page’ of his exercise book. I took all the art subjects and I used to wag classes just to go work on my design projects. I hit the big time when I was commissioned to design a poster for the school production. It was a pretty cool poster. I went to design school in Auckland and through the lovely folk at The Designers Institute of New Zealand, got connected with Alt Group.
I once heard the architect, Nat Cheshire answer this question. He said: “anywhere... except magazines and blogs”. I wish this were my answer. I think the more that designers seek after non-linear inspiration, the higher the quality of output will be. I try to do this as much as I can, when I start a new project. Rather then trawling the books and blogs for similar things that have been done before. I will look for references that are as far from obvious as possible. That’s not to say that reference of the other design is irrelevant, nothing exists in isolation. But ideas are universal and the same idea can have a million different mediums. We need more bird-inspired books, more bottle-inspired buildings and more bread-inspired bridges.
I recently graduated and am working at Alt Group, and what I love about my job is that I get to do design. It sounds stupid, but to be in a role that allows you to engage is real design and creative problem solving is hard to come by and I consider myself privileged just to be where I am. Alt Group is a multidisciplinary design firm based in Auckland. The company works across five design disciplines – strategy, content design, graphic design, interactive design and three-dimensional design. To be able to work across these disciplines and engage with clients who understand the value of good design makes for a pretty nice place to work.
It would have to be every ‘first’ that I’ve hard so far. My first website, my first poster, my first typeface, my first magazine, my first award. It’s always exciting engaging in some form of medium or output that you’ve never done before, that moment when the magazine comes back from the printer or that website goes live. That’s the fun thing about this type of work; there are physical outputs. Most of my milestones are marked by some type of artefact, something tangible to keep as a memento—a trophy of sorts. I have a lot of ugly trophies.
Never arrive; there is not an end point, don’t stop learning and exploring. Being good at what you do is only half the challenge; it helps to be a good person too. It’s not what you know, but who you know; it’s a cliché for a reason. I am only in the place I am now because of other people’s recommendations and the relationships I’ve built and the catch is; if you go out to make relationships because of what you can get, you’ll never get anywhere. Make relationships, but make genuine relationships.
Education is the best way to give back. As a student I don’t think you can get enough of insight from industry professionals. The gap between industry and students is huge and to an extent will always exist, but anything that makes that gap smaller is beneficial. This is not one party’s responsibility either. Tertiary institutions and particularly students could do a lot better. Events are always good. Talks from those who are nailing it and even interesting characters from other industries, inspiring people or organisations that are doing things differently. Whatever form it takes, the best way to give back will always be investing into the next generation.